What Would Change Women's Minds About Voting?

Ladies! There is a lot of fuss about whether and why you are going to stay home in key congressional races in a few weeks — and whose fault it is.

Rhetorically, it's been a rather macho campaign season, from man-pants to Palin impugning Obama's cojones. And public opinion polls essentially keep showing that women don't really give a shit, not in the same white-guy Tea Party sort of way, no matter how many Christine O'Donnells emerge from the rubble. Here are a bunch of theories about why:

1) All we need is a new catchphrase, right? Per an NPR blogger: "This could be the year of the 'weary working women.' They are tired from carrying the economic burdens for their families, and they may just be tired of carrying the water for the Democrats as well." Okay, could make sense! What else? "In some cases, weary working women may be lured by the Tea Party message that government is not their friend but their enemy. They may be drawn to the "mama grizzly" imagery of Sarah Palin and other conservative firebrands reaching out to them." In other words, we have no fucking clue. They could do something. Or they could stay home.

2) Disaffected white ladies have had enough. Linda Hirshman brings up the PUMA spectre, flashing her "What Would Hillary Do" bracelet. The Daily Beast had Gallup crunch the numbers on which women were about to sit this all out, and came up with this:

A dismal 27 percent of white female registered voters expressed excitement about the contest, compared to 36 percent of black men and women and 40 percent of white men. It is fair to say that the white women's numbers are not depressed by indifference among the almost entirely white Republican women. At least in June, Gallup was finding that the Republican women were the most enthusiastic of the registered female voters. It's the independent women (21 percent!) and the Democratic women (24 percent) who aren't revved up about the coming midterms.

Why? Hirshman implies it is because white women are tired of being taken for granted by the Democratic party, and just about everyone else. "The white women didn't boycott the election of 2008 as some hyperventilating commentators predicted. But if the Gallup polls are right, the Democrats may get a chance to see what it's like to run for office when women are staying home," she says ominously.

3) Not enough lady stuff being talked about. EMILY's list commissioned a poll of Democratic women who will probably stay home -– "women who were newly registered in 2008 as part of the Obama registration and [get out the vote] effort" and women "who consistently vote in presidential election years but not in midterm elections."

Turns out women might be more open to health care-related messages, which are currently being soft-pedaled in many races. A full 81 percent of the women tested said they were "very or fairly concerned that Republicans want to overturn the health care law that provides mammogram coverage and pregnancy care to women."

The poll also found that 61 percent of these otherwise cool voters got a lot more interested "when told that their votes could help defeat candidates who don't trust women to make their own decisions on reproductive health," according to Politico.

4) But don't hold your breath! Speaking to the Huffington Post today, David Axelrod really did not seem to want to talk about abortion. He said, "I think [abortion] is certainly an issue in the campaign and there are some people running on their side who have a very, very extreme view of this," but then added, "I'm sure that will be an issue with [suburban female] voters," he said. "But those voters, like all voters, are primarily concerned with where we go in this economy and how the middle class is going to carry on given the pressures they have been placed under in the last decade." Apparently only suburban females have ladyparts, or care about what happens to them.

It's understandable that with all of the lunatics essentially storming the White House with pitchforks, Axelrod doesn't want to put abortion rights, or any other "culture war," on the table any more than it already is. But the risk is compounding the sense that the Democratic party is taking women's concerns for granted.

To wit: In this GritTV video, Rebecca Traister expands on the ideas she and our founding editor Anna Holmes introduced in their New York Times op-ed, describing "frustration with my own party for not reading the signals out there" and focusing more robustly on being the party of women.

Would that help? EMILY's List is about to move on in, at least in certain races. In general, it's back to the old debate: if women do indeed stay home in droves, we take ourselves out of the game. And if liberal women keep pulling the lever for a Democratic party that is willing to take them for granted, there may be no reason for that to change.

Emily's List Eyes Female Voter 'Surge [Politico]
Vote Like A Man [NYM]
Briefing: Betsy Reed and Rebecca Traister on Sarah Palin's 'Mama Grizzlies' [The Nation]
White Women Dump The Dems [Daily Beast]
Axelrod: Abortion Will 'Certainly Be An Issue' In The Election [HuffPo]
'Weary Working Women' May Be Key To Midterms [NPR]

Earlier: Blame Men (For The Republican Surge