Throughout this election cycle, we’ve seen politician after politician from the Republican party make ignorant and insensitive comments about women. With each statement, we’ve had to shake our heads and wonder how men who don’t seem to understand half of the country could ever hope to represent any group of constituents. During yesterday’s election, it looks like female voters stood up and let these thoughtless candidates know just how powerful our votes are.
The first victory last name came from my home state of Indiana, where Joe Donnelly beat out the once-favored Richard Mourdock. Mourdock ruined his chances of heading to the Senate when he said during a debate that pregnancy from rape was something that “God intended to happen.”
The large contest that everyone seemed to be watching was that of Missouri Senate candidate Todd Akin. Akin’s comments about “legitimate rape” set off the wave of disgusting comments that plagued conservatives throughout the summer and fall. While it was originally assumed that Akin saying women’s bodies were about “shut down” a pregnancy that resulted from rape would completely destroy his chance of winning, the race had gotten closer in recent weeks. Akin earned back the support of the GOP Senatorial committee, won endorsements, and came within two points of his opponent Claire McCaskill in the polls. Thankfully, McCaskill pulled out the victory to head back to the Senate.
However, it wasn’t just the big name races that pulled national attention where thoughtless comments about rape, abortions, or women in general had an impact. Across the board, where we say offensive comments about women, we saw defeat. Roger Rivard, who was winning his race for Wisconsin state legislator lost out after he explained an old adage from his grandfather that “some girls rape easy.” Joe Walsh lost his re-election bid for the House of Representatives after claiming that abortion for the life of the mother was never medically necessary. Of course, thousands of women who have had to make that heart-wrenching call disputed Walsh’s absurdly incorrect statement.
Maryland Representative Roscoe Bartlett lost his re-election bid after multiple statements that had to leave female citizens frustrated. First, he proved that he didn’t understand abortion or women’s reproductive health by claiming that sex-selective abortions were a much bigger issue than pregnancy from rape. He further ruined his chances by saying that, “when we drove the mother out of the home into the workplace and replaced her with the television set, that was not a good thing.” There are a number of problems with that statement, like the fact that mothers chose to work, they weren’t “driven” to it. And of course, working mothers are not a bad thing. Bartlett was the second longest serving member of the House, but I’m not sure we’ll all be sad to see him go.
Even controversies that seem to draw little national attention had big impacts. Tom Smith, the Pennsylvania Senate candidate who compared his daughter getting pregnant out of wedlock to getting pregnant from rape, lost against his Democratic opponent last night.
Of course, the biggest rebuke of the “War on Women” last night happened at the top of the ballot. President Obama, who has been a vocal supporter of women’s rights throughout his presidency, won re-election. He defeated Mitt Romney, who has an uneven and inconsistent record when it comes to women’s reproductive health. And also, you have to remember that Paul Ryan shares many of the extreme views championed by Akin, Mourdock, and Walsh. In fact, Ryan worked on legislation with some of them to redefine rape for legislative purposes and to introduce a Federal Personhood bill.
There was a lot of talk about the women’s vote and it’s impact on this election. There was plenty of hand-wringing over the terminology “War on Women” and whether it was appropriate or fitting. At the end of the day though, it didn’t matter what you called it. Women voters struck down those didn’t seem to understand how our bodies work, what choices we hold dear, or how rape and pregnancy effects all of us.
Now, we’ll just have to see if the conservative base chooses to play it safe in the next election and completely ignore issues of reproductive health, or if they’ll attempt to move their party an inch or two closer to the middle. After all, we’ve seen that their current approach isn’t working.