It is a mercy that the suffragettes aren't around to see President Barack Obama's campaign for the women's vote. It would make them weep in dismay.
Almost a hundred years after passage of the 19th Amendment, the president is making perhaps the most superficial, misleading and insulting appeal for the support of women in American presidential politics ever. It's a wonder that his target audience doesn't rise up as one and say, “Please, stop condescending to us.”
If David Axelrod is right, what women care about most is making other people, even religious employers, pay for their birth control. They love abortion with a single-minded passion. They are so easily manipulated that they can be motivated to oppose Mitt Romney because he said innocently in a debate that his aides brought him “binders full of women” to consider for his cabinet as Massachusetts governor.
They can be convinced that they are the victims of a “war on women” as long as the slogan is repeated over and over again. They can be made to believe that the Lilly Ledbetter Act is an epochal change in the balance of power between the genders, when pay discrimination has long been illegal and the Lilly Ledbetter Act merely tilts the playing field against employers and toward trial lawyers by allowing lawsuits years after alleged acts of pay discrimination.
The likes of Susan B. Anthony and Elizabeth Cady Stanton argued that women were just as capable of rational deliberation as men. The conceit of the Obama campaign is that, to the contrary, they are quite susceptible to a few powerful dog whistles and unable to see beyond their gender. To paraphrase a notorious post on the Obama campaign's Tumblr page, “ladies vote like their lady parts depend on it.”
The twenty-something filmmaker and actress Lena Dunham captured the sensibility perfectly in an instantly mocked video likening voting for Obama for the first time to having sex for the first time. “You want to do it with a great guy,” Dunham gushes. As the conservative writer John O'Sullivan noted, if Dunham can really compare “the excitement of her first vote to losing her virginity, one can only encourage her to persevere: Sex really will get better.”