Yesterday, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled that the craft store Hobby Lobby is not required to provide contraception to women because of religious objections. Thom Tillis promptly hailed the measure, saying, “The American people are the clear winners.” Unless, of course, you are an American woman who is about to lose your birth control.
For religious conservatives and business types who don’t want the government to tell them what benefits to offer their employees, the ruling was certainly a victory. For Republican candidates trying to convince women that they have their best interest in mind, it sure makes the argument even tougher. Thom Tillis, of course, falls into the second category.
The ruling caused a howl from progressive organizations. They say it puts an additional burden on women, particularly women working in low-wage jobs. An IUD, among the cheapest forms of birth control, can cost $1000, almost a month’s pay for a minimum wage earner.
But while groups like NARAL and Planned Parenthood may be angry with the court, they know they just got another wedge added to their tool belt for the 2014 elections. The decision, and more importantly, Republican reaction to it, adds to their case that the GOP stands with big business instead of working women. The gender gap just got a little wider.
In addition, the messaging is easier for Democrats than Republicans. For Democrats, it’s a simple statement. “Thom Tillis believes companies can deny women access to affordable birth control.” It’s easy to understand and believable.
Republicans, on the other hand, need to explain why they support the ruling. With women, the ruling puts GOP in an inherently defensive position, not a placeRepublicans want to be. So far, they haven’t made an argument that’s going to resonate with the swing voters who don’t see the ruling as an ideological argument but as a personal affront.
The ruling also adds to the populist sentiment that’s rising across the country. The GOP increasingly looks like the party that sides with big business over working class families. They oppose a minimum wage increase and now celebrate a ruling that will cost working women more money. At the same time, they consistently defend tax cuts for the rich.
Elections are unpredictable and public opinion can change on a dime. Democrats would be wise to exploit this issue as another example of the GOP siding with the rich at the expense of the rest of us. It’s not about birth control or women’s health. It’s about money and they are costing working families more of it. Democrats, particularly here in North Carolina, need to catch a populist wave and ride it into November.
Thomas Mills is the founder and publisher of PoliticsNC.com. Before beginning PoliticsNC, Thomas spent twenty years as a political and public affairs consultant. Learn more >