After losing the Presidential election in 2012 thanks to the biggest gender gap in history, Republicans are redoubling their "war on women" program in 2013.

Republican governors Rick Perry, Scott Walker, and John Kasich -- all of whom have Presidential ambitions -- are competing to outdo each other with mandatory ultrasound requirements, onerous new regulations that will force abortion clinics to close, and special sessions and hidden bill signings to ram these provisions through despite majority opposition in their states.

What is going on here?

Do the Republicans have a death wish?

After all, women voters -- including independent and Republican women -- have proven over and over that they can and will vote against Republican candidates who aggressively curtail access to abortion, birth control, and women's health.

The arrogance of power, combined with a desire to curry favor with Republican primary voters, seems to have overcome good political sense.

Which opens the door to an exciting possibility: strong, pro-choice women candidates could give the Republican Neanderthals a run for their money.

In Texas, state senator Wendy Davis became a national star overnight when she filibustered Rick Perry's abortion-restricting legislation. Her courageous stand kicked off massive protests in Austin, and provoked Perry into calling a special session to try to force the issue. (It also prompted him into making impolitic personal attacks.)

Now there is speculation that Davis might run for governor.

In Ohio, Kasich signed abortion restrictions into law right after Wendy Davis became a household name. Among the budget provisions Kasich signed are a funding scheme that puts Planned Parenthood last on the list of candidates for scarce family planning dollars, a ban on transferring abortion patients to public hospitals, and a medically unnecessary fetal-heartbeat monitoring requirement designed to traumatize women seeking abortions.

In Wisconsin, Scott Walker will likely use the Fourth of July holiday to bury the news when he signs a mandatory ultrasound bill (meaning vaginal probes for those in early pregnancy) which will cause Planned Parenthood clinics to close where doctors don't have admitting privileges to the local hospital.

Last week the story broke that a strong potential woman candidate is testing the waters for a run against Walker.

Mary Burke, daughter of Trek Bicycle founder Richard Burke, and former head of the state's commerce department, came up in Democratic telephone polls testing potential Walker challengers.

Several Internet domain names using different combinations of Burke's name and the word governor were registered around the same time the poll began.

Burke, a millionaire who could self-finance, ran Trek's operations in seven countries before serving as commerce secretary. She could be a strong candidate against Walker, who has fallen far short of his promise to create 250,000 new jobs, instead presiding over a jobs slump: Wisconsin's job-creation numbers are about half the national average.

Lately, Burke, a member of the Madison School Board, has spent most of her time working with her family foundation on projects to help minority students in Madison.

Burke's ability to put millions into her own campaign would give her a jumpstart, and would likely attract groups like EMILY's List, which supports pro-choice women candidates who have a real chance to win.

Madison City Council Member Lisa Subeck, former executive director of the statewide office of NARAL and current executive director of the progressive, grassroots group United Wisconsin, is jazzed by the prospect of a Burke run.

"The idea of a good, strong progressive woman candidate is particularly exciting," Subeck says. "There's a real possibility to swing prochoice women who identify as independent or Republican, given the increased attacks we've had on everything from birth control to abortion to just mere access to health care."

NARAL conducted significant research on independent and Republican women voters in 2008 and found "they'll vote for a Democrat when choice is an issue," Subeck says. "Reaching out to independent and Republican women voters is very effective."

Scott Walker, John Kasich, and Rick Perry just made that strategy a whole lot easier.

If you liked this article by Ruth Conniff, the political editor of The Progressive, check out her story "Weird Politics on Gay Marriage and Voting Rights."

Follow Ruth Conniff @rconniff on Twitter.


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Trump's politics are not the problem.

The fiery Milwaukee Sheriff is on the shortlist to head the Department of Homeland Security.

By Wendell Berry

Manifesto: The Mad Farmer Liberation Front

Love the quick profit, the annual raise,
vacation with pay. Want more 
of everything ready made. Be afraid 
to know your neighbors and to die.
And you will have a window in your head.
Not even your future will be a mystery 
any more. Your mind will be punched in a card 
and shut away in a little drawer.
When they want you to buy something 
they will call you. When they want you
to die for profit they will let you know. 
So, friends, every day do something
that won’t compute. Love the Lord. 
Love the world. Work for nothing. 
Take all that you have and be poor.
Love someone who does not deserve it. 
Denounce the government and embrace 
the flag. Hope to live in that free 
republic for which it stands. 
Give your approval to all you cannot
understand. Praise ignorance, for what man 
has not encountered he has not destroyed.
Ask the questions that have no answers. 
Invest in the millennium. Plant sequoias.
Say that your main crop is the forest
that you did not plant,
that you will not live to harvest.

Say that the leaves are harvested 
when they have rotted into the mold.
Call that profit. Prophesy such returns.
Put your faith in the two inches of humus 
that will build under the trees
every thousand years.
Listen to carrion—put your ear
close, and hear the faint chattering
of the songs that are to come. 
Expect the end of the world. Laugh. 
Laughter is immeasurable. Be joyful
though you have considered all the facts. 
So long as women do not go cheap 
for power, please women more than men.
Ask yourself: Will this satisfy 
a woman satisfied to bear a child?
Will this disturb the sleep 
of a woman near to giving birth? 
Go with your love to the fields.
Lie easy in the shade. Rest your head 
in her lap. Swear allegiance 
to what is nighest your thoughts.
As soon as the generals and the politicos 
can predict the motions of your mind, 
lose it. Leave it as a sign 
to mark the false trail, the way 
you didn’t go. Be like the fox 
who makes more tracks than necessary, 
some in the wrong direction.
Practice resurrection.

Wendell Berry is a poet, farmer, and environmentalist in Kentucky. This poem, first published in 1973, is reprinted by permission of the author and appears in his “New Collected Poems” (Counterpoint).

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