The ‘Women’s Policy Committee’ gets to work

Posted on May 22, 2012

The Maddow Blog, May 22, 2012 by Steve Benen

Republicans seem vaguely aware of the fact that the gender gap is growing, and that the GOP’s “war on women” has become of the year’s most important political developments. The party also seems to realize how this problem may cost them dearly in the 2012 elections.

So, what are they prepared to do about it? Apparently, they’ve come up with a solution: form a committee and release a cheesy video with awkward production values.

House Republicans have all kinds of caucuses and contingents, but this week, they launched the new Women’s Policy Committee, which is apparently intended to raise the visibility of women in the House GOP caucus.

This appears to be based on an underwhelming strategy: “Maybe if people realize there are some Republican women in Congress, we won’t seem so anti-woman.”

Indeed, the video features two dozen House GOP women, introducing themselves and saying vague things about taxes and “big government.” It concludes that “Republican women … are leading the charge to make America great again.”

I was under the impression that America is already great.

Regardless, I can’t help but think the Women’s Policy Committee is missing the point of the larger controversy — which they won’t be able to address until they understand it.

Reminding voters that Republican lawmakers exist is kind of irrelevant. Critics of the GOP focus less on the gender diversity within the party — though it’s noteworthy that the Republican leadership in both chambers is almost exclusively white men — and more on the party’s policy agenda.

The “war on women” didn’t catch on as a national phenomenon because GOP officials are invariably men; it caught on after Republicans in Virginia decided to mandate medically-unnecessary, trans-vaginal ultrasounds for women who want to undergo a legal medical procedure.

In recent months, Republicans at the state and federal level and have been fighting to restrict contraception; cut off Planned Parenthood; approving sweeping new restrictions on abortion; playing games with the Violence Against Women Act; denying the existence of gender-based pay discrimination and rolling back pay-equity laws.

When it came time for House Republicans to pay for lower student loan interest rates, GOP officials decided to get the funding by cutting access to breast cancer and cervical cancer screenings.

And in nearly all relevant instances, every member of this new Women’s Policy Committee voted with their far-right, male counterparts.

If these lawmakers think a committee and a video will help improve the political circumstances, they don’t yet understand that this is about public policy, not perceptions about gender diversity. If they want to close the gender gap, they need to change the substance, not the style.

Update: Josh Israel notes the voting records of the lawmakers in the clip. Take a wild guess how they voted on key bills related to women’s interests.

Posted in: United States