How to reverse the shrinking number of GOP women in Congress

Election Day 2018 was kind to women running for Congress -- for those who lean left. We Republican women wer...

Posted: Dec 7, 2018 10:00 AM
Updated: Dec 7, 2018 10:00 AM

Election Day 2018 was kind to women running for Congress -- for those who lean left. We Republican women were largely left out in the cold.

As Vox reported on Tuesday, "Come January, the number of women Republicans serving in the House will drop from 23 to just 13, the result of a Democratic wave election, some retirements, and several women who left to seek higher office (to varying degrees of success). The number of House Republican women is in shocking contrast to Democrats, who elected a record-breaking 35 new women to Congress, bringing up their total to 89."

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The hard question remains: When will Republicans, who struggle at the ballot box with female voters, get serious about nominating, supporting and electing more female leaders?

"While we did not see parity in numbers across party lines [on Election Day], we do see women interested in getting politically involved every single day," said Rebecca Schuller, executive director of Winning For Women, which supports Republican women and is funded by wealthy GOP donors. "Many of them are interested in making a run one day. But in full frankness, we believe the Republican Party needs to commit to real change."

This is not for a lack of effort. Winning For Women is part of a constellation of GOP players, including RightNOW Women PAC, Susan B. Anthony List, Maggie's List, Women's Public Leadership Network and Maverick PAC's Maverick Women, looking to build conservative alternatives to the massively influential EMILY's List, which was instrumental in getting many Democratic women elected. We don't have anything nearly as powerful on the right.

Tiffany Waddell, chairwoman of RightNOW Women PAC, which helps support Republican women, told me she thinks the GOP needs to be more aggressive about recruiting strong female candidates. Women are far less likely to voluntarily run for office than men; they typically wait to be asked.

But by elevating smart GOP female candidates through tangible support and money, the party can attract more female voters. What's more, this will foster the creation of more policies that empower women, unlike those that encourage greater dependence on government and weaken women's abilities to get jobs, start businesses and live in peace and safety.

This is not the only change the GOP needs to make if it wants to start connecting with more women, however. It also needs to change its messaging.

Part of the strategy gap I see among many in the GOP is a goal of not pandering to anyone based on gender or race. While this is laudable -- our country was built on lofty ideals that spoke to universal, inherent human dignity (even if they weren't perfectly executed at first for non-property owning men, women and people of color) -- the party keeps losing the female vote.

Conservatives believe in a competitive marketplace of ideas, but if the GOP were a private-sector soft drink company targeting female consumers, its marketing team would rightly be fired by now.

So, how can the GOP both adopt universal, color and gender-blind campaigning while still being smart and effective in its branding and tone? In my view, Republicans, including President Trump, should follow the President's own advice: "I would like to have a much softer tone," President Trump told Sinclair Broadcasting Group just one day before Republicans lost the House. "I feel to a certain extent I have no choice, but maybe I do and maybe I could have been softer from that standpoint."

Republicans do have a choice in what we say. Even though President Trump is fighting unprecedented levels of acrimonious, liberal media bias, he and his party can and should stick to a positive, uplifting vision for the country -- one that is perfectly aligned with conservative ideals of free enterprise, strong defense and robust private civil society that unleash human prosperity; one that doesn't push away female voters.

Still, there were some silver linings for Republican women in the 2018 midterms. We saw the first Latina lieutenant governor of Florida (Republican Jeanette Nuñez), the first female US senator from Tennessee (Republican Marsha Blackburn), the first female elected governor of Iowa (Republican Kim Reynolds) and the first woman elected governor of South Dakota (Republican Kristi Noem). And with the continued efforts of GOP leaders who have made elevating women within the party a priority, like Rep. Elise Stefanik of New York, who understands the challenge Republican women face running for office and has vowed to help support female primary candidates, we will hopefully see more of these firsts in the next election cycle.

While these wins are a solid foundation for conservative women heading into 2020, there is much room for improvement. And it starts with a change in messengers and tone.

Mississippi Coronavirus Cases

Data is updated nightly.

Cases: 250869

Reported Deaths: 5481
CountyCasesDeaths
DeSoto17010171
Hinds16091318
Harrison13250193
Rankin10629208
Jackson10216182
Lee8759141
Madison8186161
Jones6222109
Forrest5917118
Lauderdale5808180
Lowndes5309111
Lafayette491192
Lamar480465
Washington4770123
Bolivar3955106
Oktibbeha390380
Panola365076
Pontotoc361152
Monroe3521104
Warren344597
Union341458
Marshall339165
Neshoba3357152
Pearl River323295
Leflore2992105
Lincoln295685
Sunflower280469
Tate269560
Alcorn262653
Itawamba261159
Hancock260458
Pike259977
Scott244745
Prentiss244052
Yazoo242654
Tippah239749
Copiah239149
Simpson233967
Leake229564
Coahoma228554
Grenada217070
Covington210471
Marion208371
Adams203270
Winston199464
Wayne198730
George197938
Attala193158
Newton189142
Chickasaw182944
Tishomingo182159
Holmes168167
Jasper167735
Clay158233
Stone141520
Tallahatchie139234
Clarke137460
Calhoun135121
Smith119423
Yalobusha116134
Walthall111736
Noxubee110222
Greene109129
Montgomery109134
Carroll104121
Lawrence102117
Perry100531
Amite96825
Webster91924
Tunica86021
Claiborne85525
Jefferson Davis84025
Humphreys82624
Benton81023
Kemper76620
Quitman6838
Franklin65815
Choctaw60013
Wilkinson58325
Jefferson53419
Sharkey42417
Issaquena1596
Unassigned00

Alabama Coronavirus Cases

Cases: 420681

Reported Deaths: 6119
CountyCasesDeaths
Jefferson61755921
Mobile30058548
Madison26852186
Tuscaloosa20652266
Montgomery18876305
Shelby18421114
Baldwin16176182
Lee12393101
Morgan12175113
Etowah11687168
Calhoun11078200
Marshall10158107
Houston8556148
Cullman7999105
Limestone796274
Elmore7783101
DeKalb767197
Lauderdale752883
St. Clair7502120
Talladega6145108
Walker5880174
Jackson578841
Colbert529873
Blount529283
Autauga515455
Coffee438156
Dale394381
Franklin365248
Chilton335365
Covington326968
Russell326810
Escambia316142
Dallas302896
Chambers281869
Clarke279633
Tallapoosa2607107
Pike247629
Marion244650
Lawrence242547
Winston225535
Bibb214447
Geneva199535
Marengo197829
Pickens196231
Hale175442
Barbour172336
Butler168458
Fayette167126
Cherokee160030
Henry152721
Monroe145017
Randolph138835
Washington137026
Clay126145
Crenshaw118644
Lamar117519
Cleburne117223
Macon114335
Lowndes109535
Wilcox102621
Bullock98728
Perry96919
Conecuh94220
Sumter88826
Greene75723
Coosa60515
Choctaw51224
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