I’m a 35-year-old moderate Republican woman. I sat in Cleveland to watch Donald Trump’s speech, and I just spent a week at the Democratic National Convention. I’ve never been clearer about where my party is and where it needs to go.
In Philadelphia, I talked to anyone and everyone—Uber drivers, restaurant workers, delegates, locals just there for the show. In every conversation, I heard myself saying, “yes, I said Republican. You don’t have to whisper. It’s ok. No…I’m pro-choice and pro-marriage equality. Yes, I think immigration is good. Of course I’m not voting for Trump. It’s really ok.” That’s the bankruptcy of the Republican brand. It is inconceivable to most people—not just the party faithful—that someone like me could identify with the GOP.
I’ve been reading Avik Roy and Yuval Levin and others trying to describe exactly where the Republican Party went wrong. I don’t disagree with any of what I’ve read. White nationalism has supplanted conservative principles, and social conservatism has supplanted all other principles. The party has been woefully inadequate at describing and delivering its promise. Because the party lost control of its branding, it’s been branded as obstructionist, sexist, racist, out of touch and uncaring. And moderates like me have sat on the sidelines, shrugging our shoulders, casting our votes, and hoping our leaders will find reason post-election. It’s a mess of our making.
None of this is news. The 2012 autopsy revealed all of this information. Rather than learning from that study, party leaders have stood over the cold, decaying body of the party insisting that that they are trying to reach out to women, people of color, and millennials” while acquiescing to the most divisive presidential nominee of my lifetime.
Having spent a week living in the Democratic party and watching the literal lovefest—at one point, the crowd joined hands and sang “What the World Needs Now is Love”—the way to resuscitate my party is obvious. What the GOP needs now is female leadership.
I’m not talking about a handful of Senators and Congresswomen, a women’s caucus, a breakfast highlight women’s initiatives, a voter outreach program. I’m not even talking about a legislative agenda. What I’m talking about is a pervasive influence of women in the party—so many women in actual positions of power that the idea of a women’s event is ridiculous.
What’s broken in the Republican Party lines up neatly against what’s working in the Democratic Party, and what’s working in the Democratic Party looks to this outsider like the culmination of women moving the party forward at all levels. There is a palpable sense that the Democrats are listening and learning from ordinary people. There is an implicit trust that Democrats want to make life better in every respect for working families. There is confidence and pride in the many women serving in Congress, in the women who so capably stepped up to party leadership following Debbie Wasserman-Schulz’s resignation, and in the woman the party has now put on the ballot for our nation’s highest office. Contrast that not just with perception but with Republican reality. Our party shut down the government in a dead-on-arrival attempt to defund the Affordable Care Act—placing the livelihood of many working families in jeopardy for a political stunt. Our party is a blocker of all the wrong things: access to abortion and birth control, appointment of federal judges, passage of a budget that requires any level of compromise. And our party, on the national stage, looks like a bunch of white guys telling us why they know best.
All that said, I did not find a political home in Philadelphia. I believe that government, especially at the federal level, has a proper and limited role to play. I believe that the Democrats have noble intentions that often translate into ineffective and problematic policies. I greatly admire many of those white guys, especially Paul Ryan, and the ways they are finding for conservatism to lift people out of poverty and ensure our fiscal health for future generations. I hear and feel from the Democrats a near-religious fervor about the way America should be. While I agree with much of that vision, I see the potential for it to undermine individual liberty and diversity of thought (as a Republican, I’m too familiar with what happens when you substitute morality for policy).
I’m not looking to hold hands and sing. I’m looking for problem-solving. I want my party to talk about making America stronger. Stronger through programs that help people without handcuffing them. Stronger through unleashing innovation and entrepreneurship. Stronger through clearly and boldly telling the world what America stands for and then keeping our word every single time that stand is tested. Stronger through stewardship of tax dollars and the use of technology to make our government agencies smarter, more efficient, more transparent, and, yes, smaller. Stronger through protecting constitutional rights without canonizing literal interpretations of those rights. Stronger through giving people from all walks of life more choices in all aspects of life.
It’s time for the GOP to admit that it has lost its way, to listen to what the American people have been trying to tell the party, and to respond with a positive, inclusive agenda. That’s more than a pivot; it’s a rebirth.
Rebirth requires mothers. It’s time for Republican women, all of us, to step up and deliver.