Poor Republican women politicians are having a rough time these days. At least, that’s the assertion in a curious story in Politico that states “while their female Democratic counterparts have benefited politically from going against the president on women’s issues, GOP women don’t have the same luxury” and that they’re struggling “to ride the wave of empowerment that their Democratic counterparts have.”
Calling Republican women an “endangered species,” Representative Ileana Ros-Lehtinen described their dilemma: “Ugh! It is a real knot for female candidates.”
Let’s take a quick journey through their complaints:
They believe that the women’s movement has discriminated against them. As Representative Cathy McMorris Rodgers put it: “Because I’m a Republican, that it’s almost like I’m dismissed or [my work for women] doesn’t count.”
She went on to give an example:
McMorris Rodgers recounted sending a video to organizers of a women’s march in Spokane, Washington, who decided not to show it. [Tennessee Congresswoman Diane] Black said she was “affronted” seeing girls age 10 or 11, she guessed, holding signs with curse words and condoms and tampons taped on them when she attended the women’s march in Washington with her daughters last year.
“That is not what I believe we should be teaching our young girls, to tell them that’s what makes them strong,” she said.
They are annoyed that they have to defend Trump’s policies and his sexism—how unfair! But they’ll do it anyway:
When [Representative Diane] Black is pressed by voters about Trump’s attitude toward women, she said she points to her own experience. As Budget Committee chief, she often met with the president to talk about tax reform and spending and “never did I feel talked down to or disrespected in any way.”
“In fact, the president would often say: ‘Diane, what do you think?’” she recalled. “So when people start to talk [about Trump and women], I say: ‘Well, let me just tell you about my experience.’”
And lastly, they believe their gender prevents some Republican voters from voting for them (okay, fair enough):
“For the men, it is a challenge for a lot of them,” said Rep. Kristi Noem, who’s running for governor of South Dakota, a state she referred to as “a good ol’ boys club.” “For some reason, they were willing to vote to send a woman to Congress for years, but to put a woman in the governor’s office, it’s very different.”
She added: “I didn’t anticipate that being an issue. And we think, in our primary, we lost several points because of that.”
But is there actually a conflict? Are Republican women elected officials and candidates truly in a predicament?
White women after all form the base of the Republican Party—53 percent of white women voted for Donald Trump, and in last year’s special election for an open Senate seat in Alabama, 63 percent of white women cast their ballots for the noted sexual predator Roy Moore. Given this, it’s hard to believe that there’s any conflict at all.
Maybe the real problem is that these women continue to align their interests with a political party and men who have shown an utter disregard for the lives of women, but it’s a bargain they’re willing to make in service of whiteness, reactionary judges, and regressive tax cuts. What a pickle.