Sunday Night Talking Head: Retiring Republican Women Pols EditionPosted: August 26, 2012
It must be rough to be a reasonable Republican Woman in office these days. Every time Michelle Bachmann, Sarah Palin, or Jan Brewer speaks, they gets a lot of attention which gives one the impression that women with IQs above room temperature are not allowed. A few retiring Republican Senators are beginning to speak to the press. They’re still not getting the same attention as a 1/2 term Governor even though they’ve spent years in higher office. It’s just amazing to me they’ve hung in that long. I donated money to both of these women back in the 1980s. It’s interesting to hear from them now.
It is unfortunate that the stunningly insensitive statement about rape made last weekend by Rep. Todd Akin (R-Mo.) is casting a shadow over the start of the Republican National Convention. Republican leaders, led by Mitt Romney and Rep. Paul Ryan, rightfully and strongly repudiated his remarks.
Yet, the comments from Akin reinforce the perception that we in the Republican Party are unsympathetic to issues of paramount concern to women.
I have worked for three decades as a staunch advocate of building a “big tent” party that includes both pro-choice and pro-life Republicans. In that time, I have seen controversies such as this one alienate a large segment of the female population and perpetuate the gender gap among voters that has historically plagued our party.
This is not where I hoped my party would be in 2012. Today, the Republican Party faces a clear challenge: Will we rebuild our relationship with women, thereby placing us on the road to success in November, or will we continue to isolate them and certainly lose this election?
Texas Sen. Kay Bailey Hutchison said Sunday Republicans can’t build their party around a “personal” and “religious” issue like abortion.
“Mothers and daughters can disagree on abortion, and we shouldn’t put a party around an issue that is so personal and also, religious-based,” the retiring Republican senator said on CNN’s “State of the Union.” “I think we need to say, ‘Here are our principals, and we welcome you as a Republican. We can disagree on any number of issues, but if you want to be a Republican, we welcome you.”Hutchison identifies as “pro-life,” and has a mixed voting record on abortion rights.
The party’s stance on abortion has come under scrutiny since Rep. Todd Akin (R-Mo.) falsely said last week that women who are the victims of “legitimate rape” have biological defenses against pregnancy. On Tuesday, the GOP’s platform committee approved an abortion plank without a rape exemption, which Democrats quickly dubbed the “Akin Plank.”
I just happened to run across something on Christine Todd Whitman recently. I’m going to share this even though she’s long “retired”.
Cotto: Today, more women than ever before are playing a role in Republican politics. However, many across the country fear that certain politicians are attempting to erode women’s rights. Do you believe that this is a valid concern? Regardless, what do you think the GOP should do to increase its share of the female vote?
Gov. Whitman: I do think there is an inherent attack on women’s abilities to run their own lives. The Republican Party needs to speak to the issues that women care about – taxes, education, and health care. And the party needs to give more than lip service to female candidates – putting women up in places they can actually win, not just showing off a female candidate in a race she’s bound to lose. We as a party need to be cultivating our female candidates and giving them financial support when they choose to run.
Cotto: Issues such as abortion rights and same-sex marriage are lightning rods for socially rightist elements of the Republican base. Particularly in closed primaries, radical, unelectable candidates often win by campaigning on these alone. As an advocate for moderation on social matters, do you suppose that this will prove to be an enduring problem? How might it be allayed?
Gov. Whitman: It’ll be a problem as long as candidates win general elections running on extreme base issues. What will stop it is when those more extreme candidates lose those elections after winning primaries running on the far-right issues. Those candidates are running on issues that are not key for the majority of the voting public.
A few polls that came out right before the Obamacare Supreme Court decision came down gave a window into what voters care about – they were far more focused on jobs, taxes, and the economy than even the repeal of “Obamacare.” If health care isn’t the major concern, abortion and gay marriage are clearly only base issues – they appeal to a small, but extremely vocal minority.
These are the same concerns I hear back during the Reagan years from the same women. The only difference is that more people are now aware of how extreme the Republican base has become. There’s only piece of evidence needed to prove their concerns are warranted and ignored. Point to one woman that’s a current Republican politician that would attract the vote of the majority of other women given her position on any issue that women to care about. There are none. There are no Whitmans, Snowes, or even Hutchinsons or Doles out there any more.