Yesterday, the hashtag #ScareMeIn3Words was trending on Twitter, prompting hundreds of tweets about low battery life, lack of WiFi access, and the possibility of a President Donald Trump, among other things. The Texas GOP decided to join in on the fun, offering this gem:
— Texas GOP (@TexasGOP) October 8, 2015
Faced with the seemingly endless options of policies and people the GOP is scared of these days – the babies of undocumented immigrants, the Affordable Care Act, and voters of color, to name a few – the person behind the party’s Twitter account chose instead to take aim at DNC Chairwoman Debbie Wasserman Schultz.
The Texas GOP has plenty of genuine reasons to fear leaders like Schultz, but their tweet makes it all too clear that this fear has nothing to do with her record in Congress or her commitment to electing Democrats. Instead, the Texas GOP chose to reduce Schultz’ 20 year career to her looks.
This isn’t the first time Republicans have attacked women in power based on their appearance. As a matter of fact, it’s a key part of their play book.
Nancy Pelosi, arguably one of the most influential women in Congress, has been mocked mercilessly for her appearance. In one especially galling example, current presidential hopeful Lindsay Graham speculated on whether she had undergone plastic surgery, saying “Did you see Nancy Pelosi on the floor? Complete disgust…If you can get through all the surgeries, there’s disgust.” Graham eventually apologized, calling the statement an “attempt at humor.”
In perhaps one of the best and longest-running examples of this tactic of discrediting female Democrats based on their looks, Hillary Clinton became the target of blatantly sexist criticism far before she ran for office herself. During her husband’s first campaign for the presidency, her looks quickly became the focus of party leadership hoping to bring the campaign down. In his 1992 convention speech, TV evangelist Pat Robertson said, “No one can convince me that the American people are so blind that they would replace Barbara Bush with Hillary Clinton.”
One of Rick Perry’s first ads in his now-defunct campaign for the 2016 nomination was focused almost entirely on criticizing Clinton’s laughter. Though Perry is out of the running, attacks on Hillary’s appearance will certainly continue.
In 2013, following a blistering campaign season in which Republican candidates at every level of government made countless sexist snafus, the national GOP started to include tips on how to talk about female opponents in its media training for male candidates.
But this problem goes far beyond the messaging of individual candidates. As a party, the GOP has dedicated itself to perpetuating the idea that women in power ought to be judged not only on how they govern, but how good (or bad) they look while doing it.
While the Texas GOP clearly intended the tweet to be comedic relief, much like Lindsay Graham with his quip about Pelosi’s appearance, they have plenty to fear from women like Schultz – just not for the reasons they promote.
As the Chairwoman of the DNC, Schultz takes a prominent stance in the media promoting the values of the Democratic party, and taking Republicans to task for their missteps. Just yesterday, Schultz released a statement drawing a distinction between the “dysfunction” of the House GOP and the consistent commitment of Democrats to the issues that matter most to American families:
- “Meanwhile, Democrats have created 13 million jobs, 67 straight months of private sector job growth, and extended access to quality, affordable health care for 17 million Americans.
The choice for American voters between Democrats and Republicans could not be any more clear
Under her leadership, the DNC is taking on the challenge of voter engagement by supporting campaigns across the country with tools and data, pushing a legislative agenda focused on increasing access to voting in the face of Voter ID restrictions, and creating mechanisms for ensuring that the rights of voters are upheld everywhere in America.
There are plenty of reasons for the Texas GOP to fear Debbie Wasserman Schultz, but true to the values and tradition of their party, Texas Republicans chose to focus on her face.