The 2014 midterm election marked a turn in the use of “war on women” rhetoric by many liberal incumbents and challengers.  That turn was not the abandonment of the tactic – which features accusations that Republican candidates are out to ban birth control or dismiss the brutality of crimes like rape.  No, the turn in 2014 was a turn toward the absurd.  And absurdism was a loser on Election Day. 

Perhaps the height of the absurdity was a pair of small ad buys executed by NARAL Pro-Choice America, a group that advocates for unlimited abortion.  In one ad, which cost a reported $70,000 to air, national NARAL accused the organization I lead, Susan B. Anthony List, of all manner of plots against women, including an image suggesting the molestation of women.  A second ad, even more absurd than the first, aired in Colorado against Senate challenger Cory GardnerCory Scott GardnerBreaking the Chinese space addiction Trump dumbfounds GOP with latest unforced error Billionaire who donated to Trump in 2016 donates to Biden MORE (R).  The radio spot featured a man complaining hysterically to his girlfriend that he cannot buy a condom anywhere in Colorado because Senator Gardner has banned them.  


This is truly dopey dystopia.  Gardner, in all actuality (like every other candidate for public office today), has never proposed touching the legality of condoms.  He favors expanding the availability of contraception over the counter.

As silly as these two spots were, they represented fairly minor advertising reach.  Other “war on women” gambits were not so easy to disregard. 

Start with Senate candidate Joni Ernst (R) in Iowa.  Just a few days before the election, retiring Sen. Tom HarkinThomas (Tom) Richard HarkinThe Memo: Trump attacks on Harris risk backfiring Ernst challenges Greenfield to six debates in Iowa Senate race Biden unveils disability rights plan: 'Your voices must be heard' MORE (D) patronizingly said that Ernst was as “pretty as Taylor Swift.”  This pat on the head from a septuagenarian legislator was directed at a Army National Guard veteran who is offering Iowans a change in the disastrous direction we’re headed.  Ernst was rightly offended by Harkin’s good-old-boy arrogance, but she will likely be too busy as Iowa’s newest U.S. senator to worry about it. 

Then there was John Foust, a Democratic candidate for Virginia’s 10th Congressional District.  In one of his debates with Republican newcomer Barbara Comstock, Foust mused that the longtime Congressional aide, attorney, waitress and working mother had “never had a real job.”  For some progressives working anywhere outside the government patronage system is akin to having no life.  Like Ernst, Comstock will be busy serving her country in the U.S. Congress come January. 

An even deeper ugliness emerged in South Carolina just before Election Day when gubernatorial challenger Vincent Sheheen (D) told a cheering crowd at a campaign rally that he intended to “escort the whore out the door.”  The repulsive epithet was directed at incumbent governor Nikki Haley, one of four pro-life women elected to their state’s highest executive office in 2010.  Gov. Haley will enjoy a second term now, thanks to a record of achievement and South Carolina voters’ decision to show Sheheen the door instead. 

All of this makes one wonder why so many putatively progressive candidates have become deranged on the question of women in public life lately.  It represents, I think, the evolution of a rhetorical trope they once found politically effective but that is shockingly vapid.  Rather than debate the details of public policy – is it right to force religious institutions to pay for abortion-inducing drugs and devices for their employees, should taxpayers foot the bill for abortion on demand, is abortion late in pregnancy morally and legally justified? – too many candidates veered into extreme caricatures of their adversaries. 

In Colorado, incumbent Sen. Mark UdallMark Emery UdallThe 10 Senate seats most likely to flip Democratic presidential race comes into sharp focus Democrats will win back the Senate majority in 2020, all thanks to President Trump MORE (D), who was retired involuntarily on Tuesday, managed to rile one of his own donors, who heckled Udall at a rally over his obsessive focus on abortion.  The donor, millionaire Al Beserra, raged at Udall that he was running the “worst campaign” because “abortion is all he talks about.”  Meanwhile, Greg Orman, who failed in his “independent” challenge to Kansas Sen. Pat RobertsCharles (Pat) Patrick RobertsThe Hill's Morning Report - Sponsored by Facebook - Washington on edge amid SCOTUS vacancy The Hill's Morning Report - Sponsored by National Industries for the Blind - Trump seeks to flip 'Rage' narrative; Dems block COVID-19 bill GOP senators say coronavirus deal dead until after election MORE (R), literally ran away from reporters who asked about his stance on two weighty legislative propositions on abortion Congress is certain to consider. 

Election Day 2014 was a day of impressive victories for pro-life candidates, both men and women.  May it also prove to be the demise of the “war on women,” an absurd tactic that has worn the patience of voters everywhere. 

Dannenfelser is the president and an original organizer of the Susan B. Anthony List (SBA List), a national pro-life group dedicated to pursuing policies and electing candidates to reduce and ultimately end abortion.