Carey Roberts
Violence Against Women Act: turning the unwary into political roadkill?
By Carey Roberts
May 26, 2010

Question: What do lawmakers Arlen Specter, Alan Mollohan, Barbara Boxer, and Orrin Hatch have in common?

Answer: They are all high-profile supporters of the federal Violence Against Women Act whose political fortunes have plummeted in recent months.

For years, support for the federal Violence Against Women Act (VAWA) was part of lawmakers' annual ritual of responding to and placating a vocal segment of the electorate. But in today's turbulent electoral environment, that formula is disappearing faster than pulled pork at a Texas barbeque.

Take Arlen Specter, five-term centrist senator from Pennsylvania. As a long-time member of the Senate Judiciary Committee, he was one of the lead sponsors of VAWA. And when Sen. John Kerry introduced the International Violence Against Women Act in February, Specter quickly signed on as a co-sponsor.

Preparing for his Democratic primary contest, Specter's "Women for Specter" webpage highlighted his unwavering support for VAWA. But on May 18, Specter was easily defeated by Rep. Joe Sestak by a 54% to 46% margin.

The next day, the National Organization for Women put out a press release celebrating Sestak's upset victory. Despite years of dutiful water-carrying that helped enrich the woman's organization, in the eyes of the N.O.W Specter had become another a piece of political roadkill.

So long, Senator Specter.

Then there's West Virginia Congressman Alan Mollohan. As chairman of the House Appropriations Committee, he could always be counted on to arm-twist congressmen to approve an ever-swelling budget for the Violence Against Women Act.

Two years ago domestic violence industry representatives hailed Mollohan for his leadership role in swelling VAWA funding to $435 million. The National Network to End Domestic Violence went on the record to say, "Rep. Mollohan continues to be a strong advocate for victims of domestic violence, with special concern for rural victims."

But that didn't help the powerhouse appropriator on May 11, 2010, when Mollohan was defeated in the Democratic primary election by State senator Mike Oliverio by a surprising 12-point margin.

Adios, Congressman Mollohan.

California's Barbara Boxer has even more impressive VAWA creds. Boxer was the original sponsor of the Violence Against Women Act while she served in the House. Although the bill didn't pass the first time around, Boxer would later brag, "Nearly 14 years ago, the two of us first introduced the Violence Against Women Act — Joe Biden in the Senate and Barbara Boxer in the House."

More recently, she signed on to the International Violence Against Women Act. And of course she has lured hundreds of thousands of dollars in federal largesse to California in the name of combating domestic violence.

But recent polls now spot her in a dead-heat with GOP challenger Tom Campbell. In ultra-liberal, uber-feminist California, support for VAWA now lacks the gold-plated cachet it once embodied.

On November 2, Barbara Boxer may be out with the rest of us looking for a new job.

Then there's conservative Sen. Orrin Hatch of Utah. Like Specter and Boxer, Senator Hatch has long been a champion of the Violence Against Women Act. In fact, Hatch views passage of VAWA as one of his proudest political accomplishments.

Hatch is not up for re-election until 2012. But storm clouds are already gathering on the political horizon. According to a Mason-Dixon poll released on May 11, fully half of Utah voters would vote for someone other than Hatch if he were up for reelection this year. "He's toast," exclaims GOP delegate Saima Leon.

Defending his ardent support for VAWA and other controversial laws, Sen. Hatch offers this justification: "And sometimes, instead of having a totally wrong bill, you do the best you can to make it less wrong, because that's the choice. I'd like to have not totally wrong bills."

Somehow I doubt Utah voters will be persuaded by that go-along-to-get-along logic.

Most lawmakers who support the Violence Against Women Act sincerely believe the law is doing good. But according to a recent report, "Assaulting our Rights: How Domestic Violence Laws Curtail our Fundamental Freedoms" (, VAWA is dealing a devastating blow to our constitutional protections, with two million Americans having their civil liberties trampled upon every year.

Over time, that builds up into a tsumani of disenfranchised voters who are tired of business as usual in Washington DC. And that's why many lawmakers are thinking long and hard about reflexively supporting the Violence Against Women Act this time around.

© Carey Roberts


The views expressed by RenewAmerica columnists are their own and do not necessarily reflect the position of RenewAmerica or its affiliates.
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Carey Roberts

Carey Roberts is an analyst and commentator on political correctness. His best-known work was an exposé on Marxism and radical feminism... (more)

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