Remarkably, there’s actually a GOP candidate out there right now that is trying to court a demographic that has eluded the Republican Party for years, and that candidate is Carly Fiorina.
Fiorina is out giving stump speeches right now, telling her admirable story of how she went from a secretary to a CEO, and that this success story could only happen in a place like America where we give women opportunities. In fact, she went as far as to tell a crowd that America is absolutely the best country to be a woman.
But Fiorina does admit that times are tough for women – which is absolutely true – but she lays the blame on the wrong parties. According to Fiorina, it has been unions and regulations that are holding American women back. Rather than admitting that her own Party has shot down legislation regarding equal pay, paid maternity leave, and every other piece of gender equality legislation you can think of, Fiorina has laid the blame for the problem at the feet of unions – the favorite boogey man of Republicans – and the banking industry regulations of the Dodd Frank bill. What Fiorina doesn’t understand is that the gender pay gap for non-union workers is 40% larger than the gap between men and women that are unionized. So unions actually help lower the pay gap between genders, not increase it.
But don’t kid yourself – Fiorina knows that neither unions nor bank regulations are making things worse for women in America. She has to go out there and demonize these things if she wants to win the support of the Koch Brothers or Sheldon Adelson or anyone handing out campaign checks from Wall Street banks.
Talking points aside, Fiorina is hoping that her success story will attract more female voters to the Republican Party, and that’s why she tells us that America truly is the land of opportunity for women. But here’s the problem – it really isn’t. Sure, we aren’t as oppressive as Saudi Arabia, but we are not even close to being the best country in the world in terms of electing female leaders, having gender equality legislation in place, or even with the amount of female business leaders out there.
A recent article on Think Progress tells us which countries are ahead of us in those areas, and the list is startling: Brazil, Argentina, Chile, England, Pakistan, India, Liberia, South Korea, Ireland, Kenya, Indonesia, Canada, France. All of these countries have either had female heads of state, have larger majorities of elected women leaders than the United States, or they have laws on the books that give women more rights than we do in the U.S.
Don’t get me wrong; Fiorina’s success story is absolutely remarkable and it makes for a great campaign speech. The problem is that her base doesn’t care. Her party doesn’t care. They are the ones who have made things so difficult for women in America, and that’s why Fiorina’s life story is not going to win her any votes right now. She said that she believes the GOP can reclaim feminism, but that simply isn’t possible when you have Republican leaders out there castigating women for wanting access to birth control, or telling women that they aren’t competent enough to make decisions about their own bodies. The Republicans will never be the party of feminists as long as old white men are calling the shots.
Having said that, I will admit this sad truth: Carly Fiorina is electable. Perhaps not at the top of the ticket, but she would make a viable vice presidential candidate for the GOP and in that position she absolutely might be able to attract more women to the Party. And that’s a scary thought.