It is clear, despite their protestations, that the most likely Republican presidential nominees, and the Republican Party as a whole, have positioned themselves as anti-female. GOP-promoted legislation has attempted to restrict women's access to contraception, scale back abortion rights, legislatively change the terms for victims of domestic violence, rape, and stalking to the far-lesser "accuser," cut funding for low-income pregnant women, mothers, babies and kids, and more. When a Republican congressman held an all-male panel to discuss contraception, leaving Georgetown student Sandra Fluke aside (which resulted in Rush Limbaugh's obnoxious designation of Ms. Fluke as a "slut"), the GOP furthered its attack. The Republican National Committee Chair Reince Priebus minimized the attack on women, calling it "a fiction" -- no more real than a "war on caterpillars." Not helpful, it seems, to women voters.
As a result of all this, President Obama has a large gap in the polls today, with little effort. A recent USA Today/Gallup poll found President Obama leading GOP presidential frontrunner Mitt Romney 56 percent to 36 percent among women in a dozen swing states. Other polls have found similar gaps. At this point, it might be easy for Obama to take women's votes for granted.
Mr. Obama -- please don't. Please take seriously the needs of women and do not presume that the female vote is yours for the taking.
Researchers are predicting that Obama may be at a deficit in the men's vote, thus the female vote is essential to winning the election. There are more women than men overall, more women registered to vote, and women have a higher voter turnout rate. In 2008, Obama won 56 percent of the female vote.
In recent weeks, President Obama has begun wooing female voters, mainly by vigorously defending health care reform and stressing how it has helped women. The Democratic National Committee has sent a million pieces of mail to women in battleground states and the president has been speaking at several forums where he emphasizes his achievements for women and girls. This is all important. But I want to see Obama do much more to address women's rights.
In particular, I want to see some movement on ratification of the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination Against Women (CEDAW). CEDAW is the only international human rights treaty that specifically addresses gender equality. It would address such issues as the gender wage gap, domestic violence, rape and sexual assault, women's healthcare and more.
President Jimmy Carter signed CEDAW on July 17, 1980 and submitted it to the Senate for ratification. That and subsequent attempts to ratify CEDAW have never succeeded, leaving the U.S. in the company of Iran, Somalia, Sudan, Palau and Tongo as the only United Nations members not to ratify the treaty. More than 150 U.S.-based organizations support ratification. And Obama, during his 2008 presidential campaign pledged to push for ratification. Yet he has done little, if anything, to follow up on that promise.
It would be a shame if President Obama won the majority of the female vote largely by allowing Republics to lose it. A default win is a lost opportunity -- one that would make a real difference, and one that positions the U.S. to begin looking like a leader in gender equality. The president should make a strong push for ratifying CEDAW, and important step toward doing that.