The Republican Party has become inhospitable to a large majority of female voters, and increasingly, to potential female candidates. In 2019, 42 freshmen women will enter Congress; a grand total of four of those are Republican women.
Democrats in the midterms carried women nationally by 19 points, white college-educated women by 20 points and married women by 10 points. Remember it was not too long ago, 2004 to be exact, when President George W. Bush barely lost the female vote (48 percent to 51 percent) and carried white women (55 percent). As late as 2012, Mitt Romney carried white women (56 percent to 42 percent) and married women (53 percent to 46 percent). Those elections, however, came before the GOP’s slide into right-wing populism, before it became the Praetorian Guard for a president who bragged about sexual assault.
Republicans will actually have fewer women in the next Congress than they did in the current Congress (dropping from 27 percent to 15 percent of their caucus). At this rate, they might have none after a few more election cycles.
It’s hardly surprising that the party of President Trump doesn’t understand why it lost women in such great numbers, or even think anything is terribly wrong. The Post reports that when Rep. Elise Stefanik (R-N.Y.) decided to start an effort to recruit more women, Rep. Tom Emmer (R-Minn.) — who edged in ahead of Rep. Ann Wagner (R-Mo.) to lead the National Republican Congressional Committee — gave her the cold shoulder. (“If that’s what Elise wants to do, then that’s her call, her right. ... But I think that’s a mistake," he said. "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.”)
Stefanik is right that the GOP increasingly looks like the all-male, all-white party. However, the real problem goes beyond composition of its congressional caucus. A party that boasts about taking away health-care coverage, mocks female victims of sexual crimes, devises a family separation policy to deter (i.e. inflict pain to discourage) migrants, sides with thuggish leaders (e.g. Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman), disdains human rights as a component of foreign policy and insists paying hush money to ex-mistresses to shut them up before an election is no big deal will not attract a lot of support from women.
Republicans' tone is as off-putting to women as their policy choices. They bellow and they insult; they bully and they condescend. Refusing to admit error or to compromise, they manage to be both know-nothings and know-it-alls. So long as the Republican Party resorts to anger, resentment and cruelty to stir up its base, it will shed female voters and female officeholders.
The Republican Party’s nostalgia for the 1950s, its continual appeal to male grievance (“a very scary time for men in America”) and its anachronistic view of women (John F. Kelly sounded like he was from another century — the 17th, perhaps — when he declared women used to be “sacred”) sends a consistent message to women that they should be seen not heard, and preferably not seen at all in the workplace. And frankly, the longer it takes for Republicans to shed its Trumpian skin, the harder it will be to lure women back into the party.