WASHINGTON — Slowly but inevitably, the two major political parties have become the party of women and the party of men — guess which is which — so that the 2018 midterms are shaping up as a climactic battle in the war between the sexes.
This is largely the Trump Effect — his attitude and remarks toward and about women — as well as the recent Supreme Court confirmation hearings for Brett Kavanaugh.
Democrats were already woman-ing the barricades after Donald Trump defeated Hillary Clinton in 2016. But the Kavanaugh kerfuffle fired up Republicans — men and women — as well.
Republican men, on the whole, were appalled by Kavanaugh's treatment and are expected to express themselves accordingly at the polls. Republican suburban women, who generally still don't like Trump, nonetheless welcomed the FBI investigation requested by Sen. Jeff Flake, R-Ariz. Largely satisfied with the results, they're back on board to vote against Democrats. In other words, thanks in part to Flake, voter intensity on the right has more or less balanced the intensity on the left.
These are the findings of Sarah Chamberlain, president and CEO of the Republican Main Street Partnership, a 70-member coalition of moderate GOP representatives who seek common-sense solutions to issues everyone cares about.
Without a doubt, women are at the center of the 2018 elections. More women, mostly Democrats, are running than ever before. Of the 56 who are challenging incumbents, 47 are Democrats and nine are Republicans. Of those Democrats, however, 31 are in solid Republican districts, six are in districts "likely" to stay Republican and seven are districts that "lean" Republican, according to CNN polling. All nine Republican women are in solidly Democratic districts.
Regardless of whether they prevail next month, women on both sides have been "woke," to put it in popular parlance, to the need for more women to participate in the conduct of the country. This is especially true on the Republican side, with their much smaller number of female elected officials. There are six Republican women in the Senate and 23 in the House, contrasted to the Democrats' 17 in the Senate and 61 in the House.
Why, people always ask, don't Republican women run the way Democrats do?
Partly, they're often culturally disassociated from the sturm und drang of politics. Many who might have run in 2018 decided not to because of the increasingly nasty environment, surmises Rachel Pearson, a Republican fundraiser and consultant. Casting insight into Republican women specifically, she recalls being invited to several parties for a Bloody Mary before the 2017 Women's March. She laughs as she recounts having declined because, "We don't march."
As in Republican women don't — though, of course, the March for Life draws plenty of conservative women. Her meaning was more metaphorical and may speak to why Democratic women are so much more successful in politics than their Republican counterparts. They make noise. They're scrappier and more willing to take to the streets, to shout in protest, to be agitators and activists. Plainly, it's time for Republican women to kick off their heels, pull on their boots and get busy. But anyone hoping for a kinder and gentler country may have to wait awhile.
Things will only get worse in 2020, Chamberlain predicts. Not only is Trump running for re-election, which will excite both political bases, but the president isn't likely to chill his rhetoric, which surely will be directed at many of the female Democratic hopefuls.
Democratic women, meanwhile, are light-years ahead of Republicans in organization, recruiting and fundraising, thanks in large part to EMILY's List, the political action committee founded by Ellen Malcolm in 1985 to elect pro-choice women. Malcolm's vision of supporting only pro-choice women was brilliant and has resulted in a pro-choice imbalance on the right.
"I'm afraid pro-choice Republican women have lost their voice on this issue," says Pearson.
Women in state offices tend to be more vocal on choice and other issues, says Chamberlain. "We need to bring them out of the woodwork."
One could argue that increasing the number of Republican women in Congress would be good for the country as a matter of balance and diversity. What is needed, says Chamberlain, is "[Michael] Bloomberg kind of money."
Toward that end, surely, some wealthy benefactors have enough vision to see the value in lending financial support to such a cause? Men, bless their hearts, have held the reins of power for long enough.
How about it, philanthropists? Spare a dime — or $100 million?
Kathleen Parker's email address is firstname.lastname@example.org.