The nine Republican women in the U.S Senate and 13 in the House of Representatives have blindly followed President Trump off a political cliff. They have not raised their voices as the party has become one that’s increasingly unpopular with, and hostile to, women. This phenomenon came yet again into clear view this week when Rep. Ted Yoho (R-FL) verbally assaulted Democratic Congresswoman Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-NY), calling her a “fucking bitch” as she was walking up the steps of the Capitol.
That happened to be the same day that the white men of the House GOP Conference ambushed Rep. Liz Cheney (R-WY), the only woman in the party’s leadership, for not supporting Trump enough (she actually dared to agree with Doctor Anthony Fauci about the need to wear masks). And that also happened to be the same day that Trump offered his well wishes to Ghislaine Maxwell, a woman who was a close associate of Jeffrey Epstein and is herself an alleged sex trafficker of young girls.
The Trump-led brigade of angry white males has circled the wagons, and women—including those in their own party—often seem to be targets. One reason for the silence or complicity of these Republican women may be that they are trapped in a party that does not elevate women, support them in primaries, or develop them as leaders. Out of 126 elected women in the U.S. Congress, just 22 are Republicans. Or perhaps these white women—there are no Republican women of color serving as lawmakers on the Hill—are part of the “silent majority” of white women who supported Trump in 2016. That in and of itself tells a story of a Republican party out of touch with 2020 America.
After Yoho sort-of apologized for his behavior toward Ocasio-Cortez, without saying whom he was apologizing to, for the “abrupt manner of the conversation” and while stressing that “I cannot apologize for my passion,” I didn’t hear a single Republican female elected lawmaker condemn his remarks. These women appear to be more concerned with staying in lockstep with Trump’s misogynist GOP than they are with their own consciences.
And yet it’s not clear they’ll even be rewarded politically for that sacrifice. Consider the GOP’s three most vulnerable female senators: Joni Ernst of Iowa, Martha McSally of Arizona, and Susan Collins of Maine.
All three are running for their political life in an election cycle where Donald J. Trump will be at the top of the national ticket, and each one of them may lose because of the gender gap that has become the GOP’s Achilles’ heel—and that’s only worsened since 2016.
Collins, who has served in the senate since 1997, is a moderate, who like Mitt Romney used to represent moral conscience and bi-partisanship. Now, she has become a Trump hack, who voted against impeachment and said she believed that Trump had “learned his lesson.” She is often the brunt of jokes on social media about expressing her “concern” about something Trump says or does, since that “concern” never seems to translate into concrete action. She was a key vote for the confirmation of Supreme Court Justice Brett Kavanaugh last year, despite credible allegations that he had sexually assaulted a young woman when he was a teenager. Collins is now trailing Democrat Sara Gideon, who has raised far more money than the incumbent.
McSally, who was appointed to fill the seat of former Senator Jon Kyl (R-AZ) served in the United States Air Force from 1988 to 2010, achieving the rank of colonel. She was the first U.S. woman to fly in combat and the first to command a fighter squadron. And she was a victim of sexual assault in the military, making her someone who might be a leading voice for women, women’s issues and expanding the GOP tent. Instead, she has been very pro-Trump, attacking CNN’s Manu Raju as a “liberal hack” for asking her a very reasonable question about the impeachment trial witnesses back in January. Her behavior has hurt her badly in Arizona, where she trails astronaut Mark Kelly in most polls.
Joni Ernst, the GOP Senate Conference vice chair and retired Army National Guard lieutenant colonel who was first elected in 2015, should be in a safe “red” seat, yet polling data indicates that she too is in the fight of her career. Ernst, like McSally, was sexually assaulted while serving in the military. She, too, should be a loud voice for women’s equality and representation. But she instead defends Trump on his pathetic COVID-19 response event after she’d attacked Obama for his Ebola response in 2014.
The reason that a Republican is in deep trouble in Iowa? Women. Challenger Teresa Greenfield, who’s tied in the polls, was ahead by 20 percentage points, 54 percent to 34 percent, among women as of June. White women without a college degree choose Greenfield by an even larger margin: 60 percent to 29 percent.
Bottom line: there are only nine Repulican women serving in the US Senate now (there are 19 Democratic women). And three of those Republican women could be gone next year. They will only have themselves to blame. They have allowed themselves to be silenced, while their Democratic sisters including Speaker Nancy Pelosi and Senators Kamala Harris and Elizabeth Warren are much more visible, more powerful, and outspoken for women's equality and inclusion.
In the end it’s really sad to see amazing, pioneering women in the military like Ernst and McSally, who both fought in service to their country, cower to someone like Trump, who dodged the draft citing bone spurs.