A few years ago, I served a two year sentence – I mean TERM – as president of our county’s Republican Women’s club. It was the longest two years of my life. I actually had a running joke with several of my fellow leaders. Every quarter, we would assemble for a meeting, and each time they would invite a guest speaker, an elected official, to address us. It was always a white guy. And they all gave the same speech: “Women are the backbone of the Republican party! Why, I could not have gotten elected had it not been for all of the women who knocked on doors and made phone calls on my behalf. Now, ya’ll enjoy your crappy lunch. I gotta run and do some important legislating.”
OK, maybe that’s just my takeaway from all those speeches. But when I said this to one of the other ladies, she burst out laughing. “OMG! I thought it was just ME!” Another suggested that maybe next time we could invite a woman to speak. “Great idea!” I replied. “Who?” Because every statewide office is held by a man. All of our Republican Congressmen and both Senators are men. We only have 2 state Senators that are Republican women.
The national party has a lot of prominent women, but none are in positions of leadership. Last year during the Kavanaugh hearings, Republicans had to bring in a female prosecutor to question Christine Blasey-Ford, lest it appear that a bunch of men were beating up on a woman assault victim. As awkward as it was, it was the right call. The 2018 mid terms were a bloodbath for Republican women. They went from 705 to 662 members of state legislatures and form 23 to 13 in the House of Representatives. One reason for this is that Republican women represented a lot of the swing districts that Republicans lost last year.
But there are several forces at work here, first is the sexism of Republican party leadership in general. Many women have grumbled for years at their treatment at the hands of their fellow party members. But as with everything else it’s gotten worse during the Trump era. Which leads to the SECOND problem: white women voters swung from the Republicans to the Democrats by 10 points between the 2016 and 2018 elections. And a recent NBC News/Wall Street Journal poll showed that even white Republican women favored a generic Democrat over Trump by six points.
Americans in general are tiring of the Trump show, but women in particular are more bothered by his unpresidential behavior than men are. And even though there are many pro-life women, Republican women are more likely to be pro-choice than Republican men, so the recent passage of so many “heartbeat bills” may also be driving women away from the party.
And I’ll be honest: part of the problem is Republican women themselves. Democratic women are far more likely to advocate for women candidates. Republicans don’t like to play identity politics. They’ll insist they vote for the best candidate, not just the candidate most like them in the race. I remember listening to several of the aforementioned club members debating which candidate to support in that notorious “jungle primary” to replace Tom Price in what would become the most expensive House race in history. They were discussing the merits of Bob Gray vs Judson Hill and Dan Moody. You know whose name they DIDN’T mention? Karen Handel, who would eventually win and become the first Republican woman ever elected to Congress. So, even in a club specifically devoted to Republican women, it didn’t occur to anyone that maybe they should be supporting the Republican woman in the race.
Why is this? Beats the heck out of me. Is it because Republican women tend to be older and believe in traditional gender roles? Maybe. I know a lot of local consultants who would LOVE to recruit more women candidates, but what’s the point if they can’t even survive the primaries? Whatever the underlying causes, the effect is getting worse.
So yes my friends, we got trouble. Right here in the GOP. That’s trouble with a capital “T” and that stands for Trump.