At least since the 2012 election, the Republican Party has known it has a woman problem. Despite insisting that they have a platform that women should love, women just aren’t flocking to the GOP, and now Republicans are out to fix that.
It’s no secret that, when it comes to women representatives and senators, neither the Democrats or the Republicans is doing that well. (Only 16 of 52 Democratic senators and 58 of 200 Democratic house members are women). In a competition of the sub par, however, the Republicans are clearly losing. The GOP only has four women in the Senate and 20 in the House. Ouch.
So what does a political party teetering on the precipice of irrelevance do? Recruit! Recruit! Recruit!
From National Journal:
“It’s not good enough. It’s not. And it’s not reflective of the electorate,” said Rep. Ann Wagner of Missouri, one of just three Republican women in the freshman class of 2012, who were sworn into the House alongside 17 female Democratic colleagues. “We have a message I think that reaches women, and we need to make sure that we’re actively and aggressively telling that story. And there’s no better way to do it than being a woman who talks about it.”
In response to the growing criticism, GOP groups are working to improve outreach to female candidates to run for Congress. In June, the National Republican Congressional Committee launched Project GROW (for Growing Republican Opportunities for Women) to help the party with its messaging to female voters, instruct male candidates and incumbents on how better to connect with women, and to recruit more female candidates to run for Congress.
I mean, it’s just the messaging, right?
Ah yes, but I shouldn’t mock. It’s admirable that the Republican Party is starting to pull its head out of its bum and go after a demographic they seem to have specifically tried to alienate over the past several years. Maybe this will lead to a softened line on reproductive choice, equal pay and other equality issues.
Or not. According to the National Journal, Republican pollster Kellyanne Conway thinks that any woman who runs on the Republican ticket should stay away from “women’s issues”:
Democratic women, she said, put too much of an emphasis on abortion, while Republican women have the opportunity to take a broader view. “There are very few Democratic women who can begin or finish a sentence without mentioning a ‘woman’s right to choose,’” Conway said, noting that she’s actually had her researchers go through hours of remarks by Democratic members to find a single woman who failed to mention abortion. They haven’t found one yet. “There is a tremendous opening for the ‘whole women,’ if you will, to step up and run for office as a Republican…. What do you do every week, gals–do you fill up the gas tank or do you have an abortion?” she said.
Aaaaahahahahahahahaha!!!! So much to unpack in such a small paragraph. It must have never occurred to Conway that Democratic women speak about reproductive choice so much because it’s constantly under assault by conservatives. It’s not just abortion. We’ve seen fight after fight about birth control under Obamacare. Elected Republicans are not standing up for women’s health, so Democrats have to. Republican-controlled states are restricting access to abortion like never before. Democratic women are constantly talking about abortion because they have to.
The thing about reproductive health that the GOP seems unwilling or unable to understand is that it basically permeates every issue. It affects access to education and employment prospects. Conway claims that women want to talk about the economy and not their uteruses, but what she fails to understand is that reproductive health is an economic issue. It’s hard to hold down a job or go to school and take care of an infant.
The GOP wants “the whole woman,” but they don’t want to address things the whole woman needs, like health care. How many times has the House tried to repeal Obamacare? 40? Equal pay is another example. Apparently, the GOP wants to represent women without actually representing women’s interests.
It should go without saying that, like any large group of people, it’s impossible to paint all women with the same brush. Contrary to what some people seem to believe, however, women are people with brains. Just because someone presents as a woman doesn’t mean that they support women (e.g., Sarah Palin). Without coming around on policy, it’s hard to believe that much progress will be made in bridging the gender gap.
Photo Credit: Thinkstock