As a former communications aide to Sen. Ted Cruz (R-Tex.) and former senator Jim DeMint (R-S.C.), I can personally testify that Republican women have, for years, fended off accusations from the Democrats of the party’s allegedly anti-woman beliefs. What did we get for it? The nomination — by way of a largely older, male voting base — of a brazen and unapologetic misogynist.
I want to ask the men leading the GOP some questions. Why didn’t you defend women from this raging sexist especially after so many Republican women — for so many years — eagerly defended the party from charges of sexism? You must make us out for fools.
Over the course of the GOP primary, it became clear that too many Republicans felt it was too politically risky to do anything that would offend the types of voters Trump was attracting in droves — the types who showed up at rallies wearing T-shirts that said, “Trump that b—-” and “She’s a c—, vote for Trump.”
Somehow, in some amorphous but unambiguous way, it was decided that appealing to those voters was more important than appealing to women.
Trump’s men have told women this is “locker room” talk — that we should accept this is how men speak behind closed doors, get over it, and vote Trump.
Perhaps, they should talk to some rape survivors. They need to hear what those women heard when Trump bragged about grabbing a woman’s genitals, aggressively kissing women without consent, and getting away with it because he’s rich and famous. That wasn’t boyish banter. That was a confession of assault.
Besides, Trump was in no locker room when he talked this way. He was mic’d up, as a major media figure, speaking to another major media figure, in a professional work setting.
If the GOP has truly convinced itself that openly engaging in sexual assault fantasies is something normal that men do among one another, I have a suggestion. Relocate the Republican National Committee headquarters into a men’s-only locker room. Eliminate all pretenses of wanting to let women in.
But not all men think this way. We’ve heard over and over again how privately anguished GOP leaders were, although not anguished enough to take any concrete steps to stop it.
I expect that Republicans will try to pretend, postelection, as if those recordings were some one-off, unpredictable revelation. They’ll say they didn’t know he was so deviant.
But I won’t accept that explanation. Trump’s chauvinism was well-documented in decades’ worth of publicly available smutty television, radio and print interviews long before he became the nominee.
Yet, the Republican Party ignored it all.
Then, as a GOP presidential candidate, Trump used his massive online platform to label Megyn Kelly a “bimbo” and question Heidi Cruz’s attractiveness. Even after Trump denigrated the party’s own female Republicans, such as Carly Fiorina, Sen. Kelly Ayotte (N.H.), South Carolina Gov. Nikki Haley and New Mexico Gov. Susana Martinez, male GOP heavyweights used their clout to force Republicans to fall in line.
Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) sneered at Republicans, such as House Speaker Paul D. Ryan (Wis.), who were reluctant to lend their support. “It’s disrespectful of the Republican electorate to say, ‘I’m smarter than you are, and I’m not gonna support your choice,’ ” McConnell said in May.
Some, such as Mitt Romney, Sen. Ben Sasse (Neb.) and Jeb Bush, tried sounding alarms.
And, the world witnessed the GOP’s chaotic July convention and saw firsthand how Republican National Committee Chairman Reince Priebus shut down delegates who wanted a roll-call vote to register their opposition against Trump. Valiant objectors who shouted at the top of their lungs on the floor of the convention — such as Sen. Mike Lee (Utah) — were silenced by the party machine.
The party honchos insisted, again and again, that standing by Trump was the right thing to do.
Even as late as July, McConnell was telling his fellow members that they would not suffer any repercussions for Trump’s misdeeds. “I don’t think we’re gonna lose a single Senate seat because of Donald Trump,” he bragged to NBC News.
Yet Trump, if you are not a Pepe-the-Frog-championing poll-denier, is forecast to lose the election in a blowout. Down-ballot Republicans will most certainly become collateral damage.
Trump will probably be off on his next grand scheme by 2017, but the party will left in the rubble he created. And, if the next GOP autopsy has any credibility, it needs to contain political obituaries for Trump’s most ardent defenders.
People such as Sen. Jeff Sessions (Ala.), Ben Carson, New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie, Rudolph W. Giuliani, Newt Gingrich, Mike Huckabee and the others. Those who gave Trump credibility and used their influence to rationalize his obscene words and actions need to be named and shamed for what they did.
Because the most dismaying thing about the election is not Trump himself. It’s that so many Republicans endorsed his nightmarish campaign.
Ever since Trump announced his candidacy 17 months ago, it’s been like watching political body snatchers take over the party, replacing previously respectable men with dead-eyed zombies who readily salute “Mr. Trump.”
Nearly all succumbed — including, shockingly, my old boss Cruz — who courageously stood before the GOP convention and urged delegates to “vote their conscience” while he declined to support Trump. Apparently, the pressure became too much to bear. Two months later, he reversed course and was phone banking for the Trump-Pence ticket.
But, not me. Not ever.
I vividly remember the day Cruz dropped out of the presidential race, essentially handing the nomination to Trump. On the set of CNN I threw up my hands and said if this how the GOP intends to campaign for the White House, they will do it without me. I will not vote for Trump. I’ll remain a committed conservative and will vote for down-ballot Republicans, but the top of the ticket will be blank. I didn’t leave the GOP — the GOP left me for Trump.
Now, I don’t purport to speak for all women, but I know I am not alone. I am one of the many women the Republican Party left behind this election.
The GOP is about to learn a hard lesson when it comes to the women’s vote: defend us or lose us.
But don’t take my word for it. There’ll be a new political map, coming out Nov. 9, that will tell the GOP everything it needs to know.
What Donald Trump is doing on the campaign trail
Amanda Carpenter is a contributing editor at Conservative Review and a CNN political commentator. Previously, she was communications director to Sen. Ted Cruz and speechwriter to Sen. Jim DeMint.