After failing to make much headway with women voters by insisting the GOP wants to take away the right to birth control, the Democratic Party is moving onto its next attempt to make the contrived “Republican war on women” narrative stick. The new fight is about the reauthorization of the Violence Against Women Act, legislation the GOP has previously supported.
But this time around, Democrats are pinning a provision to it that would make it easier for illegal immigrants to obtain temporary visas as victims of domestic violence. In other words, it’s a transparent, politically-motivated attempt to provoke Republican opposition to VAWA and allow the left to claim the GOP supports violence against women:
Republicans are bracing for a battle where substantive arguments could be swamped by political optics and the intensity of the clash over women’s issues. At a closed-door Senate Republican lunch on Tuesday, Senator Lisa Murkowski of Alaska sternly warned her colleagues that the party was at risk of being successfully painted as antiwoman — with potentially grievous political consequences in the fall, several Republican senators said Wednesday.
Some conservatives are feeling trapped.
“I favor the Violence Against Women Act and have supported it at various points over the years, but there are matters put on that bill that almost seem to invite opposition,” said Senator Jeff Sessions, Republican of Alabama, who opposed the latest version last month in the Judiciary Committee. “You think that’s possible? You think they might have put things in there we couldn’t support that maybe then they could accuse you of not being supportive of fighting violence against women?”
Senate Democratic women are jumping on this gimmick today by marching on the Senate floor to insist on the quick renewal of the legislation.
But the one positive for Republicans is that there’s strong public opposition to illegal immigration. If they want any hope of winning on this issue, they’ll need to emphasize that it’s the Democrats who are holding the reauthorization hostage by tying it to provisions that would encourage more fraud in the immigration system. To the Senate Democratic women marching today, the GOP might argue: We would be happy to extend VAWA in its current form. We would love to do it immediately. In fact, the only thing delaying its extension is the controversial measure you tacked onto it.
What conservatives should avoid is relitigating VAWA. Yes, there are legitimate arguments that could be made against the law, some of which have been pursued by civil rights groups like the ACLU. But it’s also been in place for almost two decades, and while it may not be perfect, it’s negligible compared to the real battles conservatives need to focus on. If there’s opposition to VAWA from prominent conservative pundits, there’s a good chance it’ll be cited as ironclad proof that the Right is anti-women and used to divert attention from the serious election issues.