Along with Hispanics and Latinos, another key voting constituency Republicans managed to scare off during the 2012 election cycle was women.
Their incessant talk of “legitimate rape,” forced transvaginal ultrasounds, banning contraception and shutting down Planned Parenthood sent women running to the Obama ticket by a 56 percent to 44 percent margin.
Rather than learn from their mistakes, however, the white conservative men running the GOP show have not moderated their views one iota.
Evidence of their intransigence is on display as the Violence Against Women Act comes up for re-authorization.
Violence perpetrated against women is a serious national problem that Congress finally recognized in 1994 when it passed the VAWA.
Some 22 million women in the U.S. have been raped in their lifetime. Nearly 64 percent of women who reported being raped, physically assaulted and/or stalked since the age of 18 were victimized by a current or former husband, cohabiting partner, boyfriend or date, according to the 2010 National Intimate Partner and Sexual Violence Survey.
The FBI says nearly one-third of female homicide victims are killed by an intimate partner.
The Violence Against Women Act provides $659 million toward investigation and prosecution of violent crimes against women, funds community violence prevention programs, offers protection to women evicted from their homes because of domestic violence, funds victim assistance services like rape crisis centers and hotlines, and much more.
The Act was easily reauthorized in the House in 2000 and again in 2005 but reauthorization failed in 2012 because conservative Republicans objected to extending the Act to same-sex couples and battered undocumented immigrants.
This week, Republicans in the Senate helped pass a VAWA bill, 78-22 with all 20 women senators voting for the bill. The legislation adds protections for gays, lesbians and immigrants.
But the Republican-controlled House, as usual, is stalling passage.
“We want to protect the women who are subject to abuse on tribal lands, and unfortunately there are issues that don’t directly bear on that that have come up, that have complicated it,” said House Majority Leader Eric Cantor.
The Senate reconciled the same issue and so can the House, but that’s not how Cantor rolls. Anything resembling a legislative victory for President Obama, no matter the public policy, must be quashed. That’s why the House bill is sponsored by 193 Democrats but nary a Republican.
It’s enough of a no-brainer that even Cantor’s party is pushing back.
“Now is the time to seek bipartisan compromise on the reauthorization of these programs,” said a letter to Cantor and House Speaker John Boehner signed by 17 House Republicans. “VAWA programs save lives, and we must allow states and communities the opportunity to build upon the success of current VAWA programs so that we can help even more people.”
Virtually all of the Republicans who signed the letter are from the Northeast. No GOP House member from Georgia signed it, nor did any Republican representative from the South.
“Imagine what message this would send to the women and girls of this nation … if we didn’t reauthorize this bill,” said Vice President Joe Biden. “Imagine the signal it would send to our mothers and our daughters that they are not entitled to be free of abuse.”
House Republicans don’t care about such signals, and it’s not surprising.
Of the 232 GOP U.S. representatives, there are just 20 women compared to 63 women in Democratic caucus. Boehner also failed to appoint any women to the 19 House committee chairs.
All of those assignments went to, yes, white conservative men.
Kevin Foley is a public relations executive, author and writer who lives in Kennesaw.