So…like…another Republican insulted my intelligence this week. This time it’s Renee Ellmers of North Carolina who was talking to some people about how Republicans can do better talking to women. There was this one quote that Think Progress highlighted that was really…well, you read it.
Men do tend to talk about things on a much higher level… Many of my male colleagues, when they go to the House floor, you know, they’ve got some pie chart or graph behind them and they’re talking about trillions of dollars and how, you know, the debt is awful and, you know, we all agree with that. …
We need our male colleagues to understand that if you can bring it down to a woman’s level and what everything that she is balancing in her life — that’s the way to go.
Anyway, Representative Ellmers got all mad because the quote was take out of context and she wasn’t trying to say women need small words and short phrases. Someone helpfully linked up to the full text of the remarks and I read them all. And you know what? Context didn’t do her any favors. Maybe it vindicates her assertion that all she was saying is that extreme wonkishness isn’t a real crowd-pleaser but it highlights something else that has been bugging me about the GOP for a long time. They talk about how to talk but not how to listen.
In this transcript, she didn’t once suggest listening to women. Sure, she talked about male lawmakers referencing the women they DO listen to – their inner circle – but she never suggested taking the time to listen to female constituents. She presumed to know what they want already – the lines about more time and the bit about being sure that women agree with Republican platform planks if you just lay them out in the right way. Then she talks a lot about how to sway them using refashioned versions of the same talking points that Republicans have had my entire voting life. But she never suggests sitting down, asking earnest questions of women, and responding to their real, stated needs and desires.
I see this over and over with the Republican Party. They keep trying to reframe their platform to appeal to groups of voters instead of listening to voters and rebuilding their platform to represent Americans. They talk about how to bring their message to Latinos, women, young people but never reciprocate and ask women, Latinos or young people to say what they need. They assume the problem is these groups of people just don’t understand the awesomeness that is Republicanism and they need to evangelize better. They seem to lack even enough outward awareness to realize that the problem might not be their sermons but their political gospel.
This goes hand in hand with a kind of radical inflexibility that the true believers of the Republican party hold dear. I’ve heard Republicans badmouth Democrats and those they perceive as RINOs for following polling data rather than convictions. That always baffles me. As representatives working on behalf of a larger group, their job is to do what is in the best interest of the group. Polling data is a good way to gauge what that interest is. In other words, asking constituents what they think then doing it. But some portions of the party see this as a weakness and prefer politicians who set forth a list of positions and never waver, no matter how it harms the people they ostensibly represent. Catering to the inflexible is probably why it’s so hard for the GOP to fix its message and instead has to focus on fixing its messaging.
Someone should tell the GOP listening is a winning strategy if they want to be fair and honest partners with the American people. Until they do, the only group that will flock to them is the people who think talking down to women is the way to win.