The reason women voters want to hear about where candidates stand on women's health care isn't because they think of the president as a dreamy yet disappointing boyfriend. It's not because they are silly creatures who can't understand politics except as a metaphor for dating. And it's not because political pundits and campaigns are arbitrarily forcing a conversation about abortion and birth control to turn them all into "single-issue voters." It's actually much simpler than that.
"Women's health" is not an abstract concept created in a conference room in Washington, D.C. It's a reality for women in their daily lives. After the campaigns have shut down, women voters go back to just being women, hoping to get to make decisions about their own health care without politicians interfering.
That's not the message one gets from "Dating Profile," a shockingly insulting ad from Americans for Shared Prosperity, a super PAC funded by a California multimillionaire who thought Republicans needed "to communicate with women voters in a way that outside groups and campaigns haven't." If by that he means treating women as if they can't understand politics unless it's explained to them as a dating metaphor, then mission accomplished, big guy!
"In 2008, I fell in love," says a woman pretending to be disenchanted with her boyfriend Barack. "He thinks the only thing I care about is free birth control."
The patronizing conceit of "Dating Profile" asks women to believe that the only reason they support insurance coverage of birth control is because Obama seemed "so perfect, smart, handsome, charming," and not because it saves them real money. In the first full year of the Affordable Care Act's birth control benefit, women saved $483 million on contraception and picked up 24 million more prescriptions. Regardless of whether Obama has a nice smile or not, 48.5 million women are now eligible for preventive care including birth control -- without a copay!
In Colorado, another super PAC ad makes a different case about fighting for birth control coverage. This time, it's "insulting" and "disrespectful" to women, according to Melissa, a mother of five. She's got a bone to pick with Mark Udall, because, she says, "He's assuming we're single-issue voters."
Actually, we're real-world voters, and it's hard not to notice that Udall's opponent Rep. Cory Gardner, went up on TV with an ad promising "cheaper and easier" access to birth control with his plan. PolitiFact called that promise "mostly false," and since then Gardner has stopped talking about his birth control plan, as have other Senate candidates who had suddenly, and oddly, started talking about it. So now his allies are trying like mad to change the subject. For them, this is just a political maneuver, trying once again to distract women from their actual records.
It's easy to see why. An NBC News poll showed that 70 percent of Colorado voters say they are less likely to vote for a candidate who wants to restrict access to birth control. Similarly, 67 percent are less likely to support a politician who supports restrictions on abortion. Nationally, it's no different, with 69 percent of Americans opposing government restricting access to abortion.
But what these super PACs don't understand is that access to abortion and birth control are popular not because of politics but because it's personal for women and men across the country. The personhood bill Gardner is co-sponsoring in Congress would cut off abortion access, and his birth control plan would take away the coverage mandate under Obamacare. Having a super PAC mansplain these threats as "Washington scare tactics" patronizes women as if they don't know what's good for them until an actress tells them.
This is why these "single-issue voter" diversions are doomed to fail. They assume women voters see birth control as an abstract political issue. Until politicians learn that it's about our real lives, they'll never be able to speak to our concerns, much less brush us off as frivolous "single-issue voters" more interested in getting a date than making our own health care decisions.