One fascinating part of watching the election this past year was the absolute bewilderment shown by the Republicans in failing to win as much as they expected…Or failing to win at all. They were clearly flabbergasted by the results and didn’t know what went wrong.
The confusion began with the confidence of Romney’s pollsters and internal people who were sure they had margins to win in the key states, then rippled outward as some of the big races in other states fell the wrong way: Elizabeth Warren, Claire McCaskill, and the like. So it’s not surprising that these days, some two-plus months after an amazing collapse, that the Republicans are asking themselves some tough questions.
And that’s why this article grabbed my attention. The short version, for those who don’t want to read it, is this: the right-wing Independent Women’s Forum held a panel discussion to help figure out what would attract more women to the Republican base, and, more importantly, to vote for their candidates. On the panel were four conservative women who made some interesting points, especially when considering where they’re coming from.
In reading the article, you realize quickly that women in the GOP are a strange breed: they exist, there aren’t many, aren’t in high positions, and apparently are not encouraged to make much noise.
In short, it becomes very obvious that the party is very much stuck in the old boys’ network, and doesn’t show many signs of wanting to come out of that mold, until they realize that they lost a major election because of it.
So there are a couple of good pull quotes that the article used, including this one:
“I’m not sure what’s worse: conservatives ignoring women’s issues, or conservatives addressing them,” Christina Hoff Summers said as the audience laughed.
Which inherently says that conservatives don’t fundamentally understand women’s issues. And that’s really big. And obvious. It seemed that every time Romney tried to appeal to women, he ultimately put his foot in it. And the rest of the party certainly isn’t much better than that. They talk about wanting to appeal to women, but refuse to vote for the equal pay act, and want to limit food stamp spending, most of which now goes to women anyway.
But the better quote was this:
Sabrina Schaeffer, the executive director of IWF and a panelist, complained that Republican indifference to women’s issues was a problem she runs into. “I know sometimes when I go into a donor meeting and I see someone’s eyes just glazing over, like, ‘why would I care about women?’”
There we go. Regardless of your political stand, there is no question that no group is more clearly beholden to their donors than the Republicans, many of whom have actually been forced to sign promises not to raise taxes and the like. So a statement like this illustrates the beliefs of the core of the conservative movement, that those who contribute to the party and play a key role in forming the party platform don’t care about women’s issues and see them as unimportant.
The problem really seems to be that the conservatives don’t really understand the majority of the electorate. And this has been a repeated theme thrown at both President Bush when he was running and at Romney when he was running: that they’re disconnected from the majority of people in the country. In this forum, the panel pointed out that polling routinely shows that women’s views more frequently align with conservative values, but Republican candidates have historically not reached out to female voters.
But toward the end of the article is something I’ve said repeatedly over the last several years about the Republican efforts: they believe that they can run on one or two issues to capture moderates and women, and the fact of the matter is that voters are more complex than that. Women don’t vote entirely based on birth control issues, or just on economic issues. My belief is that they vote on a broader range of issues and more often with more thoughtfulness than I think most men vote on candidates. And in trying to over simplify for women, they’re in fact belittling them and making them feel unimportant and talked down to.
Maybe they’ll get it in the next couple of years. I really doubt it, because I don’t see a lot of conservative women, and even fewer who are even remotely electable. And really, the Democrats, thanks to Obama’s machine, have figured out how to attract and appeal to a very wide range of people.
See you tomorrow.