In the past year we have seen a country frustrated by leadership that summarily dismisses the electorate. And, hypocritical members of Congress who, despite what they want us to believe, know that an executive order is worth no more than the paper it is written on. So, as the Republican Party seeks to capitalize on the discontent and frustration playing out across America, we must reach out in a strong and meaningful way to the largest, most diverse demographic in this country: women.
For my entire adult life, Democrats and political pundits have said that the Republican Party is not “woman-friendly.” This is absolutely false. I believe the Republican Party stands tall and forthright on those issues that concern women the most. The Republican Party is the party of lower taxes, limited government, family values and strong national defense. In recent years, our party has taken the lead in education and healthcare policy, AIDS funding and homeland security. The Republican Party does not want to encumber our children, grandchildren and great grandchildren with debt and empty promises. The Republican Party espouses the same values for our children as we do—opportunity and self-reliance, success and reward based on ability and hard work. Most women—and men—want what is best for their families. The Republican Party offers just that.
At this point in our country’s history, many of us ask who speaks for us? Who speaks for our children? Who speaks for our parents? And who will represent their voices in government now and in the future? Hillary Clinton? Barbara Boxer? Nancy Pelosi? Do these women really represent a clear understanding of the struggles of the middle class family in America? Do they know how small businesses suffer because of their policies? I don’t think so. If they are the voices of all women then women are not being heard. In fact, these women are stifling our voices and pushing a liberal agenda while claiming to “speak for women.” I propose that, if asked, most women do not agree with the values promoted by Nancy, Hillary and Barbara—they are not our voices and it is for this reason that we’ve launched ProjectGoPink.
Project GoPink is a multifaceted movement to encourage, recruit and train Republican women to serve in elected and appointed office or key policy-making positions. Through our blog, women interact about the important issues facing our country. Our conferences have been designed to prepare women to move into the political arena by acknowledging that women have different strengths, abilities and challenges on the campaign trail.
So you ask, “What makes her an expert on women in campaigns?” I don’t profess to be an expert, but as a mother of three daughters I have a passion for issues that affect my daughters’ futures and I have experience in politics, having run for office on the local, state and national level. No race is ever easy, but for women there is an added dimension that raises the race to another level—dress, childcare situation, marital status, and hair style. Very seldom does a reporter ask a question to male candidates on the topic of childcare for his own children. Seldom is there a comment on a man’s ankles, his figure or his ability to sire children.
Read these words used to describe Sarah Palin in Vanity Fair:
“By far the best-looking woman ever to rise to such heights in national politics, the first indisputably fertile female to dare to dance with the big dogs.”
Any woman, Republican or Democrat, should take offense to such words. I am neither a Sarah Palin apologist nor a defender, but the fact she rose from mayor of a small town to governor of her state in less than a decade speaks volumes about her political smarts. But, wait—I just remembered—those “smarts” are discounted because of her looks and child-bearing abilities.
Yes, we female candidates have different challenges than our male counterparts. But, we also have different strengths, viewpoints, and abilities. The fault of our party has not been that it is poor on the issues that are important to women; the fault is that we have not worked to train and recruit women as candidates. Today there are 17 women in the United States Senate, but only 4 are Republican and of the 74 female House members, only 17 are Republicans. Our capable, strong and dedicated Republican members need reinforcement; we need to “build a bench.”
Today, there are more than 50 Republican women running for the U.S. Congress. This is a record number. But, if every one of these women is elected we would still have fewer women in Congress than the Democrats.
So, the question remains: as Republicans, have we done all that we can to recruit and train women? Have we done enough to move women from the rank and file into leadership roles? Has the Republican Party done enough to urge women to run? For each of us, there will be a different answer to these questions, but at ProjectGoPink we believe that until we, as Republican Women, have an elected woman for every Nancy Pelosi or Hilary Clinton or Barbara Boxer, our job is not done.
Suzanne Haik Terrell is the Founder and Co-Chairman of Project GOPink. A lawyer by training, Terrell has served in appointed and elected office. Elected Commissioner of Elections in 1999, Terrell remains the only Republican woman ever elected to statewide office in Louisiana. In 2002, she won the Republican nomination for the U.S. Senate and lost in a closely watched national election against the Democratic incumbent.
For more information on Project GoPink, visit projectgopink.com.