A batch of new polls released this week confirmed the Democrats's worst nightmare: the majority of Americans strongly disapprove of the way in which the President is handling the economy and gas prices. The findings were a blow to a party that for weeks has pandered to women with the trumped-up bogeyman of an all-white male Republican party who wanted to gobble up all their birth control pills. The fabricated War on Women failed, and failed hard. Not ones to give up easily, Senators Schumer and Leahy devised another tactic: playing checkers with the Violence Against Women Act.
The reauthorization of the VAWA is unanimously approved every year since the it was passed in 1994; the latest reauthorization was in 2006. This year there is resistance and Democrats are anxious to exploit the resistance from Republicans. Why is the GOP resisting? The language of the VAWA has remained the same throughout both Republican and Democrat congresses, except now. Senate Republicans sent out this alert:
The VAWA was originally passed in 1994 and has remained in effect through both Republican and Democrat Congresses. On March 12, 2012, the Judiciary Committee voted on the reauthorization of S. 1925, the Violence Against Women Act introduced by Senator Leahy. Unlike the last reauthorization of VAWA in 2006, which passed by unanimous consent, S. 1925 contained provisions that had never appeared in past authorizations of VAWA. For these reasons, Sen. Grassley, the Ranking Member, offered a Republican substitute amendment to the Leahy bill. Republicans voted for the Grassley substitute, Democrats for the new Leahy version. The new Leahy version passed through committee, but Democrats chose not to schedule it for a vote.
The Leahy bill contains a number of new controversial immigration provisions. For example, it expanded eligibility for and increased the number of visas available to certain individuals (whether in the U.S. or a foreign country) who may be helpful in the investigation of a crime. However, as the law is currently written, this visa category is subject to rampant fraud and misuse, e.g. sham marriages and false allegations of a crime. The Grassley substitute contained fraud-prevention measures. The Leahy bill also eliminated the requirement, making these visa applicants ineligible for admission if they would become a public charge upon entry in the U.S. The Grassley substitute did not contain this new provision.
Democrats trotted out Sandra Fluke because the visual of President Obama verses a bunch of religious folk wasn't the best optic, but a woman against the progressive stereotype of a Republican was. (Rhetorical: is it "War On Women" to present them as victims and use them for messaging?) Unfortunately, Fluke didn't work out because a woman complaining of an annual $1k birth control bill when $9 per month birth control exists at places like Target and Costco doesn't cut a sympathetic figure. The polls cited above prove that the strategy to deflect from the economy didn't work, the attempt to frame radio talk host Rush Limbaugh as the "de facto leader of the Republican party" (rhetoric that's been around since I was in high school) failed, and now his ratings are at an all-time high.
Democrats are now in damage control mode. The NYT assists by burying poll numbers; David Axelrod appeared on CNN last night prior to my appearance, wherein he parroted the "de facto" talking point and tried to portray Mitt Romney, the most moderate Republican in the race who was formerly vehemently pro-choice, as part of the "War On Women." It was a deflection from Erin Burnett's question: if he planned to petition the Obama super PAC to return the $1 million dollar donation from Bill "c*nt," "tw*t" Maher (his words, not mine). Axelrod declined, saying that Maher was "different," which apparently makes it OK. The difference is that Maher is a progressive and donated a million dollars.
This much epic fail requires a new strategy, and Democrats decided that playing checkers with the Violence Against Women Act will serve that purpose. By Leahy's act of adding a poorly-written immigration proponent to it (and zero safeguards to protect against rampant fraud which already plagues the system), Democrats set up the GOP as being two things if they oppose it: anti-woman and anti-immigration. It's slick -- but only if yours is the party that sucks out loud at disrupting false narratives. Unfortunately, we're sort of that party. Republicans haven't inspired confidence in their ability to fight narratives consistently. In the same way many in the GOP gave up A&E and academia, so too have they given up the fight, believing that reasonable people will figure out the truth for themselves. They're basing the success of their message on the perceived impotence of their political opponents' persuasive skills. Democrats still master marketing, which means the GOP has to push back, and push back with rhetorical force in such instances.
Their message should focus on the shock of why Democrats, who claim to care so strongly for the well-being of women, would dare use federal assistance to victims of domestic violence as a political pawn. The answer is, of course, to score points in a battle to keep the public's attention off of their incumbent's abysmal record.
Phyllis Schlafly also has a strong argument on VAWA.
Video from the CNN panel on VAWA.
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