On Tuesday night, state Rep. Greg Murphy crushed pediatrician Joan Perry by a 60-40 margin in the Republican primary runoff for North Carolina’s 3rd Congressional District, making him the heavy favorite in September’s special election for this deeply conservative vacant seat.
But the real story is not who won but rather who lost. Ever since last year’s thumpin’ that saw the ranks of House GOP women plummet from an already-low 23 to a miniscule 13, Republicans have been desperate to increase their numbers. Perry offered an early opportunity to do just that, prompting groups devoted to electing Republican women to spend more than $1 million on her behalf.
The GOP’s problems, however, run far too deep to be fixed by a mere million bucks. It’s not just that there were influential factions that opposed Perry—the nihilistic House Freedom Caucus, for instance, backed Murphy—but the very idea of electing women because it’s important to elect women is anathema to wide swaths of the Republican Party.
Activist Amy Kremer, who co-founded a group called Women for Trump, encapsulated that view perfectly in this remarkable quote:
“If these women are saying that they should support women because they have the same body parts just for the sake of having more women in Congress, then they’re sexist,” she said in an interview. “I’m smarter than that. I vote for brains, not boobs.”
At a week-long campaign school for women at Yale University last month that attracted just a dozen Republicans (out of 80 total attendees), one GOP participant, Elana Doyle, lamented, “We are so welcomed in the background to help volunteer, to help spread information, but when it comes time for a woman to really step up into the spotlight, I almost feel like it’s crickets.” She’s so close to understanding what the Republican Party really thinks of women like her: “Brains, not boobs.”
Republicans who refuse to grapple with their party’s deep-rooted hostility toward women have instead come up with all manner of creative excuses to explain away the tiny numbers of GOP women in Congress. Just this week, Illinois Rep. Rodney Davis trotted out the gonzo argument that the real person to blame is … Nancy Pelosi.
This is actually a retread of a ridiculous assertion made by Louisiana Rep. Steve Scalise, the number two House Republican, back in January: that Pelosi spent millions specifically to defeat Republican women candidates. Leaving aside the obvious stupidity—how dare Nancy Pelosi try to elect Democrats to Congress!—it’s nonsense on the “merits,” too, such as they are.
Scalise specifically claimed that Pelosi “will spend a lot more money—in many cases twice as much more—to defeat Republican female candidates.” The numbers show that’s not remotely true: In the 53 races where the DCCC played a role in 2018, 11 featured GOP women, and the committee spent an average of $1.2 million in these contests. In the other 42 elections (all versus Republican men), the DCCC spent an average of $1.4 million. Try again.
Davis, meanwhile, averred that Pelosi “in many cases spent millions of dollars to elect a male Democrat over a female Republican in swing districts.” Again, total b.s. The DCCC spent seven figures to help a Democratic man unseat a Republican woman in exactly one race last year: New York’s 22nd District, where Democrat Anthony Brindisi ousted GOP Rep. Claudia Tenney.
If Davis in fact felt strongly about the dearth of women in his caucus, he certainly had a chance to do something about it prior to Tuesday night. But the sum he donated to Perry’s cause is equal to the number of new Republican women who will be joining the House GOP this year: zero.