Opinion

The Republican plan to change the 'war on women' narrative needs work

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Beltway Confidential,Opinion,Abortion,Ashe Schow,War on Women,Gender Issues,Renee Ellmers

How are Republicans planning to fight the “war on women” narrative so rampant among Democrats and the left?

In a word, “messaging,” but it appears that’s as far as their strategy goes.

A group of conservative women, mostly members of the Republican Study Committee, met Friday to discuss issues facing women today and how the GOP can better explain how its policies could help.

“The problem here is not necessarily conservative policy, it's our messaging,” Kim Strassel, a columnist for the Wall Street Journal who was moderating the panel said.

And the panelists agreed.

“We just don't do a very good job of talking about [GOP policies] sometimes,” said Rep. Kristi Noem of South Dakota.

“We have got to do a better job of [telling stories], whether it’s talking about social issues or whether it’s talking about the financial issues and the jobs and the economy,” said Rep. Diane Black of Tennessee.

“It’s how we are able to articulate ourselves – make sure we get the point across that we care,” said Rep. Renee Ellmers of North Carolina.

Great, everyone agrees. Go do that.

Except I’ve heard those same words from Republicans since I moved to Washington three years ago.

And even though the women on the panel all agreed that the GOP’s messaging needed to be better, it was clear they aren’t doing much to improve it.

Black referred to men and women as females and males, which makes you feel about as connected as someone talking about animal mating habits.

And that’s exactly what it seemed she was talking about when saying the GOP needs to do a better job at telling stories.

“Females will respond better if you can get a connection with a relationship,” Black said.

Black then used a story Noem told earlier as an example. Really, she didn’t have her own story to add? If you’re going to tell people to use stories to relate you should probably have a story of your own.

Then came the bashing of both genders, courtesy of Ellmers.

“Men do tend to talk about things on a much higher level,” Ellmers said. “Many of my male colleagues, when they go to the House floor, you know, they’ve got some pie chart or graph behind them and they’re talking about trillions of dollars and how, you know, the debt is awful and, you know, we all agree with that.

First she’s saying that men (perhaps only Republican men) don’t know how to connect with people. Second, she’s saying people are too stupid to understand pie charts.

Ellmers then said that women mainly want more time in their lives (don’t men as well?) and the first example she gave was that women wanted “more time in the morning to get ready.”

As for connecting to women specifically, Ellmers drove it home with a line that, had there been liberals in the audience, would have made the news.

“We need our male colleagues to understand that if you can bring it down to a woman’s level and what everything that she is balancing in her life — that’s the way to go,” Ellmers said. (Emphasis added.)

The bright spot of the panel were the non-member panelists.

Former Rep. Marilyn Musgrave, now with the Susan B. Anthony List, talked about how to discuss social issues like abortion.

“If you let the other side define you early on these issues and scare women into thinking they're not going to have access to contraception - you're in trouble right away,” Musgrave said.

She also suggested turning the abortion issue back on opponents, by asking them where they stand on late-term abortion.

“When you talk to women, again, women are with us on this issue,” Musgrave said. “They want to ban late-term abortion.”

Charmaine Yoest of Americans United for Life also discussed abortion, saying that the left does “not have a monopoly on being pro-woman.”

Yoest said she is pro-life because she believes abortions are bad for women. She then told a story (see, somebody is following the messaging advice) about an encounter she had with a pro-abortion woman she was going to debate. Yoest said the woman told her that she “can’t be pro-woman and be pro-life.”

“Let’s not mistake for one minute that that’s what the central issue is that [liberals] believe and what they are going to continue hitting us over the head with,” Yoest added.

Then there was Amber Barno of the Independent Women’s Forum, the only panelist to talk at length about the real war on women.

“The war on women does not exist in America,” Barno said. “There's a real war on women - I'm a former OH-58D Kiowa Warrior helicopter pilot; I served in Iraq and Afghanistan -- and I saw real oppression of women. It is out there, around the world, and women have more freedoms and opportunities and liberties and choice in America that most people couldn't even dream of around this world.”

Barno also spoke about the problem of Republican men saying ridiculous things (think Todd Akin) that gets them in trouble.

“It has to be on the forefront of candidate’s minds of how they can message to women and relate to them and let them know that women’s issues matter to them,” Barno said.

If Republicans want to change the message on women's issues, they'll have to look outside Washington to do it.

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