A sea change has washed over America since Sigmund Freud asked the question that forever perplexes everybody: "What do women want?" The question remains forever elusive because women are never of one mind. To the consternation of marketers -- political and otherwise -- women don't all think alike.
Whether Republican or Democrat, male or female, black or white, vegetarian or confirmed carnivore, women are not single-issue voters. In a world of multi-tasking, women are multi-everything.
But the political strategists of both parties do look at women differently. Democrats perpetuate the convenient stereotype of woman as helpless victim, ignoring the feminist revolution over the past 60 years that enabled women to earn equal employment and educational opportunities once reserved only for men.
A new Washington Post-ABC News poll, released on the eve of the Democratic National Convention, demonstrates anew how fickle voters can be. Just 47 percent of registered voters now regard Barack Obama favorably, down 7 percent from late spring. Worse for the Democrats, say the pollsters, the decline has occurred almost entirely among female voters.
Republicans, on the other hand, emphasize women's accomplishments and can-do independence. New Mexico Gov. Susana Martinez reveled in telling the Republicans in Tampa, Fla., how her father gave her a job in the family security business, assigned her to guard the parking lot for the weekly bingo games at the Catholic church and armed her with a Smith & Wesson .357 Magnum (the gun of choice of Clint Eastwood's "Dirty Harry"). Condoleezza Rice -- who was raised in Jim Crow Birmingham, Ala. -- says she was taught not "grievance and entitlement" but that even though she couldn't have a hamburger at Woolworths, she could grow up to be secretary of state. Chris Christie, the macho governor of New Jersey, credited his mother as the model of independent thinking: "In the automobile of life, Dad was just a passenger. Mom was the driver."
The Democrats sometimes highlight strong women, too -- wives, moms and grandmothers who overcame tough times. But the Democratic emphasis is invariably on women who need help, even with their sex lives, determined to persuade the government to pay for contraception and, when that fails, unrestricted abortions. Carly Fiorina, former CEO of Hewlett-Packard and the first woman to preside over a Fortune 100 company, had it right when she said she was tired of hearing about women as a special interest group. She scolded the Democrats for "milking" the abortion issue. "Women are over half of the population; they are not single-issue voters," she said on "Meet the Press."