In an inspired Wall Street Journal article, Kimberley Strassel points out that Republican candidates, at their peril, are ignoring women, while Democratic candidates, knowing that women voters are the statistical difference for them between success and failure, are wooing them aggressively. This wooing needed go well. Strassel explains that the Democrats are locked in the 1970s when it comes to thinking about what women want. She, therefore, uses her column to look at what women want now and to give the Republican candidates some pointers about how to communicate to women that the Republicans, not the Democrats, will address their 21st Century needs. Here’s just one of her ideas:
Here’s an example of how a smart Republican could morph an old-fashioned Democratic talking point into a modern-day vote winner. Ms. Clinton likes to bang on about “inequality” in pay. The smart conservative would explain to a female audience that there indeed is inequality, and that the situation is grave. Only the bad guy isn’t the male boss; it’s the progressive tax code.
Most married women are second-earners. That means their income is added to that of their husband’s, and thus taxed at his highest marginal rate. So the married woman working as a secretary keeps less of her paycheck than the single woman who does the exact same job. This is the ultimate in “inequality,” yet Democrats constantly promote the very tax code that punishes married working women. In some cases, the tax burdens and child-care expenses for second-earners are so burdensome they can’t afford a career. But when was the last time a Republican pointed out that Ms. Clinton was helping to keep ladies in the kitchen?
For that matter, when was the last time a GOP candidate pointed out that their own free-market policies could help alleviate this problem? Should President Bush’s tax cuts expire, tens of thousands of middle-class women will see more of their paychecks disappear into the maw of their husband’s higher bracket. A really brave candidate would go so far as to promise eliminating this tax bias altogether. Under a flat tax, second-earner women would pay the same rate as unmarried women and the guy down the hall. Let Democrats bang the worn-out drum of a “living wage.” Republicans should customize their low-tax message to explain how they directly put more money into female pockets.
As you know, I hate identity politics. However, to the extent that’s the game Democrats play, the Republican contenders would do well to heed Strassel’s warning and curry a demographic that has the power, if ignored, to latch on to bad Democratic policies in the complete absence of any Republican policies.