Candidates cannot just treat women like we matter
just to get our vote. Women can spot a phony -- we have
Late last year when a presidential primary candidate was asked
how he was going to reach women voters, he responded that he was
polling well with women. Uh-oh. He seemed clueless about what most
women really want. Once again, women were being taken for granted
and once again we could lose -- big time. And lose, we did.
Reaching women is not a new concept. The importance of our vote
should be well-known, as women have registered and voted at a
higher rate than men since the 1980.
One would think every campaign would have a proven strategy by
now. But, while I don't claim to speak for all American women, no
doubt many of us rolled our eyes and sighed or cringed at some of
the conservative candidates' messaging. We may not relish the
haranguing and rudeness, but we are willing to ignore it if our
candidate can clearly articulate how their positions and plans will
improve life for us and our families.
Candidates cannot just treat women like we matter just to get
our vote. Women can spot a phony -- we have experience. They cannot
take us for granted, or treat us like a bunch of airheads who will
fall for a good line. Instead of telling us what we should think,
they should pay attention to not only what they say, but also how
they live -- 24/7/365.
Developing consistent, conservative messages that resonate with
women of all ages is important. But it is just as critical for
candidates to start living like they believe those messages, and
start telling us how their message is relevant in our lives. A
convincing message must be clear and it must connect with the
When a candidate says he's pro-life, like most Americans, what
does he mean? Professing a pro-life belief is necessary for a
conservative candidate, but it is not sufficient. How does that
translate into real life? What will he really do about it? Does he
help single moms? Does he also care about the children we already
have? Will he mow an elderly neighbor's yard or run errands for the
sick? Will he throw out senseless regulations so we can feed the
homeless? These are pro-life principles, too, that solidifies the
pro-life message and makes it relevant.
Or consider gun control. Show women how to have both freedom and
safety for their families. Gun policy must make sense to women. We
can empathize with the 12-year-old girl who followed her mother's
instructions to arm herself with a gun and shoot an intruder. We
can identify with needing guns to keep our family safe.
Women are smart enough to decide whether to have a gun. We don't
want the government telling us we cannot have one. After all,
criminals don't just kill people with guns; they use knives, fires,
cars and bombs, too. Does the candidate also have a plan to keep
criminals off our streets and out of our schools? That is a plan
women can support.
And when a candidate claims to support traditional family
values, what does that mean? Will he really work to stop the child
molesters and bring the Jerry Sanduskys of the world to justice?
Will he commit to work against evil people who destroy so many
families? Will he target those who enslave women in
A "family values" mantra is not sufficient when the statistics
show that so many men, even professing Christians, are further
sickening our communities by viewing Internet porn. A man who
demeans women, mistreats his wife, or ignores his kids has no real
family values. Women this know. Women talk. A politician is free to
play golf or watch football so long as he also shows that he takes
his marriage vows seriously.
We want politicians who consider our interests as well as his
own. While we struggle to balance household, family and work
responsibilities, we have a hard time trusting that those we vote
for will work as hard for us. We have a nagging suspicion that too
many government workers are lollygagging around while pretending to
be public servants. Our suspicion is reinforced by the
all-too-frequent news reports of lavish travel, infidelity and
Now, about that elephant in the room. For so many conservative
women, the presidential race was not about electing Romney. It was,
for many of us, an anti-Obama event.
Romney was like the unwanted suitor at our high school prom. We
danced because we didn't want to turn him down and make a scene.
Our reluctance was warranted, because as we danced, he talked about
his economic plan.
Like one of those dolls we had as kids: "Hello, my name is
Chatty Cathy!" Just pull the string to hear the same lines over and
over. Ask Romney about anything and he would say, "Hello, I
know how to run a business."
Many of us would have voted for the Grinch if he was the
Republican nominee. Other women felt themselves caught between the
devil and the deep blue sea, but they were unwilling to give up
their current unhealthy relationship for an uncertain voyage.
We believed Romney cared about the economy -- but it was
not clear if he cared about anything else that we care
about. He lost us at "hello."
Anita Staver is an attorney and president of Liberty
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