Thursday, December 13, 2018


New York Times Opinion Page: “The G.O.P. Is a Boys’ Club. This Woman Is Trying to Change That”

– One of the Few Republican Women in Congress Fights the Male Status Quo –

“Representative Elise Stefanik considers last month’s midterm elections a ‘watershed moment’ — and not in a good way.

“Ms. Stefanik, a Republican from upstate New York, is sick of her party losing female members. In the new Congress, the number of Republican women in the House will plummet to 13 from 23. That’s the lowest in more than two decades, even as a majority of the incoming Democrats in the House takeover are women. Republican women also lost significant ground in state races. As for voter support, 59 percent of women went Democratic, and the overall gender gap hit a whopping 23 points.

“This meltdown should be a ‘wake-up call’ for every member of her party, said Ms. Stefanik in a phone interview. While the reasons for Republicans’ lady troubles are many and varied, the dearth of women’s voices at the table makes it all the more unlikely that the situation will improve.”

“When Ms. Stefanik, at 34 one of the youngest members of her conference, pushed the issue at a recent meeting, her colleagues — about 90 percent of whom are men — displayed little motivation to address it. ‘I don’t think there has been enough introspection,’ she said.

“More troubling was the total absence of ideas for tackling the problem: ‘I wanted a specific strategy for how we do better to ensure that the conference reflects the American public.’

“And so Ms. Stefanik decided to take action herself. She has begun touting a new crusade to get more Republican women elected to Congress by having her leadership PAC ‘play big’ in primary races. Last cycle, as head of recruitment for the National Republican Congressional Committee — the first woman to hold that position — she drafted around 100 female candidates for the midterms, only to see many of them fall in the primaries. The N.R.C.C. has a policy of not playing favorites in primary races. But, citing her own experience as a first-time candidate in 2014, Ms. Stefanik stressed that early support is vital in what can be an ‘overwhelming’ process. ‘This needs to be a real priority,’ she said.”

“Sure enough, upon announcing her effort, Ms. Stefanik promptly faced pushback from the N.R.C.C.

“Representative Tom Emmer, the committee’s new chairman, pronounced her plan ‘a mistake,’ telling Roll Call, ‘It shouldn’t be just based on looking for a specific set of ingredients — gender, race, religion — and then we’re going to play in the primary.’”

“Ms. Stefanik finds the whole debate over identity politics ‘outdated.’

“‘I’m from a different generation,’ she said. ‘I really leaned into talking about the fact that I am a young woman.’ At campaign events, she would boast that she ‘wasn’t what most people picture when they picture a traditional Republican candidate.’

“She also aimed to ‘talk about every issue as a women’s issue.’ As an example, she cited medical-device manufacturing, a field that employs a large number of women in her district but doesn’t exactly qualify as a traditional women’s issue. ‘Some colleagues would say that’s identity politics,’ she said. ‘I think it’s a smarter, more personalized way of communicating.’”

Ms. Stefanik isn’t looking to have a public brawl over ideology. She’s simply pushing to get more women a seat at her party’s table. Who’s to say where things could go from there?

“‘Elise Stefanik is no dummy,’ said Ms. Card. ‘She knows that a political party is reformed in the primaries. That’s what’s going on here.’

“Which may explain why some of Ms. Stefanik’s male colleagues don’t seem all that enthusiastic about her plans.”

Click here to read the full Op-Ed from New York Times Editorial Board Member Michelle Cottle.

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