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Missouri Congressman Todd Akin
Lesson one: No talking about "legitimate rape."
Ha ha ha. Republican incumbents facing challenges from Democratic women are being given lessons in messaging against women ... er, messaging against women opponents. The problem is that they're already too good at messaging against women, so now they need to learn to cover up some of the condescension and pretend their policies won't hurt, yes, women. These lessons are coming from the top—from Speaker John Boehner's office and from the National Republican Congressional Committee, and it sounds like they're badly needed:
“Let me put it this way, some of these guys have a lot to learn,” said a Republican staffer who attended the session in Boehner’s office. [...]

While GOP party leaders have talked repeatedly of trying to “rebrand” the party after the 2012 election losses, the latest effort shows they’re not entirely confident the job is done.

So they’re getting out in front of the next campaign season, heading off gaffes before they’re ever uttered and risk repeating the 2012 season, when a handful of comments let Democrats paint the entire Republican Party as anti-woman.

Let me stop you right there. Yes, Todd Akin's "legitimate rape" comments and Richard Mourdock's claim that pregnancy resulting from rape is a "gift from God" were specific quotes that got a lot of publicity. But the problem the Republican Party faced because of them was that the underlying views are basically Republican doctrine. The 2012 Republican platform had no room in it for abortion in cases of rape or incest, and that's the exact position that Akin and Mourdock were defending. And frankly, the fact that top Republicans think this is an issue only for Republicans facing female opponents is yet more evidence of their problem. It's not a personality thing, guys. At least not mostly. It's a policy thing. Richard Mourdock was not facing a woman, yet his comments helped get a Democrat elected just the same.

Abortion and rape also aren't the only problem policies. For instance, Rep. Scott Rigell of Virginia, a narrow 2012 victor running against a woman, says "I look at it this way — I wake up every day not thinking about the social issues ... I sought office because I know we can do better on job creation and I’m also concerned about our fiscal trajectory." But Republican policies also concretely hurt women, who are disproportionately stuck in jobs that pay the minimum wage Republicans won't allow a vote to raise, who are discriminated against while pregnant as Republicans block a bill to fight that discrimination, and who frequently suffer from wage discrimination as Republicans refuse to strengthen anti-discrimination laws.

In short, it's going to take a little more than lessons in not downplaying rape before Republicans eliminate the gender gap.

Originally posted to Laura Clawson on Thu Dec 05, 2013 at 07:42 AM PST.

Also republished by Feminism, Pro-Feminism, Womanism: Feminist Issues, Ideas, & Activism, This Week in the War on Women, and Daily Kos.

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