Democrats seize on Hobby Lobby ruling to jumpstart ‘War on Women’ meme for midterms
WASHINGTON, D.C. -- Democrats are seizing on the Supreme Court's decision in Burwell v. Hobby Lobby Stores to reinvigorate the ‘War on Women’ theme they used so successfully in the 2012 elections and against Virginia GOP gubernatorial candidate Ken Cuccinelli in 2013.
Within hours of the ruling, which stated closely-held corporations do not have to provide abortifacient drugs under Obama’s contraceptive mandate, Democrats were signaling strongly that the decision would be the center of the party's 2014 mid-term election strategy.
The day of the ruling, the Democratic National Committee (DNC) and the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee (DSCC) sent out fundraising pitches to supporters. "The Supreme Court just ruled that corporations can deny women insurance coverage for birth control," said the DSCC fundraising e-mail.
Likewise, the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee sent out a fundraising pitch on Sunday night quoting state senate candidate Sandra Fluke. "Decisions this important don’t just affect us,” said Fluke. “That’s why I’m counting on you to send an unmistakable message: we will stand together to protect women’s rights and worker’s rights, not the right of corporations to further their own agendas.”
Fluke came to national fame when she testified to an unofficial panel of House Democrats in 2012 in support of the mandate.
Former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, a presumed frontrunner in the 2016 Democratic primary, also sharply criticized the decision. Clinton said that the decision "means the corporation’s … [‘closely held’] employers can impose their religious beliefs on their employees,” she said in an appearance at the Aspen Ideas Festival in Colorado on Monday, according to Politico. “I find it deeply disturbing that we are going in that direction.”
The "War on Women" strategy was successfully used to defeat Mitt Romney in the 2012 presidential race, as well as at least two Senate candidates and one House race that year. It was used again in 2013 against Virginia gubernatorial candidate Ken Cuccinelli, a Republican, who lost his race. The Cuccinelli race was seen by many Democratic strategists as a test of the "War on Women" theme for 2014.
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Earlier this year, House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi, D-CA, set the stage for the 2014 elections by connecting women’s issues to economics. In a series of meetings and public appearances, she said that issues like the minimum wage were about the equality of women. "Democrats’ economic agenda unleashes the full potential of America’s women into our society, energizing our economy and strengthening the middle class — the backbone of our democracy,” Pelosi said.
Now the focus is back on the social issues that Democrats believe brought victory in 2012 and 2013. Several Democratic incumbents and candidates sent out fundraising requests, citing their support for abortion, contraception, and the mandate.
DNC Chairwoman Debbie Wasserman-Schultz, D-FL, told MSNBC on Monday that "birth control costs about $600 a year.” The outspoken Democrat said “that financially impacts women; it prevents them from being able to join the middle class. Let’s keep in mind, birth control has affected women economically positively since its creation, and this is going to turn the dial back.”
The Service Employees International Union also got in on the outrage, with a blog post that claimed "women across the country will now be forced to make tough choices between using recommended forms of birth control and keeping gas in the car or food on the table."
While fundraising has seen a great deal of focus in the days since the decision, House and Senate Democratic leaders are also planning legislation to require coverage. It appears they are timing it to be voted on at the end of the summer shortly before the several-week-long August recess, when members spend time interacting with constituents -- an especially important time period for 2014's vulnerable Democrats.
As was the case in 2012, Republicans are expected to make major gains in the Senate, possibly taking the majority. However, that potential did not materialize in 2012, partly due to the so-called "War on Women" and its effectiveness in the Missouri and Indiana Senate races.
Democrats hope their experience in Virginia last year will bear out in 2014. While unmarried women tend to vote Democrat, they often don't vote in off-year elections. The "War on Women" claims are intended to help change that dynamic for the benefit of Democrats, as they did against Cuccinelli.