Increasingly, it looks like Democrats have one playbook, and they’ll run it … even after it loses them an election. After blocking a bill on human trafficking that would primarily benefit women and girls, Democrats from Hillary Clinton on down accused Republicans of a war on women when Mitch McConnell made good on his threat to hold off a confirmation vote on Loretta Lynch until the bill passed:
A Republican “war on women” has returned, Democratic senators and women’s groups proclaimed Wednesday — returning to a message that resonated for Democrats in 2012 but seemed to falter more recently.
The message, delivered by Tammy Baldwin (D-Wis.), Patty Murray (D-Wash.) and others at a morning event at the Capitol, comes as the Senatecontinues to debate a bill that would stiffen penalties for the perpetrators of human trafficking and establish new resources for its victims. The bill is now stuck amid a heated debate over anti-abortion language embedded in the bill, and Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) has pledged not to hold a vote on attorney general nominee Loretta Lynch until the deadlock is resolved.
The combination of abortion politics and the stymied confirmation of the nation’s second woman attorney general has Democrats gleefully re-embracing the narrative that helped keep the Senate in their hands back in 2012.
And the narrative that lost it for them in 2014. The idea that the “war on women” meme helped Democrats in 2012 lacks evidence, by the way, especially if one looks at the exit polling. Barack Obama actually slipped slightly among women from his 2008 election, despite months of the “war on women” rhetoric designed to bolster his standing. Democrats managed a slight gain in the Senate in 2012, thanks to Barack Obama’s re-election, and Republicans lost two seats thanks to fumbles by candidates in seats they should have won, but the war on women was largely a no sale on the national front. And in 2014, it turned into a joke.
It’s an even bigger joke in this context, as I write in my column for The Fiscal Times, which I linked earlier:
Sen. Patty Murray (D-WA) used the term explicitly — accusing Republicans of making women step backward for progress. “I call that a war on women,” Murray said at a press event. Sen. Tammy Baldwin (D-WI) ripped the “extreme right wing of the Republican Party” for the impasse, without explaining how several Democrats voted to pass the bill out of committee – four of whom voted to end the filibuster.
Even Hillary Clinton got into the act. She declared from the relative safety of Twitter that the demand to have a vote first on the trafficking bill that passed without opposition in Judiciary amounted to a “Congressional trifecta against women today” in part, because it will delay confirmation of the “1st African American woman AG, for longer than any AG in 30 years.” Sen. Dick Durbin (D-IL) took the hint and implied that the delay for Lynch came from racial animus rather than Democratic obstruction of a widely supported bill. Lynch, Durbin declared, was being “asked to sit in the back of the bus when it comes to the Senate calendar.”
All of this is sheer nonsense. It’s demagoguery of the worst kind, especially since the first choice to put off Lynch’s nomination came from Senate Democratic leadership, in which Durbin ranks second. They chose to delay Lynch’s nomination to use up the remaining legislative calendar to pass what became known as the “cromnibus” bill, which allowed Democrats to retain control over most of the rest of the FY2015 budget, even though they had just lost a national election, and Republicans had won control of both chambers of Congress. Durbin should look in the mirror before making comparisons to Rosa Parks and implying racial animosity where none exists. …
Now we have Democrats blocking popular legislation whose benefits disproportionately benefit women, over opposition to a ban on federal funds for abortions that is also overwhelmingly popular among women, and declaring that McConnell’s fight to get a floor vote for the bill that no Democrats opposed in committee amounts to a “war on women.”
If this is the strategy that Democrats plan to use in 2016, they are in more trouble than they know, especially with Hillary Clinton as the banner carrier for the argument.