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The GOP’s woman problem grows worse

November 19, 2018

WASHINGTON — It has been long rumored that the Republican Party has a woman problem, so much so that a few years ago GOP congressmen sent aides to classes on how to talk to and about women.

Republicans didn’t learn much. Their articulation issues just got much worse, and there’s a name for it: Donald Trump. In addition to his many dubious accomplishments, Trump has succeeded in nearly purging Republican women from the House of Representatives.

If this was supposed to be the year of the woman, it has been the year only of Democratic women. The blue wave washed away a significant number of strong female candidates on the GOP side, both incumbents and newcomers, likely leaving just 13, down from 23. (Although three races were still pending Tuesday, Republicans had little hope that their candidates would win in two of them.)

According to Cook Political Report’s Dave Wasserman, of the projected 31 members of the rising Republican freshman class, only one is a woman, compared with the Democrats’ projected freshman class of 61, of which 35 are women. Which means the Republican House just became a lot more of what it didn’t need to be — more male.

Democratic women cleaned house in suburban districts. With just over a dozen women, this also means several committees and subcommittees will have no Republican women on them.

Trump, naturally, has blamed Republican losses on some candidates’ failure to accept his “embrace.” At least they weren’t asked to kiss his ring, yet. In post-election remarks, the president mocked those who “lost” their races, naming, among others, Utah Rep. Mia Love (who hasn’t officially lost yet), and Virginia Rep. Barbara Comstock.

Of Love, he ickily said she “gave me no love. And she lost. Too bad. Sorry about that Mia.” For the record, votes were still being counted as Trump was making these remarks. Love waited until Election Day to use a phone recording he had made for her campaign.

Comstock, who won in 2016 in a district that went for Hillary Clinton, inarguably lost this time because of the president. Her opponent, Democrat Jennifer Wexton, waged her campaign primarily on an anti-Trump platform.

If anything, Love and Comstock’s good judgment probably made their races closer than they otherwise would’ve been. Let there be no doubt, the midterms were about one thing — Trump — and Republican losses should be chalked up to him. He owns this election.

Embracing the president was by no means a fast track to victory. In some cases, when candidates did accept Trump’s love, they might as well have received the kiss of death, too. Many lost, anyway. Rep. Martha McSally, a former fighter pilot (and dog lover), wore Trump like a medal of honor in Arizona, yet lost to Democrat Kyrsten Sinema in their Senate race. Although Sinema’s was a squeeze-by victory, as so many races were, Trump was plainly no help to her opponent.

The House seat McSally relinquished to run for the Senate also went to a Democrat — former Rep. Ann Kirkpatrick.

Republican men, too, suffered losses after accepting, presumably, a man-hug from Trump. Rep. Dave Brat lost in Central Virginia; Kris Kobach, who was endorsed by Trump in the Kansas governor’s race, came up short. Rep. Dana Rohrabacher in California and Rod Blum of Iowa, both supported by Trump, also lost.

Thus, it would appear that the Trump embrace carries about as much magic as a blind-worm’s sting. If Midas turned everything to gold, Trump seems to turn things blue. He may have noticed this himself, which may explain his petulance following the election and his familiar dismissiveness toward “losers,” or those who reject his affections. He mocked men, as well, including Republican Reps. Erik Paulsen and Peter Roskam, who lost races in Minnesota and Illinois, respectively.

Ultimately, though, this election was about women and Trump, a verdict that likely only feeds his narcissism. But this analysis would be incomplete without also mentioning the media’s role as Trump’s creators and enablers, with the Democratic Party as beneficiaries. Every time Trump does what he does, which is to provoke, the media sets its 24-hour news cycle on auto-pilot, and Democrats count their blessings. Trump is the Democrats’ biggest fundraiser.

He essentially financed the blue-and-pink wave to the detriment of his own party, especially women. Contrary to town criers coast-to-coast, the future doesn’t belong to women at all. It belongs to Democratic women — and Trump owns that, too.

Kathleen Parker is a syndicated columnist. Her email address is kathleenparker@washpost.com.

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