Wednesday, August 15, 2012

David Bernstein Hates the GOP (Sexism Edition)

David Bernstein over at the Boston Phoenix has me all fired up today.  He has written a blog post entitled “The GOP Is Institutionally Sexist” arguing that there is a “regular, long-term, systemic lack of opportunities for women to advance within the institution.”  As a Republican woman, I can’t let this one go without responding.

Let me begin by saying I have certainly come across sexist Republicans.  I have also come across sexist Democrats.  And I have a whole bunch of thoughts about women in politics and voting for women just because they’re women which will have to wait for another time.  Right now I’d just like to address the problems I see with Bernstein’s argument.

Bernstein’s argument rests entirely on the numbers of Republican women who currently hold and/or are running for office at both the state and federal levels.  There are too few Republican women running and in office, he says, and fewer than on the Democratic side, and the only explanation can be institutional sexism.  Bernstein fails to mention that a larger percentage of the Democratic Party is female than of the Republican Party, so Republicans are drawing from a smaller pool from the start.

Next, his analogy between the Republican Party and a private company is erroneous.  A company has complete control over who it hires.  A political party does not have complete control over which candidates are elected.  One could argue that the parties do have some control over which candidates run for office because they can recruit candidates and either encourage or discourage candidates from running.  Bernstein offers no evidence that Republican women are approaching the Republican Party structure (either national, state or local) with an interest in running for office and are being discouraged from doing so.  If X number of women approached the Republican Party about running for office and only 0.2X actually went on to become candidates, then a case could be made for institutional sexism.  But Bernstein doesn’t provide those numbers (if they’re even available).

Bernstein also doesn’t address the possibility that maybe Republican women seek to run for office disproportionately less.  Maybe there are just fewer women coming forward to run on the Republican side than men, or than there are women coming forward on the Democratic side.  Now, a perception of the Party’s sexism by Republican women could contribute to this, but there could be other reasons as well.  Perhaps the real or perceived barriers to running as a Republican woman (or just as a woman) - whether coming from the media, the public, or the party - lead women to take a pass on running before they even approach the Party.

Or maybe Republican women just don’t have as much of an interest in holding elected office.  Maybe they prefer to be politically active in other ways (like blogging!) and the Party couldn’t get them to run even if it begged. 

Bernstein does assert that "there is no evidence" that voters just don't vote for Republican women when they are on the ballot.  Ok.  I won’t ask him to prove a negative, but how extensive was his search for evidence?  Are there studies which show female Republican candidates are treated the same as male Republican candidates (or female Democratic candidates)?  How about how Republican women are treated by the media?  Anecdotally, the way Sarah Palin, Michelle Bachmann and others have been treated suggests some level of bias that is not originating with the Republican apparatus.

I have no idea if any of what I've suggested is the case, but Bernstein doesn't acknowledge or disprove any of these fairly reasonable possibilities, simply dismissing other explanations with a sweeping, “there are plenty of possible contributing factors to the enormously gender-tilted GOP outcomes, but none that offer anything close to clear prevailing justification.”  We’ll just have to take his word that this is so because he doesn’t offer any data to bolster his claim.

I’m offering a lot of generalities and assumptions here, but my point is that Bernstein does not provide any actual evidence to prove his thesis that the GOP is institutionally sexist.  He seems set on the idea that Republicans are women-haters, which certainly suggests some sort of bias could be at play on his end. 

Saturday, August 11, 2012

Thoughts on Romney-Ryan

I like the pick.  Some quick, random thoughts on Mitt Romney’s selection of Paul Ryan as his VP candidate:
  • Ryan is a substantive guy.  He is well-versed in the issues, particularly the economic and budget issues which are a focus of Romney’s case against President Obama.  He reinforces the campaign’s message, which is what a VP pick should do.
  • The Obama campaign is eager to attack Ryan (and Romney by extension) for his budget and entitlement reform plans.  I’m sure the Obama superPAC is already lining up the “Mitt Romney and Paul Ryan want to murder senior citizens” attack ads.  But if this turns the campaign to a discussion of budget priorities and who has a substantive economic plan, rather than tax returns and Bain, I’m ok with that.
  • Ryan does not back down, even when a President is criticizing him to his face.
  • Ryan is someone who appeals to the Republican base, but cannot be dismissed by the Left and the media as an extremist or ‘not ready for primetime.’  With all due respect to Sarah Palin, this will not be like 2008.
  • The only thing I don’t like about the pick is that, should Romney-Ryan lose, the Republican Party will also have lost Ryan’s voice and leadership from Congress (at least for now). 
  • Ryan is a Catholic, meaning the two major-party tickets consist of a Christian (of unclear denomination), a Mormon and two Catholics.  I don’t know what that means (if anything), but I find it interesting.  (Please correct me if I’m wrong about Obama’s Christian denomination being unknown).   
  • On a shallow note, what a handsome ticket they make!

Tuesday, August 7, 2012

You misspoke? Inconceivable!

The phrase “I misspoke” didn’t make Dan’s political glossary, but it could be there right alongside “to spend more time with my family.”  Everyone knows that when politicians say they misspoke, what they really mean is “I would like to take back what I said and I would like the public and the media to pretend I didn’t say it.”  There are plenty of examples of this from both Democrats and Republicans.

Every now and then, a politician tries to use “I misspoke” to cover a statement that is so far from what misspeaking actually means that it becomes even more laughable.  That’s what happened today when Elizabeth Warren’s campaign had to trot out “she misspoke” after Warren called on Scott Brown to release more of his tax returns, when he has already released more years than Warren herself has.  So hours after Warren said “I think Scott Brown should release his tax returns for all the years he’s been in public service,” her campaign backtracked to “both Elizabeth and Senator Brown have released multiple years of tax returns that she believes give voters an understanding of each candidate’s financial circumstances.”  From insufficient to sufficient in less than a day – nothing to see here, she simply misspoke!

This incident also reveals how meaningless the word “transparency” has become in politics (as demands to see tax returns are always about transparency, never about scoring political points!).  The word is wielded by partisans (on both sides) as a political weapon and defined however is most advantageous for the one using it.  Thus, we get arguments that Mitt Romney should have to release many years of tax returns, but Harry Reid shouldn’t have to release any.  Four years is sufficient for Elizabeth Warren, but Scott Brown owes the public twenty years of returns.  Ted Kennedy never released any tax returns but that’s not relevant, stop trying to change the subject.

I will say, the Left seems more often guilty of changing the ground rules as they go, but maybe it’s just that the media lets them get away with it more than they do the Right.

This gaffe of Warren’s will surely be quickly forgotten, but stay tuned – another politician is sure to misspeak any day now!