The Washington PostDemocracy Dies in Darkness

Republican women who opposed Trump quietly plan a comeback

Jennifer Pierotti Lim, co-founder of Republican Women for Hillary, speaks during the final day of the Democratic National Conventiona (AP Photo/Mark J. Terrill)

The protesters in Los Angeles torched a Donald Trump effigy. They shouted in Chicago, “Not my president.” They waved signs outside his new Washington, D.C., hotel: Nasty Women Fight Back.

But on Wednesday night, Jennifer Pierotti Lim quietly planned her own rejection of Trump's rise: A dinner for conservative women who feel left behind.

“I'm getting all these calls, texts and emails,” she said. “Everyone is saying, ‘Okay, what are we doing next?”

Lim, 31, the director of health policy at the United States Chamber of Commercehad never voted for a Democrat until Tuesday. She had also never expected Trump, an entertainer in her eyes, to take over the GOP. She’d been willing to hear him out, though — until he suggested last year that Fox News anchor Megyn Kelly had asked him tough questions because she was menstruating.

The comments, Lim felt, reflected a lack of self control and contempt for half the population. So, she started a group called Republican Women for Hillary. She wore red to the Democratic National Convention. “I believe in the bedrock values of the Republican party,” Lim said in a speech to the Philadelphia crowd, “and because the Republican party has abandoned those values this year, I’m voting for Hillary Clinton.”

Then Trump won.

“It doesn’t end today what we stood against,” she said Thursday. “Democrats already have their network of support, and we’re building ours.”

Lim is changing the name of her group to Republican Women for America.

So far, she said, about 75 women have agreed to run chapters across the country. This week, they’ll process what happened. Next week, Lim said, they’ll discuss way to organize and serve as Republican checks against Trump.

Hillary Clinton won women by 12 points and lost men by 12 points: a total 24 point gap. (Video: Elyse Samuels/The Washington Post)

The exit polls at the 2016 election revealed the widest voting gender gap in modern history. The president-elect won America’s men by 12 points and lost women by 12 points. Four years ago, college-educated white women backed Mitt Romney by six points. On Tuesday, the segment swung left, supporting Clinton by six points.

The women who ditched Trump for Clinton cited a medley of reasons: his public history of vulgarity, which includes rating women’s bodies on the Howard Stern show; his penchant for hurling insults on social media (“Just heard that crazy and very dumb @morningmika had a mental breakdown while talking about me,” he wrote in September of MSNBC’s Mika Brzezinski); and his debate outbursts (“Such a nasty woman,” he muttered during his final showdown with Clinton.)

They say his victory won’t erase their memories.

Deidre Blank, 69, a retired nurse who lives near Philadelphia, said she had planned to vote for Trump because he seemed like a savvy businessman, a leader who could create jobs. She had consistently backed Republicans in the past. But then she talked to her millennial daughter, who urged her to think about his treatment of others.

Trump had just blasted Alicia Machado, the first Miss Universe under his ownership of the pageant, calling the former beauty queen “disgusting” on Twitter. 

“It was an ‘aha moment,” she said. “Everyone knows in government, you have to work with people to get anything done, and he has turned off so many people.”

She hopes president-elect Trump will get along with the people who opposed his candidacy.

Kelly McCain, 29, grew up Republican and, every year since she could vote, supported her party’s candidates. She interned for George W. Bush. She worked for former Virginia governor Bob McDonnell. But on Tuesday night, she felt her heart break as Clinton lost.

She huddled with friends at a watch party about a half-mile from the White House. A banner on the wall read: NEVER TRUMP.

“There was a lot of discussion,” she said, “about the importance of staying together and being strong.”

She plans to find and work with Republican women who feel the same way, who want to champion respectful discourse and advocate for victims of sexual assault. She doesn’t want the GOP to forgot Trump’s promise to boost working families by creating a national paid maternity leave system and allowing parents to deduct child-care costs from their taxes.

McCain still feels exhausted from disappointment and a lack of sleep. But she felt hopeful after spotting an electoral map on Instagram, manipulated to show how millennials, specifically, cast their ballots. Most voted against Trump. 

“I looked at it and thought, yep, that is exactly right,” she said. “The next generation isn’t going to elect someone like that. It’s our responsibility to make sure of it.”