Violence Against Women Act As a Political Talking Point

Brian Darling

4/23/2012 11:27:00 AM - Brian Darling

Left wingers need to preserve the talking point that the Right hates women. The Violence Against Women Act (WAWA), now pending reauthorization in the U.S. Senate, offers a great example of how liberals use political kabuki to keep the myth alive. The bill is fundamentally flawed and fully deserving of rejection. But senators who oppose it will be painted as women-haters.

As the Washington Post reports, “Democrats see the debate over the bill and potential amendments as an opening to continue accusing Republicans of ‘waging war’ on women’s rights. In recent weeks, the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee has used the issue — and the 11 Democratic women running in Senate races this year — to raise money from supporters.”

Even some Republicans have fallen for the talking point. According to The New York Times, Sen. Lisa Murkowski (R-Alaska) has urged Republicans to surrender on the issue.

No one disputes that violence against women is a problem and one that needs to be addressed by law enforcement. But crimes of violence—against any person—are meat-and-potato issues for state and local law enforcement.

That’s because state and local governments—not the feds—are the traditional reservoir of police power in the U.S. Our Founders set up the Republic with that idea in mind.

James Madison wrote in Federalist 45 that the powers of the federal government are limited and the powers remaining in the states are numerous.

 

The powers delegated by the proposed Constitution to the federal government are few and defined. Those which are to remain in the State governments are numerous and indefinite. The former will be exercised principally on external objects, as war, peace, negotiation, and foreign commerce; with which last the power of taxation will, for the most part, be connected. The powers reserved to the several States will extend to all the objects which, in the ordinary course of affairs, concern the lives, liberties, and properties of the people, and the internal order, improvement, and prosperity of the State.

 

According to the Cato Handbook for Congress, “the Constitution specifically authorizes federal enforcement of only three types of laws, all of which involve uniquely federal concerns.” Those three types of criminal laws are laws to prevent counterfeiting, piracy and treason. Combating violent crime of any kind is the purview of the many states and other territories.

The Heritage Foundation’s David Muhlhausen and Christina Villegas note that “despite the fact that each state has statutes that punish domestic violence, the federal government intervened in 1994 with the Violence Against Women Act (VAWA).” Members of Congress and the President may feel better when they pass a law that goes after the perpetrators of violence against women, yet the federal government is not supposed to waste resources on issues more properly dealt with on the state and local level of governance.

The legislation pending before the Senate, S.1925, infringes on the rights of states and squanders federal resources. Moreover, it vastly expands the original VAWA and the power of the federal government in the domain of violence against women. And then, there’s the politics. Liberals have loaded the bill with poison pill provisions meant to bait conservative politicians into a divisive fight.

Muhlhausen and Villegas note three major problems with the bill:

 

• It expands VAWA to men and prisoners, despite the lack of scientifically rigorous evaluations to determine the effectiveness of existing VAWA programs;

• It expands the already duplicative VAWA grant programs and

• Without precedent, it surrenders the rights of non-native Americans to racially exclusive tribal courts.

 

Another interesting twist: the pending legislation would offer VAWA protection and aid to victims of violence in same-sex couples. In other words, the Violence Against Women Act would protect a man harmed by another man, but only if they are in a sexual relationship.

This is classic special interest politics. Much like federal “Hate Crimes” laws, this legislation is designed to be used as political wedge issue. The aim is to make it appear as though liberals care about “women’s issues,” while conservatives couldn't care less. But all lawmakers are sworn to uphold the Constitution. What they should care about is upholding the will of our Founding Fathers—and pushing back against this ill conceived idea.