High-profile women in Republican leadership are exposing a shocking disdain for what is good for women.
By some metrics, you could say it’s a great time to be a woman in Republican politics.
Four of six of America’s female governors are Republicans. A woman heads up the Republican National Committee. The first female presidential campaign manager just won the White House. And women serve in numerous powerful positions in this Republican administration, from ambassador to the United Nations to secretaries of transportation, education and homeland security to white house press secretary.
But one of the things that makes conservatives distinct from liberals is that we don’t believe in filling quotas as an end in itself. That is, just putting numbers of women in representative slots doesn’t mean those women are necessarily better at their jobs than men, nor does it mean those women are good for women.
This point could not be clearer right now, as a number of high-profile women in Republican leadership are both proving to be patently bad at their jobs and exposing a shocking disdain for what is good for women.
Over the past nine days, I have watched women in positions of tremendous power in my party contort to either defend, spin, dismiss or ignore disturbing and credible reports of domestic violence provided by at least three victims and a detailed FBI report in order to protect a White House aide, who’s now resigned, and the president he worked for.
Among the least troubling aspects of this scandal is just how badly these professionals have managed it. Any crisis communications professional would have known how to keep a one-day story from becoming a nine-day story by firing Rob Porter, instead of waiting for him to resign, issuing an unequivocal statement condemning domestic violence and vowing to make sure the White House is a safe place for women to work — not to mention a place that sends the nation the right moral message about a serious, serious crime.
Instead, communications director Hope Hicks, the girlfriend of the accused abuser, who also works in the White House, pushed out a glowing defense of his character. Press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders blamed the FBI, then the White House Personnel Security Office for Porter’s employment, and insisted that President Trump takes domestic violence very seriously and supports abuse victims, despite the fact that every one of his public statements on the matter sympathizes with alleged abusers.
White House Counselor Kellyanne Conway went on the Sunday shows to say that Hicks is in no real danger because she’s too “smart” and “strong” to allow herself to be abused, which, needless to say, rubbed abuse victims, including Porter’s ex-wife, the wrong way.
To be clear, women either made all of these decisions or carried them out. By any public relations measure, they were the wrong ones.
Of course, this incompetence and lapse in judgment is troubling. But what’s more troubling is that these women are no longer credible voices for women.
Whether by natural instinct, or to protect a president who has himself been accused of sexual assault and harassment, or to coddle a boss who can never admit he is wrong, or to carry out his puerile and unending defense of the besieged white male misogynist, there’s no justification. It is, quite simply, wrong.
Even putting visions of grand acts of courage — like quitting their jobs — aside, it would take little to no courage for any of these influential women to simply state that they are personally appalled by the decision to employ a man accused of domestic violence and believe the White House and the president need to take staffing more seriously. Even that anemic response would have signaled to women that they actually care about women.
So by this metric, the one that actually matters, it is not a great time to be a woman in Republican politics. Because for all the empowering of women to positions of influence, some of the most powerful have decided to put the worst kind of men ahead of the most vulnerable kind of women. And as a Republican woman, that is gut-wrenching to watch.

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