Do Women Spell Change For The GOP — Or Just More Of The Same?S

A few women with moderate viewsMeghan McCain among them — may be poised to expand the Republican Party's tent. But not if Michele Bachmann has anything to do with it.

In a Washington Post editorial today, columnist Kathleen Parker hails entrepreneurs Meg Whitman and Carly Fiorina and famous daughters Meghan McCain and Liz Cheney as "a glimpse at what could become a surge of hormonal correction on the conservative side." Whitman is running for governor of California, Fiorina is challenging Barbara Boxer in the Senate, Liz Cheney just started a new website, and Meghan McCain is, well, Meghan McCain. Parker points out that these women — especially those actually campaigning — might help mitigate the dearth of powerful women in the Republican party, which currently boasts only three female governors. She writes,

This deficit in high office is both a taint on the GOP and a reflection of the broader assumption that Republicans are monolithically against women's rights. Specifically, the party's pro-life platform alienates pro-choice women, as well as moderates, who otherwise might find common cause with conservative principles.

Women such as pro-choice Whitman and "personally" pro-life Fiorina could help change that impression, while also raising other issues women care about. Fiorina caused a slight ripple in the Republican zeitgeist during McCain's campaign when she criticized insurance companies for covering Viagra and not birth control.

Parker points out that Meghan McCain is pretty liberal on social issues too, and that she, Whitman, and Fiorina might represent an emerging breed of Republican woman — one ready to roll back some of the GOP's more woman-hating policies. This would presumably be good for women who are, say, fiscally conservative, but who have felt alienated by the party's direction in the last 20 years or so. That said, Liz Cheney is pretty much a chip off the old block of grade-A evil, and Parker's predictions of a woman-led tide of greater ideological diversity slam up short when they hit one very visible woman: Rep. Michele Bachmann.

In a Times profile, Monica Davey tallies up the disturbing markers of Bachmann's popularity. She's in the calendar of "Great American Conservative Women"
(apparently she's November). She appears on cable an average of once every nine days. She's seeking reelection to the House, but some speculate she might run for governor of Minnesota. And Sean Hannity has called her "the second-most-hated Republican woman in the country, second to Governor Palin, which is a good position." Given that Bill O'Reilly also thinks she's hot, Bachmann's cred with the far right could hardly be higher.

Of course, she's also batshit insane. Davey points out that Bachmann won't complete her census forms because she thinks they're "intrusive." She thinks health-care reform means death panels and "prayer and fasting" are the way to stop it. She also thinks reform will cause schoolgirls to "be taken away to the local Planned Parenthood abortion clinic, have their abortion, be back and go home on the school bus that night." And she apparently thinks Obama might try to get rid of the dollar. It's not just that Bachmann's views aren't woman-friendly — they're not friendly to anyone with a brain.

Parker's hopes for a "hormonal correction" to the Republican Party are all fine and dandy, but being a woman doesn't necessarily mean that you're in favor of women's reproductive rights — or that you're sane. McCain, Whitman, and Fiorina might be early signs of an expanding and diversifying GOP, or they might be decoys, luring fiscally conservative but socially liberal women into a party that's not really going to represent them. Sarah Palin continues to consolidate her power (this time with a national organization called Stand Up for Our Nation), Liz Cheney echoes her dad's old pro-waterboarding rhetoric, and Republican women who stray too far outside the party line (like Olympia Snowe) get called "stupid girls" and, interestingly, "Jezebels" by conservative commentators. So while a newer, broader GOP is a nice idea, Meghan McCain and her ilk might just be beckoning moderate women into a tent that doesn't actually have much room for them.

Time For The GOP Women [Washington Post]
A G.O.P. Agitator Not Named Palin [NYT]
Palin To Launch 'Stand Up For Our Nation' [Politico]
Conservative Radio Launches Sexist Attacks Against Snowe, Collins [Media Matters]