Patrick B. McGuigan
Former Republican state party chairman in the Old Dominion (Virginia) and a vice president of the Young America’s Foundation, Obenshain is no stranger to the rough-and-tumble world of politics. Once upon a time, policy development was the almost-exclusive province of men, but those days are long gone.
In an interview with CapitolBeatOK, Obenshain reflected, “The special concerns I have right now come from Barack Obama’s approach to the presidency, and of course the aftermath of the 2012 election.
The president and his surrogates have been so effective at turning us against one another. There is a great level of suspicion among and between people that they feed, along lines of gender and income level. Yes, there is a new sense of urgency in my work.”
Obenshain detailed the sequence of events, and reflections on those events, that led her to accept the invitation to come and address a gathering aiming to find better ways to think through public policy issues and controversies from a feminine and conservative perspective.
She said, “Early in the 2012 presidential campaign, I was certain that President Obama had overplayed his hand, had simply gone too far, way over the top. When their campaign made assertions that Republicans would drag women back into the past, my own experiences were so contrary that I thought they had gone far beyond the line of believability.”
Then, “One of the last campaign mailings I got in Virginia attacked Mitt Romney and Paul Ryan in simply unbelievable terms, saying they had views that were both ‘shocking and dangerous.’ The rhetoric was so hateful and dreadful.
After the election, I looked carefully, and studied some of the focus groups. There were large numbers of people who had decided, they actually bought the message that Mitt Romney actively opposed women in the workplace. The constant demagoguery worked enough to convince a majority of the swing voters in the battleground states. That was shocking to me.”
Obenshain continued, “Then I studied the Democratic convention more carefully than I had. Many of the speakers were women, and the messages were shockingly left-wing. They made constant references to a ‘war on women.’”
In that fresh examination of those days, she described a reluctant conclusion: “In the end, all of that ‘played.’ It worked. That surprised me and disturbed me.”
She observes, “There was one moment, after one presidential debate, when the gender gap essentially disappeared. I became so hopeful when it seemed women were responding. But then the Romney and Ryan campaign went on the defense, and slowly the problem reemerged. Still, it was close enough, in the end, that it is clear that Romney and Ryan could have won.”
Obenshain is strongly position to influence and perhaps lead the discussion. At YAF, she has developed what the group touts as the largest conservative lecture program in the nation. No slouch at “messaging” to diverse audiences, she appears frequently on Fox News and other media forums.
For now, “It comes down to this. I am trying to do my part to lay the basis for a brighter future for conservatives, for victories that are rooted in taking to people the message of opportunity and hope for a better life, not the shocking words of distortion and hate that seemed to prevail last year.