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November 10, 2004
You Don't Bring Me Flowers

In response to the continuing post-mortems on the presidential election, various women's groups noted that George Bush made significant inroads with women. Exit polling showed that John Kerry only narrowly edged Bush in this demographic, 51-48, while Al Gore had claimed an 11-point gap in 2000. The groups blamed John Kerry and claimed he took them for granted:

Leaders of several women's groups said Tuesday that Democrat John Kerry fell short in his bid for the White House because he didn't make a more direct appeal for support from women voters. ...

"There was an assumption women would be behind the Kerry campaign," said Kim Gandy, president of the National Organization for Women. The Bush campaign referred to the liberation of Afghan and Iraqi women to appeal to women voters, said Eleanor Smeal, president of the Feminist Majority. But "Kerry never drew a very strong contrast with Bush" on women's issues until the end of the campaign, said Martha Burk, chair of the National Council of Women's Organizations.

Part of Kerry's problem sprang from his constant need to pander to all constituencies rather than declare his convictions and let the chips fall where they may. His lifelong support for abortion rights, among the most liberal of any politician, suddenly transformed itself into a reluctant disinclination to act upon his supposedly true belief of life beginning at conception -- and pro-choicers just as suddenly had no idea where Kerry would go once in office. The soft issues that normally concern women, such as child-care and education issues, wound up just as murky given that Bush had increased education spending a whopping 56% over Clinton-era budgeting.

Mostly, though, women found out that they were more concerned with security and resoluteness in wartime than any of the issues these groups pushed as primary causes. Women decided in almost the same numbers as men that John Kerry's vacillations left them unable to see him as someone determined to do whatever it takes to keep them safe, too willing to retreat in the face of political criticism rather than pick a course and stick with it. Besides, as the Bush campaign loved pointing out, it's hard to argue with the track record of liberating women in the Middle East that Bush built in the past three years.

In ordinary times, pandering on Head Start and latchkey kids buys votes, especially from NOW and Feminist Majority. In wartime and especially in the age of terror, moderate women tend to focus on the candidate least likely to sit back and allow their families to get blown up. Kerry simply could not earn their trust, and no amount of flowers brought or love songs sung could make the difference.

Sphere It Digg! View blog reactions
Posted by Ed Morrissey at November 10, 2004 12:51 PM

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