It remains unclear whether Donald Trump will achieve the kind of poll-defying and frenzy-inducing victory he won in 2016. But this year’s election results represent another surprise victory – this time, for Republican women.
While Republicans were largely left out of 2018’s “Year of the Woman”, when 126 female Democrats and just 20 GOP women were elected to Congress, they are on course for a banner year in 2020. Twenty- three Republican women have won their races so far – including six that have rocked their districts from blue to red – setting them up to break their previous record for GOP women in Congress.
“Republicans should thank their lucky stars for the women who lead this cycle,” said Rosalyn Cooperman, professor of political science at the University of Mary Washington. “The breakthroughs that were made by Republicans in 2020 on the House side were made by women, and they would do well to remember that.
“For the majority of our women who are coming in, they will want to get things done, and the only way to get things done in a legislature is to put aside the aisle and work with the other side.“
It remains to be seen whether the female GOP winners will legislate differently from their male counterparts. There is a joke that if progressive feminists say we should abolish prisons, moderate feminists say we should hire more policewomen; It is not known whether the incoming women of the GOP will be reformers or just officers enforcing their party’s anti-women policies.
Of the Republican women who overturned their seats on Tuesday, all six are vocally anti-abortion, and one even introduced a bill that would have banned abortion after 20 weeks. Two of the winning women are supporters of the QAnon conspiracy theory.
But Julie Conway, executive director of VIEW Pac, which supports Republican women running for office, says she thinks these women will be more likely to work with the historic number of Democratic women who came before them.
“For the majority of our women who come in, they will want to get things done, and the only way to get things done in a legislative body is to go sideways and work with the other side,” she said. declared. “And I think that’s what our women are going to do.”
The sweep of Republican women to victory is, if not unexpected, slightly confusing. The GOP does not have a multi-million dollar women’s fundraising group, and apparently little concern for the number of women in their ranks in general. (A 2018 poll of GOP primary voters found 71 percent said they were not concerned about the 13 skinny Republican women in the House that year.) In a party like this , a year in which suburban women reportedly turned away from Trump’s party en masse, how did so many Republican women come out victorious?
The answer, in part, might be that these women were just in the right place at the right time; circulating in historically red districts where they were perfectly located to take advantage of the unexpected turnaround of the country. Many of the women – María Elvira Salazar in Florida, Nancy Mace in South Carolina and Yvette Herrell in New Mexico, to name a few – were running in districts Democrats won only recently in 2018. , about to resume them as soon as possible. possible opportunity.
But experts say, for Republican women, being in the right place is a victory in itself. Kelly Dittmar, research director at the Center for American Women and Politics, pointed out that while Republicans made significant progress in 2010, they failed to increase the percentage of women among them, in large part because of a lack of female candidates.
“Republican women can’t win if they’re not on the ballot,” Dittmar said. “For me, the story of women is that the only way to enjoy the right environments, especially when they are somewhat unexpected, is to be there – to be on the ballot.
“In all those races where we thought we could be competitive, even if there was a guy that would have put up his hand … we didn’t stop there.“
This year, GOP women seemed to take this message to heart. A record 227 Republican women applied for the House of Representatives in 2020, and 94 became their party’s nominees, up from a previous record of just 53. A number of GOP agents who spoke to The Daily Beast pointed out a surprising source for this influx of female candidates: the blue wave of 2018.
After seeing the successes of over 100 female Democrats, some with little to no political experience, “a lot of conservative women started to think, ‘You know what, I can do that too,’ ‘Kodiak said. Hill-Davis. , political director of the conservative women’s group Women for Progress.
In 2018, she added, “there were more Gregs and Mikes at the Republican House conference than women. You can’t see a statistic like that and say to yourself, ‘Well, we are going to keep doing what we always do and it will eventually come out in the wash. ”
This year was also a turning point for many conservative women’s groups. In December 2018, Representative Elise Stefanik (R-NY) announced that she was leaving the NRCC to start her own group, Elevate PAC, to help Republican women win their primaries. When NRCC President Tom Emmer told a reporter he thought it was a “mistake,” Stefanik replied, “NEWSFLASH: I wasn’t asking permission.”
Republican women as a whole, said Hill-Davis, “were so frustrated after seeing what happened in 2016 and what happened in 2018, we realized we just had to be prepared to do it. and do not ask permission.
Conway, the executive director of VIEW Pac, agreed. While groups like hers have generally taken a back seat in primary campaigns, she said, this year they’ve taken the plunge.
“In all those races where we thought we could be competitive, even though there was a guy that maybe put up his hand… we didn’t stop there,” she said. “There was an eye to watch to see if there was a woman who could be a great candidate in this district as well.
She added: “If we thought she was a better match, we did everything for this woman.”
This tactic has not always been appreciated by the rest of the party. In some cases, Conway said, other conservative groups have actively worked against VIEW Pac’s main contenders. (The Club for Growth, for example, spent more than $ 1 million to support Stephanie Bice’s top challenger, who turned Oklahoma’s 5th Congressional District to red on Tuesday night.)
In other primary races, women’s groups work against the candidate preferred by the party leadership. Hill-Davis’ group Women for Progress even publicly criticized an RNC member who told Republicans not to donate to their top candidate, saying it was “embarrassing” for the party leadership not to donate. not even listen to our own advice on women’s awareness. (Of the party leadership, Hill-Davis said diplomatically, “I think we frustrate them sometimes.”)
But Conway said she believed all of this fuss was heading towards something bigger.
“We’ve been doing this since 1997,” she says. “With the action of other groups over the past two cycles and Elise doing what she’s doing, there’s been a lot of tillage, and we’ve built on that.
She added: “Women, all of a sudden we are not waiting for our turn. And it made a huge difference.
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