Single female voters are a huge voting block and Cosmopolitan’s editorial staff wants to tip the scales to the left. Amy Otto reports for Townhall Magazine.
Cosmopolitan is getting political this year. Five mindboggling endorsements include support for a known plagiarist, a pink-sneakered woman with a grudge against the disabled, a long shot Montana Senate candidate who thinks worrying about the nation’s debt is “bull,” a guy who’s nickname is now “Mark Uterus,” and a woman who couldn’t even state for the record whether she voted for Barack Obama.
All these candidates have one thing in common and it’s not their platform, it’s their party.
The first question to ask is: Why this year?
Cosmopolitan is largely read by single women in their 20s and 30s who coincidentally are the same target group that in presidential election years have contributed to Democratic victories.
Under the header, "How the Democrats Can Avoid Going Down this November," the New Republic’s Sasha Issenberg recently explained, “Today the Republican coalition is stacked with the electorate’s most habitual poll-goers, or ‘Reflex’ voters, as we will call them. The Democratic Party claims the lion’s share of drop-off voters, or ‘Unreliables.’ Unmarried women, for instance, are one of the most consistently Democratic blocs, and they are also among the least likely to vote in non-presidential elections."
The key to Democrats surviving midterm elections, then, is figuring out how to make those “unreliables” reliable. “Experiment after experiment has since confirmed the effectiveness of subtle prods that trigger what [Harvard psychologist Todd] Rogers has called a citizen’s ‘basic need for belonging,’” Issenberg wrote.
“Addressing the recipient as ‘a voter’ or ‘the type of person who votes’ produces a small increase in turnout. So does asking people to commit to a plan for when, where, and how they will vote. Emphasizing that many other people will vote in an upcoming election has been proven more effective than bemoaning those who don’t show up. Added together in a single nonpartisan get-out-the-vote-letter, the messages can boost an individual’s likelihood of voting by about one-third a percentage point,” she continued.
Take out the “non-partisan” part and this is exactly Cosmopolitan’s current plan: Use the magazine’s 3 million subscribers to reach “unreliable” single female readers and get them to vote Democrat.
No “Old Male Politician” Need Apply
“I think there’s a really big divide between older voters and millennial voters,” Cosmopolitan Editor-in-Chief Joanna Coles recently told Fashionista’s Nora Crotty. “And our readers are really kind of surprised that there are still all these old male politicians, like Thom Tillis in North Carolina, who feel they can kill the equal pay acts, and who don’t believe in access to contraception.”
There are more than a few problems with Coles’ reasoning. The first being that no politician is running on a platform that states they believe women should be paid less than men for doing the same job. Tillis at no time has advocated for repealing the Equal Pay Act of 1964, which made discrimination on the basis of gender illegal in the workplace. When you look to parse Cosmopolitan’s specific objection to Tillis, the logic becomes even less steady.
It seems that Coles’ only real problem with Tillis is that he is an “old male politician,” despite the fact that Tillis is just 54 years old compared to his opponent, Sen. Kay Hagan (D-NC), who is 61. And no one would fault Cosmopolitan for having an interest in supporting female candidates, but if you look at other races, that clearly isn’t the criteria either. And neither is support for abortion.
Abortion Isn’t Enough
Despite the Republican Party running two pro-choice women this fall (Monica Wehby for Oregon’s Senate seat and Meghan Rath for Congress in Pennsylvania), neither have garnered a glossy spread like long shot YouTube narcissist and Montana Senate candidate Amanda Curtis. Wehby is a single mom. She’s pro-choice and running against a man, yet Cosmopolitan is embarrassingly quiet on this race.
Even Scott Brown can’t land a Cosmo nod, even though he graced the magazine’s pages years ago and is a pro-choice Republican who supports funding for Planned Parenthood.
And don’t even bother asking about pro-life candidates. Just look at this endorsement of Democrat Mary Burke against Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker: “Burke is a strong supporter of women's rights, and reproductive freedom in particular. While Walker signed legislation requiring women seeking abortions to have ultrasounds and banning abortion providers from practicing if they don't have admitting privileges at local hospitals, an unnecessary and restrictive law opposed by the American Medical Association and the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists, Burke is vocally pro-choice and supported by EMILY's List and NARAL Pro-Choice America.”
What Cosmo fails to mention, which isn’t surprising since they ignored the case when it was in court, is that Walker was responding, in part, to the barbaric Kermit Gosnell case, which revealed a shocking lack of regulatory oversight at many abortion clinics.
The editors at Cosmo wouldn’t have to go far from their New York offices to learn that even New York abortion providers often include a sonogram to estimate length ofpregnancy and that medical personnel are needed to determine the location of the fetus to rule out an ectopic pregnancy.
Or, Cosmo could have at least gotten Walker’s side of the story. “I’m pro-life,” he said when signing the bill. “There’s no doubt in my mind that the decision on whether to end a pregnancy is an agonizing one. That’s why I support legislation to increase safety and to provide more information for women considering her options. The bill leaves the final decision up to a woman and her doctor. Reasonable people can disagree on this issue. Our priority is to protect the health and safety of all Wisconsin citizens.”
Cosmopolitan has chosen to deprioritize the “safe” part of “safe, legal, and rare” when it comes to abortion.
They also ignored Wendy Davis’ change of heart when it came to supporting a ban for abortions after 20 weeks. In a recent Quinnipiac poll, 60 percent of women and 57 percent of single women are in favor of restricting abortions after 20 weeks. If single women are Cosmopolitan readers, it’s likely that the Texas law, if fairly represented, would reflect their values.
Gay Marriage Doesn’t Count Either
Gay marriage was also highlighted as an issue of interest by Coles, yet not only did they miss Oregon Senate candidate Monica Wehby’s support for the practice, they also ignored the notable candidacy of a gay Republican running for Congress in California.
Carl DeMaio supports gay marriage and a woman’s right to choose. He also supports over-the-counter birth control and has campaigned prominently with his long-term partner. His campaign website even reads, “DeMaio pledged to ensure that the Lily Ledbetter Fair Pay Act landmark legislation that provides greater protections to ensure that women be given the same pay for the same work as men, be fully and effectively enforced.”
But not even that was enough for Cosmo.
So now, having eliminated abortion, access to birth control, female candidate preference, and gay marriage, the only common thread one can find among Cosmopolitan’s fungible criteria is support for raising the federal minimum wage, which the nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office estimated could cost 500,000 jobs.
At this time there’s been no clear explanation as to why Cosmopolitan wants goods and services to cost more and have more people lose their jobs.
Cosmopolitan’s history should be a legacy of female empowerment. Instead it’s devolved into subservience to a single political party.
Cosmopolitan started in 1886 as a family magazine that shifted to a literary periodical. The change that made Cosmopolitan the magazine recognizable today was ushered in by Helen Gurley Brown in 1965. The author of “Sex and the Single Girl” refashioned The Cosmopolitan into a magazine targeting single workingwomen. Her first issue featured an article on the then new birth control pill. Brown’s goal was to make a magazine that empowered women.
“Cosmo is feminist in that we believe women are just as smart and capable as men are and can achieve anything men can," Brown is quoted as saying on Cosmo’s website. "But it also acknowledges that while work is important, men are too. The Cosmo girl absolutely loves men!"
There’s no mistaking that Brown helped reshaped how women see their role in society. The above statement describes women who sound quite capable and empowered—the kind of women who wouldn’t need a politician to help her ask for a raise or manage her birth control.
The new editor, Coles, has been shifting Cosmopolitan’s focus to cover substantive issues with the myopic perspective of your average Democrat voter. In her previous role as editor-in-chief of Marie Claire, she staged a glowing interview of then-presidential candidate Hillary Clinton. This year as part of her political outreach she has unabashedly embraced Democrats and special interest groups like EMILY’s List.
The Right Needs to Get Involved
Conservatives can’t ignore what Coles is doing with Cosmo. They need to write for women’s magazines, send letters to the editor, and tastefully comment on Cosmopolitan’s endorsements on its website with thoughtful differences of opinion.
These magazines have loyal audiences whose preferences will impact the future of this country. Instead of throwing millions of dollars into 30-second spots on “Wheel of Fortune,” wealthy donors could buy a competitor like Glamour Magazine or maybe even Cosmo itself!
Owning even one of these magazines and running evenhanded coverage of policy would be an improvement compared to the current content. More Magazine, which is targeted to older more affluent women, recently ran a misleading item on the wage gap, while Vogue literally airbrushed Debbie Wasserman Schultz till she was unrecognizable. These magazines are doing the heavy lifting for Democrats with cute infographics and glamorous profiles.
Women in America have the luxury of talking about making the choices they want. Yet if you pick up a women’s magazine today, the majority of articles only serve to make a woman believe she is more stressed, less attractive, and has more to fear than any other era.
Where there’s a gap there’s an opportunity. Cultivating trusted media sources for Americans more focused on their own lives is a better solution than looking down on "Beyoncé Voters.” Using the platform of a women’s magazine with a loyal female readership is a smart way to reach female voters on policy issues that directly impact them. A woman’s right to defend herself, regulations that harm small businesses, unemployment, and the rising price of food, are all serious concerns for women and they deserve a chance to hear alternative perspectives on these issues. Conservatives, by not targeting women, allow that silence to be framed as a lack of concern.
Rocky Mountain Hope
Colorado Senate candidate Cory Gardner is one Republican who has found a way to beat back the tactics of Coles and her co-conspirators.
The Denver Post in its surprise endorsement of Gardner over incumbent Sen. Mark Udall (D-CO) perhaps summarized the myopia of the war on women best when they stated, “Rather than run on his record, Udall's campaign has devoted a shocking amount of energy and money trying to convince voters that Gardner seeks to outlaw birth control despite the congressman's call for over-the-counter sales of contraceptives. Udall is trying to frighten voters rather than inspire them with a hopeful vision. His obnoxious one-issue campaign is an insult to those he seeks to convince."
Over-the-counter birth control is recommended by the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists, and a recent survey found that nearly two-thirds of women favor making oral contraceptives available over the counter. "Fun fearless females" support OTC and are waiting for Cosmopolitan to get with the times.
Cosmopolitan is right. Women are capable of serious discourse and evaluation. The objection isn’t to Cosmopolitan adding political coverage—it’s that they are doing so with the same superficial approach the rest of the magazine takes. There’s space for women who want balanced assessments of candidates and issues. The problem is, they are often getting that kind of targeted messaging from unserious sources like Cosmopolitan.
Amy Otto is a senior contributor for The Federalist.