I spoke at CPAC yesterday on an all-female panel led by Tammy Bruce about what conservatives need to do to reach out and attract more women. It's always lively and a hit, both among attendees and C-SPAN viewers, but also the lame stream media. They love it when conservative women point out that their movement's leaders don't get it when it comes to women. I never like giving the media any fodder, but I can't worry about that when I believe getting this message out there could mean the difference between victory and defeat.
CPAC-goers, conservative to the core, know we have a problem. Well, for the most part they know it. There are some holdouts for sure. Those holdouts are not evil woman-haters, tho. They just believe we shouldn't stoop to the Left's level and pander to women. As conservatives, we see people based on their intellect, their philosophy and their abilities, right? Well, yes. But it is time to face facts: we're getting creamed as we sit back in our holier than thou righteousness waiting for the Left to get tired or ashamed of bashing us over the head. As long as it's working for them, they're not going to stop. And trust me: it's working. It's high time we fight back.
In the face of the Left's blatant attempts to scare women away from conservatism and the Republican Party, we are too often silent. Take for example our staunchly conservative, very articulate, savvy candidate for governor of Virginia last year, Ken Cuccinelli. He had the opportunity to take on the myth of the War on Women and blow it away. But instead, he followed the advice of consultants who warned him not to respond to Terry McAuliffe's attacks against him on women--abortion, no fault divorce, contraception, the Violence Against Women Act, and the list goes on. As a result, the fallacies, the leftist spin was allowed to stand as truth even though there were solid responses on each attack--responses, by the way, that showed Cuccinelli's deep commitment to fairness and championing women's rights, particularly when it comes to protecting them from violence. He lost women by 9% overall. Single women, he lost by a staggering 42%.
My point yesterday is it's time to get our heads out of the sand. Really, it's time for our leadership to do so. I think the grass roots gets it. But conservative movement and Republican Party leaders do not. The number of our women leaders at CPAC's podium was embarrassing. The women in leadership positions in Congress is unacceptable.
Also unacceptable are the stupid, yes stupid, comments we continue to hear from many of our own when it comes to women. I know the folks on the Left make offensive comments, and we should not hesitate to point those out. But those transgressions are never going to get attention from the media at large. Just the ones on our side. So we have to be better. Just over the past couple weeks in my home state of Virginia, two Republican leaders made serious mistakes. One in a hot-headed response to a Facebook post; the other in a thought-out, intentional statement. Think before you speak or post! Good heavens, particularly when it comes to women. Could we be feeding into the lies? If so, just don't say it! And our candidates need to get advice on how to intentionally attract women, and how to handle the attacks. The advice needs to come from women. Not from scared establishment consultants. Plenty of us who have studied this and worked on it for years are out here. We know how to win in the face of the attacks.
Look, we're in a battle here and we're losing it. Optics matter. They matter very much to a public that has heard a steady drumbeat from the Left--the Left, mind you, that is bankrupt when it comes to actual ideas and consequently has to resort to painting conservatives as haters. It's all they've got, and it's working. We have to counter the attacks with ideas, with substantive attacks of our own as to how devastating the Left's policies have been to women (future blog post), how our policies will lead toward more opportunity and freedom for women--and why that freedom is GOOD--and by putting our great conservative women out in front. Some will scorn that notion--of elevating our women in order to reach out to other women, to show them that we do actually have women in our Party and our movement, that they are strong, smart and articulate. Well, scorn it at your own peril. We will be relegated to minority status permanently if we don't start winning back the women.