Republican Party Identity Politics: A Lesson from the Failed Scozzafava Campaign
I'm certainly happy to be a modern woman. The possibilities are numerous -- career choices, children, freedom. Life is good.
American women have all these things, yet there is a notable lack of women, both Democrat and Republican, in national political office. Why? Well, the job is demanding as hell and requires extended periods of separation, for one. Another reason: I'll call it Sarah Palin Syndrome. Women, especially conservative women, are chewed up by the media. (This also happens to women bloggers. Related thoughts here.)
Leftist feminists feel that conservative women disparage the very things feminists work for while enjoying the benefits of that work. Equality in the workplace, more equitable task distribution at home (still haven't figured out how to outsource breastfeeding, but I digress), and more respect for women generally -- all triumphs of the women's movement -- have benefited all Western women. It should be noted that many cultures do not enjoy this equitable dynamic.
And then, the piece de resistance of the feminist movement, abortion, comes to the fore. One prominent blogger and leftist progressive feminist said to me, as the second statement out of her mouth: "You know, abortion is my thing, right?" I replied, "Oh, I know."
Every conservative woman knows how abortion defines most modern feminists. The conservative women I know, though, don't define being a modern woman by abortion. They also don't believe that they deserve special treatment as a woman. These two facts grate on feminists. Don't conservative women see how reproductive control puts a woman in the driver seat? Don't conservative women feel oppressed? The conservative woman answers that abortion infringes a helpless victim's civil rights. As a woman whose equal rights are relatively recent, it's hypocritical to take them away from another being. There are times of inconvenience and any abuse will be fought and overcome. Stop whining, feminists, it plays to stereotypes.
The reaction from feminist women when told to quit whining? Foot stomping, personal and often -- ironically enough -- sexualized attacks, and more whining. See Maureen Dowd.
This animus causes conservative women all sorts of grief with other women. If they're pro-life, they lose a lot of women voters. If they're pro-abortion, they lose social conservatives. That was a bit of a digression, but salient. Conservative women fight bigotry from all sides. It makes it difficult to get elected. That's why the number of conservative elected women is abysmal.
So, how to rectify this sad situation?
The Democrats have chosen symbolism over substance. Nancy Pelosi, one of the least effective negotiators and a woman who alienates her own, delegitimitized herself at her swearing-in by surrounding herself with her grandkids -- emphasizing her womanhood over her accomplishment. That is, her ascension was attributed to her gender rather than her achievement. This is not unlike the "wise Latina" comment by Sonia Sotomayor. She drew attention to her gender and ethnicity rather than her substance. Meanwhile, Bill Clinton abused women and Barack Obama is currently taking heat for his hypocritical lack of diversity while in office.
Maybe it will take another generation for the novelty of women in power to wear off so that women can be looked at for the content of their character and their achievement. Women are more than their reproductive organs.
The Republican Party should help this process along by supporting and promoting deserving candidates with solid accomplishments and sound ideology. These candidates can be of any stripe. If the candidate is black and male and fills this bill (Michael Williams), great. If the candidate is Hispanic and male and fills this bill (Marco Rubio), great. If the candidate is white and female (Liz Cheney), great. If the candidate is white and male (Doug Hoffman), great.
The Republican Party has decided that the party needs more women. A woman, any woman, will do. Enter Dede Scozzafava. She seems to have all the credentials the Republican Party is looking for: female reproductive organs. She supports abortion, big government, ACORN, and unions. In most places, hell, even in New York, that makes her a Democrat. Dan Riehl has a shocking behind-the-scenes post detailing the thought process:
The very same GOP old hands opted for insider Jim Tedisco over Betty Little in that race and Tedisco got beaten, hindsight suggested Little would have won hands down. And, interesting enough, up pops Tom Reynolds to comment, again. It's argued that instead of any genuine insight into politics on the ground these days, they didn't want to repeat the Tedisco mistake, judged it based upon purely out-dated male/female lines, and were going to go with a female no matter what.
Why is the Republican Party, the party that champions merit over name, going Democrat and choosing identity over ideology? Riehl's piece also emphasizes cronyism and national control rather than local Republican and grassroots cooperation in candidate selection. And in fact, it seems that cronyism and money trump gender and racial identity, even still. A good conservative Hispanic candidate, Marco Rubio, is being dismissed in favor of the uber-liberal Charlie Crist in Florida.
And look at how bad the decision to choose identity over ideology turns out to be. DeDe Scozzafava has dropped out of the NY-23 race. Erick Erickson says of this turn of events:
Relationships between the Republican establishment in Washington and the conservative movement are in rubble. Thanks to Pete Sessions NOT Doug Hoffman, there is new inspiration for a third party movement to challenge the GOP -- a movement that will only help the Democrats.
Good men in the GOP are now going to be challenged in primaries because of the ill-will the NRCC has generated in New York’s 23rd Congressional District.
At this writing, RNC Chairman Michael Steele and Newt Gingrich have endorsed Doug Hoffman in NY-23. This is a hopeful turn of events. Erick Erickson is correct. The Republican establishment grossly misunderstood and underestimated the mood of the conservative base. The American people do not need more symbolism. They do not need a woman at all costs. They need a politician who will vote against taxes, vote against bigger government programs, and vote against invasive regulation.
The Republican Party will win on conservative ideas, not on skin color or gender. Let the Democrats tie themselves up with their identity politics. The Republican Party can do better.