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Conservative Feminists (Grizzlies or Not) Come Out Roaring

4 years ago
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Thank goodness for Christine O'Donnell. Now we've got someone else to obsess about beside Sarah and Gaga. In just a few days she's got the mama grizzlies of Team Sarah roaring against the male hierarchy of her own party, the Republican gurus who mocked, assailed, and gleefully and scarily shredded O'Donnell and her "nutty" candidacy.
Now, of course, those same male Republican leaders are crawling to O'Donnell's side, offering her money and support (the national GOP gave her $42,000, the maximum allowable donation for its nominees) and making room for her on the big stage at the highly visible and influential Values Voter Summit this weekend in Washington. And, just to underscore her new star power, she reportedly raised $1.3 million in just 48 hours after her victory Tuesday in the race for GOP nomination for the U.S. Senate over the favored party candidate, Rep. Michael N. Castle.
Sure, Delaware is a small Democrat-leaning state that seems in the bag for the Democratic nominee, Cris Coons. Everyone in the circles of pundits and politicos and know-it-alls on cable are kissing off her candidacy and the chance that Republicans could take control of the U.S. Senate. But O'Donnell, ever sunny in public, seems unfazed, betting that she will upend conventional wisdom inside and outside her party.
O'Donnell, who shows off a manner and attitude more in common with Sarah Palin and Michele Bachmann, the Republican congresswoman from Minnesota, than with most of the ladylike and stand-behind-their-men Republican women of the past, shrugs off those who predicted her defeat as "eating humble pie.''
With that head of steam and the hard charge of her female backers – especially Palin, her No. 1 endorser – O'Donnell and other conservative feminists (yes, there are conservative feminists) are giving notice they will take down the men in their own party who launch vicious attacks, personal and otherwise, on one of their female candidates. My colleague Matt Lewis, a Politics Daily columnist, on Friday described this state of affairs (conservative feminists playing the "gender card," he called it) as a new phenomenon. And one he dislikes as not in keeping with conservative tenets.
Well, with all due respect, I beg to differ. I think it's terrific that conservative women are howling loud and clear when they spot instances of sexism in their own party. It's not demagoguery. It's sticking up for what's right. Besides, it gets tiring for liberal feminists to carry the whole load. Defending women against personal attacks in a campaign is hardly demagoguery. Demagoguery is when men and women -- especially men and women in positions of influence – write off female politicians as dumb blondes or brunettes, a la Palin, perky or bouncy, cute but empty-headed, nutty or ignorant.
To be sure, O'Donnell is problematic to say the least. She's got major gaffes and serious gaps in her story line. Critics call her unstable and radical (she once spoke out against masturbation, she is accused of gay bashing) and the media have raised key questions about her background and experience. Karl Rove, the Republican strategist, told Fox News late Tuesday night that "there's just a lot of nutty things she's been saying that just simply don't add up." He called her dishonest and plagued by scandals that make her unelectable in November. And Sen. John Cornyn of Texas, the National Republican Senatorial Committee chairman, echoed those doubts as well.
So here comes Jeri Thompson, the wife of former U.S. senator and presidential candidate, Fred Thompson of Tennessee, accusing male leaders in her party of sexism in the case of Christine O'Donnell. (It's worth pointing out that Jeri Thompson herself, a leggy blonde considerably younger, nearly 44 years old now, than her prominent husband, 68 now, was a target of snide remarks about her looks, age and brainpower during her husband's short-lived 2008 presidential campaign.)
"Funny, I don't recall hearing similar talk from the likes of Mssrs. Rove and Cornyn after Scott Brown won in Massachusetts, Joe Miller in Alaska, or Rand Paul in Kentucky," she wrote in The American Spectator, referring to the fact that Brown, Miller and Paul, who like O'Donnell are Tea Party candidates, did not initially enjoy the support of the Republican establishment. "The difference here," she goes on, "is that once the primary was over, the political elites in Washington stood by their men. Why won't they do it for a woman?"
"While they may not be intending to be sexist,'' she continued, "the message, the attitude and whining sure make many in the GOP look eerily like the elites we are trying to usurp. The sexism issues aside, it's time for the Washington GOP establishment to man up and stop sulking over losing – no, getting walloped – by a woman they continue to insist is unqualified despite the fact that she has a pretty big win under her belt under pretty difficult circumstances."
Capping off her attack on sexism, she said, "Perhaps the reaction to O'Donnell is the result of the Beltway Boys' understanding that the movement that has been taking hold across the country really is out of their control. Or perhaps they really are intimidated by a woman who has already proven that she can do it without them."
If I mind anything, it's that the woman candidate in question is difficult to support, but is that the point? I guess that the point here is that conservative women like Jeri Thompson and Sarah Palin and Christine O'Donnell and a growing number of others around them and behind them are now forging their own brand of feminism and speaking out like progressive feminists have been doing for so long.
And that is a good thing.

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