Barack Obama, Your Bad Boyfriend : Republicans Try Not-So-New Strategy With Female Voters

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This week in Republicans missing the mark, we have an ad paid for by Americans for Shared Prosperity. You may recall that the GOP has been desperately trying to update their messaging to women voters. They have held panels at national meetings (however sparsely attended), attempted to encourage female leadership in the party and representation in party primaries, and they even commissioned a poll to help them understand those tricky lady brains.

Enter John Jordan, the head of Americans for Shared Prosperity, who explained the ad’s intention to Politico:

The goal here is to communicate with women voters in a way that outside groups and campaigns haven’t… The purpose of this is to treat women voters more like adults than either the Democrats or Republicans have.

Does it meet the mark? Watch for yourself, you adult lady human, you!

That’s right – for Americans for Shared Prosperity, the only way to talk to female voters is to equate choosing a presidential candidate with finding a boyfriend through online dating. Yes, ladies, this is what you’ve been missing : targeted messaging that communicates about those difficult political topics in a language you can understand – the eternal search for the perfect man.

As Vox points out, not only is the ad offensive – parts of it are downright creepy.

What is especially hard to understand is the disconnect between a company whose head told Politico, “Women voters care as much about the economy, jobs, death and spending as do other groups,” and who acknowledged the role advertising could play, adding, “The Republican advertising techniques have not changed since the ’80s,” and the resulting political ad called “Dating Profile.”

Creating advertising that communicates ideas or messages to women by capitalizing on their assumed desire to get and/or keep a man (or, in this case, to find a better one) is nothing new. And yet, this is the most revolutionary messaging tool a 21st century Republican organization could come up with when considering the conundrum of communicating with adult women.

Jordan states that his audience is well-educated on political issues. He asserts that the motivation behind the ad was to target those women who are interested in heavy policy areas such as the economy and spending – so why does his ad fail to acknowledge their capacity to engage on these issues, instead of couching them in metaphors for a bad boyfriend?

Progressives aren’t the only ones pushing back. Republican consulting group Burning Glass – a firm that is entirely focused on Republican messaging to women – took to Twitter to criticize the move:

But Jordan’s commercial for “adults” shows us what we already know to be true: this supposed ‘commitment’ to reaching out to women voters is all talk and no substance. Jordan says his target audience is adult women, but his concept of who an “adult woman” is is clearly stuck in the 80’s with the Republican advertisers he is so quick dismiss.

Republicans have come out hard against the “war on women” rhetoric from Democratic parties, claiming that this treats women like single-issue voters. This is the one part of the commercial where we do see eye to eye. As a female voter, I do care about issues aside from the preventative health coverage under the Affordable Care Act (or, as the commercial puts it, whether I get “free birth control”). I care about whether my party recognizes my ability as an intelligent, adult woman to engage on complicated policy issues and messages to me as such. On this single issue, the Republican Party has a long way to go.


About Author

Genevieve Cato

Genevieve Cato is a feminist activist and a native Texan. While not writing for the Burnt Orange Report, she can be found working for NARAL Pro-Choice Texas, serving as a community member of the Communications Committee for the Lilith Fund for Reproductive Equity, and drinking copious amounts of pretentious local craft beers.

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