Mitt Romney's proud statement last night that he had "binders of women" to consider when he was the governor of Massachusetts cemented the gender gap for me. Why do you need such binders? Because the women are not in the natural pipeline. That speaks volumes for the current leadership of the Republican Party.
My generation of men is responsible for the Republican Party's disconnect from women. Their attitudes are driving the women of my generation away from the party, and justifiably will hand the Democrats the White House again.
When I was clerking for Justice Sandra Day O'Connor during the 1989 term, a tight-knit group of conservative law clerks met secretly in the courthouse on a regular basis to discuss how their political agenda could drive decisions in the building. The group even had a name - it was called the "cabal." It was sheer hubris on their part, as Justices make decisions, not clerks a mere year or two out of law school, but it was indicative of how the men would deal with women. They knew that I, as a lifelong staunch Republican, and fellow clerk Anne Dupre were firm allies on states' rights and small government. But, trust me, we were never initiated into the secret enclave of the cabal.
Why would any group not want natural allies? It is because that was the era when the Republican Party -- the first to put a female on the Supreme Court -- began to turn its back on women. First, of course, they moved to diminish women's reproductive rights.
Justice O'Connor, a lifelong Republican of impeccable political credentials, stood behind the essentials of Roe v. Wade and voted, while I was clerking, to invalidate a Minnesota state law that endangered teenage girls seeking abortions. These men followed Justice Scalia's lead, treating such a vote as traitorous to the "conservative cause." That linkage is what will sink the Party.
The move away from women started as an anti-abortion policy, but today has evolved into opposition even to contraception. That is the turn the vast majority of women cannot follow, Republican, Democrat, or Independent. Because the result of no contraception is that women cannot plan their careers, and cannot choose to have two or three -- rather than six or eight -- children. The 2012 Republican platform backs the right of every health-care worker to refuse to deliver medical care in tension with his or her beliefs. Translation: Even pharmacists should not have to handle ordinary birth control. Women should be victims of their biology. It is the same message sent when Republicans men say that women who have been raped or are victims of incest should not be able to obtain an abortion, as a North Dakotan recently did.
As the leading men in the party started down the path of opposing women's rights to control their reproductive systems, they turned to supporting policies that put barriers in the way of women in the workplace. It probably comes as a shock to many today, but in 1972, the Republican Party platform endorsed the Equal Rights Amendment. Now, the Party is tight with the home schoolers (who do you think is home schooling the children?), and enthusiastically backs Catholic for-profit business owners' claimed right to exclude contraception from health plans for non-Catholics. An Arizona Republican has proposed that business owners be able to obtain the health-care records of women to ensure they are not obtaining reproductive health treatment in tension with the boss' beliefs.
Now the Party's regulars are even publicly opposed to equal pay for equal work. Really? As a woman working in an intensely male field -- constitutional law -- I deserve equal pay, period. The position is wrong, but it is also politically stupid. A majority of the country is female.
I will never forget the time I attended the annual Federalist Society convention in Washington, D.C. I had recently won perhaps the most important and doctrinally effective states' rights case in the current era, Boerne v. Flores, laying out limitations on Congress when it directly regulates the states. I wore an off-white suit, which unintentionally glared against the vast sea of men in black business suits. A panel addressed the very topics on which I was now the national expert. I raised my hand when one of the panelists misstated the issues. The moderator saw me (who could miss me in my white?), and nodded to me. Then never called on me -- and then later apologized to me. A man who had my credentials and relevance would have been given the floor. But, like the cabal, not at the Federalist Society.
A Federalist Society higher-up noticed I was there, and contacted me soon thereafter to find out what they needed to do to encourage more women to join. The fact he needed to ask the question is indicative of the problem. And in 2012, all the Party's candidate can offer to close the gender gap is that when he was a governor 10 years ago, he had a bunch of binders with women's names in it. These are the fruits of the cabal mentality.
A Party that smugly opposes bodily autonomy, equal pay, and self-determination for women does not deserve to win the White House. Sorry, guys.
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