War on Women – Real Issue or Media-Driven Talking Point?

By Margaret Mulvihill – June 12, 2014

Why are politics and public relations so closely linked? The link between politics and public relations is grounded in history, and over the decades, the two have become so interwoven that it is difficult at times to figure out which is which, especially during an active mid-term season. When it comes to the putative ‘War on Women’, which the Democratic Party has been accusing the Republican party of waging, it is really difficult to figure out which came first — the media campaign or the sexist political manoevering.

This 2014 election cycle is a very crowded, active cycle. According to the interactive almanac of U.S. politics, BallotPedia (http://ballotpedia.org/Main_Page), “A total of 471 seats in the U.S. Congress (36 Senate seats, including three special elections, and all 435 House seats) are up for election on November 4, 2014.”That translates to an outpouring of public relations activity, of spin, of promotion, and of electioneering. Whatever you care to call it, we are not going to be able to avoid it.


Republicans and Democrats elected an equal number of female politicians some thirty years ago. In the intervening years, the Democrats have increased their representation significantly, at the expense of the Republican Party. This encouraged the Republican leadership to create a program specifically for women – GROW (Growing Republican Opportunities for Women), to encourage more women to run for Congress. Since its inception last summer, GROW has not been especially successful. The Democrats are not faring any better in their efforts.

Women are voting in much greater numbers than men, a statistic that has held firm for the past thirty-some years. Are male voters not voting for women? Are women candidates not ‘reaching’ and connecting with women voters about key issues? Women were a major part of the voting bloc that supported President Barack Obama, yet when it comes to women candidates, too many voters tend to stay home. There still appears to be a paucity of support available for women candidates in both parties.

Where Are The Women?

Democrats have made it very clear that the ‘War on Women’ playbook will be central to their efforts this fall in electing and re-electing representatives. The majority of Democratic candidates will be male representatives, who will attempt to appeal to women voters on traditional women’s issues. In the last election cycle, we were bombarded daily — hourly even — in every competitive race, with television advertisements about abortion, birth-control access, the defunding of Planned Parenthood. But where are the women candidates in 2014?

Republicans are actively trying to appeal to women, both as candidates and as voters, to cut into the perceived Democratic advantage created by the Democrats accusation that the ‘War on Women’ was originated by Republicans. Yet GOP congressional leaders have not, as yet, released any comprehensive women’s agenda. Within that void, conservative radio stations and media outlets are openly calling out the supposed Democratic hypocrisy asserting that the ‘War on Women’ was launched by Republicans. Sarahmarie Brenner of the Brenner Brief in Ohio, Dan Rea of Nightside, John McDonald of The Pulse, and Tommy Duggan’s The Valley Patriot in Massachusetts, are filling in the gaps by interviewing candidates of both parties in an effort to shine a light on the political hypocrisy.

A Double Standard

Journalists are pointing to races where women candidates are being ignored by the Democratic Party in favor of male incumbents whose seats are at risk. In the Massachusetts Sixth Congressional District, for example, incumbent John Tierney is being visibly propped up by the party against four challengers. Marisa DeFranco, John Devine, John Gutta, and Seth Moulton, are all challenging Tierney. The enduring double standard makes it very difficult for anyone capable of a basic thought process to take the Democratic party seriously when it claims that the Republican Party is the only party waging a ‘War on Women.’

I think most of us women would agree that neither of the two main political parties in this country are providing us with the representation that we need, as we make our way towards the mid-point of the second decade of the twenty-first century. This makes the ‘War on Women’, whether individually perceived as a real ‘War’ or as a media-driven talking point, a mere sideshow, distracting us from the real issues we need to face.

Is there a (Spin)doctor in the house?

1 reply »

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