At the Republican National Committee's Summer Meeting, the evidence of the GOP's commitment to a younger and more diverse set of leaders in the pipeline was evident, reports The Atlantic. Young people from diverse backgrounds were featured as "Rising Stars" in the party. Many of the members of the RNC are new to the team and have experience with cutting edge campaign strategy and technology. Judging by the number of attendees who were at such a meeting for the first time, the RNC is taking this very seriously.
One key demographic that the GOP must win over in the coming election cycles is women voters. As we at the Burnt Orange Report have previously discussed, the party is having a few difficulties in the lady department. The article's author Garance Franke-Ruta was particularly interested in how party leadership would try to address this gender gap, especially, as she reports, as they all gear up for a race they assume will be against Former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton.
When asked about the damage done by sexist comments coming from candidates and leadership in recent years, RNC Co-Chair Sharon Day said,
Both parties don't have a shortage of people saying stupid things and doing stupid things. People do on both sides just say and do things that are just dumb. You can't judge a party by that -- you judge a party by its values.
More on whether the party's values seem to include appealing to women voters after the jump.
|Day hosted a panel on the Republican party's relationship with women voters at the RNC's Summer Meeting. She and other women at the panel expressed disappointment at the low level of attendance. In her opening remarks, Day said,
I'm really sad, to be honest with you, that there's not more people in this room. Because again as women, we are the majority. And as women, there should be more women in this room. Every one of us should be in this room. So that's the first thing I want to say, just to make me feel better. This room should be packed. And it's not.
Florida State Senator Anitere Flores expressed similar frustrations:
This is a self-selected group of people who have come here, probably saying, 'Yeah, you know, We know we have a problem. We need to fix it.' But there are a bunch of other people that are in other meetings right now that maybe are thinking we don't have a problem -- we don't really have to go listen to that... There is a problem. There is a gap. And we can't just keep going around and saying we won married women, woohoo, that's great.... Step one is: We have a problem, let's move forward.
But, what does moving forward look like for the Republican party? Most of the women running in the Republican party would have a better chance of being elected in more diverse districts - those that generally go to Democrats. It is hard to elect women without women voters coming out to vote in party primaries, and it is hard to encourage women voters to get excited about a party that does not know how to message to them.
Ann Stone, a pro-choice Republican who attended the panel, says messaging is a key issue facing the GOP:
The messaging to women is really bad. There've been closed-door sessions where we've talked about how do we get the men to stop saying some of the things they are saying. It's usually out of ignorance. They don't understand what they're saying is highly insulting, which is really sad.
Perhaps that these men, many of whom are leaders in the party and well-known candidates for office, are not aware that what they say is insulting to women is the best example of the disconnect between the GOP's awareness that it has a problem and its willingness to take the steps to address this voting gender gap.
Even when large numbers of women run as Republican candidates, as Franke-Ruta points out, they are still less likely to be elected than their Democratic counterparts. Women make up a significantly smaller number of elected Republicans than they do in the Democratic party, and the GOP faces a veritable chicken or the egg conundrum: you need to run and elect women candidates to fill the leadership pipeline to attract women voters, but you cannot elect these candidates if women don't show up at the polls.
Day asserts that the sexist statements that turn many women off should not be the ruler by which the party is judged: "Our party is better than what we look like on paper. We truly are a much better party than we sometimes look like."
It is clear that women like Day and Stone believe that the party can attract women voters and elected officials alike, but until the leadership is ready to put in the work - perhaps starting with attending the panels focused on addressing this GOP gender gap - it will be hard to solve this lady problem.