Hendersonville (N.C.) Times-News
Thompson: Straight talk about women, GOP
By Bill Thompson
Republicans have as a strong history of promoting them.
It seems in 2018 the “Year of the Woman” finally arrived in American politics. Rutgers University’s Center for American Women in Politics notes at least 125 women will serve in the new Congress; 36 of them are freshmen (or freshwomen?). Both are records.
The roster is a cornucopia of skin hues, exotic surnames, religious faiths, professional backgrounds and even sexual preferences.
But one thing is missing. Republicans. Only 19 are Republicans, according to the CAWP. Comparatively, 29 of the 108 women now in Congress are Republicans.
Several observers have attempted to explain how the GOP found itself in this predicament with half the human race. Most commonly, the explanation is that women, primarily Democrats, ran in droves to vent anger at President Donald Trump’s treatment of women. In Forbes recently, Debbie Walsh, director of the CAWP, offered another popular theory for the scarcity of women politicians in the GOP. “The whiteness and maleness is obviously a problem,” she observed.
It seems awfully shallow and hypocritical to say this blitz on Congress by Democratic women is a reaction to Trump when they hail from the party of notorious “feminists” like Bill Clinton, various Kennedys, Anthony Weiner, Al Franken, John Conyers and John Edwards, just to name a few.
Meanwhile, whatever his other shortcomings with women, Trump has no problem installing them in positions of political power.
The Pew Research Center, in an analysis spanning presidents back to Calvin Coolidge, noted as of Sept. 30 that 28 percent of Trump’s judicial nominees were women. That is the highest ratio of any Republican, equals Clinton’s mark and trails only Barack Obama (42 percent).
In May, the CAWP reported that Trump, in his first 16 months in office, had appointed six women to Cabinet or senior posts in his administration. That, too, was a record for GOP presidents. It also barely trailed Obama (eight in each of his terms) and tracked with Clinton (seven in his first term, and six in his second).
Aside from Trump, the GOP and its voters have as a strong history of promoting women:
The first woman elected to the U.S. House was a Republican, as was the first woman elected to the Senate without having been appointed to fill a Senate vacancy, and the first woman elected to the Senate without having completed an unexpired term in Congress.
Throughout U.S. history, the major parties have nominated just two women as vice presidential candidates. The Republicans claim half that short list.
America has had 39 women governors since 1925. Seventeen of them were, or are, Republicans. Four of the six currently serving women governors are Republicans. Republicans also elected the first two women governors of color: Nikki Haley of South Carolina and Susana Martinez of New Mexico.
GOP President Ronald Reagan put the first woman on the U.S. Supreme Court, Sandra Day O’Connor.
The first women — three in the same year (1894) in the same state (Colorado) — elected to serve in a state legislature were Republicans. Republicans also elected the first woman of color to a state legislature. The first woman to serve as a state House speaker and state Senate president were both Republicans.
If people are ignorant of Trump’s other record with women, or the GOP’s history, then shame on our schools, the media and the Republican Party for not highlighting it.
The GOP’s alleged hostility to women is typically framed as an obstacle that impedes feminist gains in society generally, and stalls “gender parity” in Congress specifically. “Unless Republicans elect more women” to Congress, columnist Perry Bacon Jr. observed at fivethirtyeight.com in June, “gender parity will hit a point of diminishing returns.”
Don’t believe that’s the goal.
If feminists and liberals generally really cared about simply electing women, why did GOP women candidates — enough to more than double the party’s population in the next Congress — lose to Democratic men?
You can bet feminist champs like NOW, Emily’s List and Planned Parenthood aren’t all broken up by those defeats. Just as they don’t appear to be celebrating the victories of Republicans Marsha Blackburn in Tennessee and Cindy Hyde-Smith in Mississippi — the first women to represent their respective states in the Senate — or the re-election of incumbent Sen. Deb Fischer of Nebraska.
Party over country, perhaps?
Here’s an alternative theory to chew on: Maybe Republicans care about ideas and principles and don’t care about the package they come in — while Democrats care only about the package.
Bill Thompson is the editorial page editor of the Lakeland (Fla.) Ledger, a GateHouse Media newspaper. Reach him at firstname.lastname@example.org.