Years ago, the New York Daily News told its readers that Presidential candidate Gerald Ford had cut off federal funds to their ailing city: “Ford to New York City: Drop Dead.”
Ford lost New York and many believe that Daily News headline cost him the election.
Now that the Republicans have wrapped up their election package, a sadly similar headline comes to mind. “No abortions,” thunders the Republican program, “not even if you will otherwise lose your life.” GOP to Women: Drop Dead.
The scariest part about the Republican campaign is that Republicans seem to be shooting only at women. All the other familiar Republican targets–the Department of Education, Hispanic immigrants, toddlers in Head Start, even openly gay men–have disappeared from the Republican enemies list under a wave of “compassionate conservatism.”
Women, however, are beyond the “compassion” zone. Under the Republican platform, they can’t get abortions–not for rape, not for incest, not even if the alternative is dying in childbirth. The conservatives otherwise shut out of the Republican love fest told the New York Times again and again that the ban on abortions was the paramount issue to them.
They forthrightly admitted that they support Bush regardless of his position on other issues, because they overwhelmingly expect Bush to appoint Supreme Court justices who would vote against abortion rights. In the words of fundamentalist Pat Robertson, “Five people can decide the destiny of unborn children.” And five justices can decide the destiny of the women who will die when abortions are criminal.
The same five justices can continue to write all protections for women’s lives out of the Constitution, as did an all-Republican Supreme Court majority this spring in striking down key provisions of the Violence Against Women Act. George W. Bush has promised to appoint more justices just like them.
The prospective Republican justices can continue their war on federal gun control, striking down, as the Republican majority did recently, the ban on guns near schools. A million moms marched, but the Republican Justices apparently weren’t listening. GOP to Moms: Drop Dead.
This leaves women’s support for the Republicans a little hard to understand. Polls reflect that the gender gap, largely responsible for Bill Clinton’s election, has completely disappeared. As many women back the Bush ticket–with its platform of death in childbirth, no constitutional protections against violence and no Equal Rights Amendment–as are proposing to vote for Al Gore.
I’m guessing that women voters may feel that it’s now safe to smack Bill Clinton upside the head, a feeling I heard repeatedly during the grin-and-bear-it resistance to impeaching him two years ago. Women seem to feel that at least they won’t be turning the government over to Newt Gingrich. It is understandable that women would be angry with Bill Clinton. But the price of turning the government over to the Drop Dead Republicans is way too high for a fit of pique now.
Or they may just feel that Bush is too cute to turn down. He’s such a sexy frat boy with his aristocratic family, his devilish grin, his doting mother and his cowboy boots. If women are thinking they can get in that hot convertible, they should think again. In the past, the Republicans used to shoot at anyone with a Spanish surname, at Head Start and at Nelson Mandela, as well as at women.
But now women are the only voting group in America so blind to its own vital interests that the Republicans think they can expose them to death in childbirth, violence in the bedroom and guns in the school yards and still win the election. Women should be very nervous about putting themselves in the hands of someone who thinks he can take advantage of them. Frat boys like that were the worst dates once you left the dorm.
Linda Hirshman is a professor of philosophy and women’s studies at Brandeis University and the author of “Hard Bargains: The Politics of Sex.”