Hurricanes and Moderate Women: AAUW at the RNCAugust 27, 2012
AAUW Director of Public Policy and Government Relations Lisa Maatz will report from the Republican National Convention this week and from the Democratic National Convention next week. Follow her updates at AAUW Dialog, on Facebook, and @LisaMaatz on Twitter.
I’ve flown into the eye of the storm — literally. Both Tropical Storm Isaac and the Grand Old Party are bearing down on Tampa, Florida, but in much different ways. One will bring torrential rains, high winds, and potential damage. The other will bring speechifying, planning, and politicking, all while pumping millions of dollars into Florida’s economy.
The political conventions can be excellent places to schmooze and network, talk policy with other advocates, and hobnob with members of Congress. But before all of that can happen, I’ve battened down the hatches and stocked up on food and water, just in case Isaac introduces himself more nastily than forecasters have predicted.
I’ll be representing AAUW at a variety of convention-related events this week and will be blogging about the action and live tweeting some of the major speeches, which now begin Tuesday because of Isaac. I’ll be in Charlotte, North Carolina, next week with the Democrats doing the same — though I’m hoping to avoid the tropical storm! AAUW is a credentialed participant at both conventions, in keeping with our nonpartisan policies, and I’ll be meeting with AAUW members in Tampa and in Charlotte.
This is my third Republican National Convention representing AAUW. In some respects, it feels like home. I grew up in the GOP. My dad was a local township trustee and president of the Hinckley, Ohio, Chamber of Commerce, and my family was active in local Republican politics. This was in rural Ohio, so the GOP did pretty well in my hometown. The values and language are familiar to me in many ways, though I must admit in some ways it’s not the same party of my youth.
While my father has always been a conservative, when I was growing up, my mom was a moderate Republican. In those days, the Republican platform still included the Equal Rights Amendment, and moderate Republican women had much influence in the party — think of the likes of former first lady Betty Ford and former Kansas Sen. Nancy Kassebaum Baker.
Some might say that moderate Republican women are a vanishing breed, but I’m not so sure. I think of women like former New Jersey Gov. Christie Todd Whitman, who fought to preserve a place for moderates in the party, and former Connecticut Rep. Nancy Johnson, who continues to lead the way for the WISH List to elect more pro-choice Republican women.
The party leadership knows they need moderate women to stick with them if they have any hope of taking the White House. In response, this convention will feature women like the always-popular Condoleezza Rice, former secretary of state, as a primetime speaker. A trailblazer in so many ways — most recently as one of the first women members of Augusta National Golf Club — Rice is quietly pro-choice and has spoken in favor of affirmative action. She knows she’s not alone. She is, in fact, one of many moderate Republican women working to swing the pendulum away from the kind of extremism on display in Missouri Rep. Todd Akin’s ridiculous comments and back to a place of reasoned political debate and intelligent public discourse. I don’t know about you, but I’m rooting for them.