Politico’s John Bresnahan and Anna Palmer reported this morning that top aides of Republican office holders are being schooled in how their bosses should talk to and about women on the campaign trail, especially if their opponent is wearing (or in their view and if she had any decency certainly should be wearing) a skirt. According to Politico the National Republican Congressional Committee” wants to make sure there are no Todd Akin-style gaffes next year.”
Akin, you may recall, told a reporter that women’s bodies have a natural defense that kicks in during a “legitimate” rape and prevents them from becoming pregnant. His opponent, sitting Senator Clair McCaskill was the underdog in her race for reelection. ‘Til then. Suffice it to say she is still Senator McCaskill, and Republican strategists are anxious that Akin’s gaffe or that of any number of other clueless Republican males not be repeated in 2014.
Republicans simply never learn. They always view their problems as cosmetic rather than core. Their last attempt at rebranding, in response to the 2012 election rout, put one lonely female into House leadership – in an essentially secretarial position and included a short-lived embrace of a telegenic if rather hapless Florida senator as their token Latino. That ended of course the moment he started advocating for immigration reform.
Merely teaching congressional aides to cut their bosses’ mics whenever an interview turns to something touchy like – oh I don’t know, maybe equal pay – isn’t going to cover for the months of stalling, disparaging, and voting against bills that further women’s economic or physical well-being or their widespread support for ones that do not.
At the heart of the party’s ethos is a deep disrespect for women. It is visible on every level and in every region of the country. Restrictions on abortion and contraception, cutting food stamps, stonewalling reforms regarding handling of sexual assaults in the military, multiple defeats against the renewal of the Violence Against Women Act; they all spring from a cultural and sometimes religious bias that tells these men that women are inferior. They believe women have only one suitable adult role; that of a married mother, and that if they are properly fulfilling that role they wouldn’t need to be concerned about earning a living, feeding their kids, or bringing an unlimited number of them into the world.
Women are much too smart and unfortunately much too experienced in sniffing out disrespect to be fooled by courtly manners or by a chauvinist schooled to tiptoe past those feelings. There will always been the dismissive glance, the superior smile, and the verbal pats on the head that will give these guys away and it doesn’t matter if they are talking about the economy, education, or their grandmother’s strawberry jam. The men who seek office as Republicans appear to almost universally believe they are superior by birth to women. And if a woman happens to be cheeky enough to debate them in a town meeting or run against them for office all the training in the world isn’t going to flip that switch.
When I moved from Boston to Georgia ten years ago they told me about grits and pork rinds, warned me about the bugs, and assured me there would be a lot less snow. They did not tell me that belonging to a church is required by statute and that I would be the only liberal between Atlanta and the Canary Islands.
There are, however, Yellow Dogs. These are Southerners who would vote for a Golden Retriever if it were running as a Democrat. That these people would be called Republicans if they lived in New England does not make me one bit less grateful that they exist.