During the 2008 elections minutes after Sarah Palin was announced as John McCain’s running mate my phone rang. It was my mom. Her hair was on fire. A lifelong Democrat, politician and feminist she said, before even saying hello, “Do they [Republicans] think we are that stupid that we would vote for a woman just because she’s a woman?”
Sarah Palin turned into the downfall of a spiraling grumpy old man campaign for president. The “at least it’s a woman” election strategy is offensive. Now in the wake of the 2014 midterm shellacking Democrats suffered, “At least it’s a woman” is being bandied about in Iowa, home to Senator elect Joni Ernst. Joni Ernst denies climate change and science in general, is for personhood, and is about as far right as you can get. If you don’t know about her, fasten your seat belts! She is going to put Iowa Rep. Steve King to shame in the I canoutflankyouonthecrazy stage or even better they will form a dream team of WTF.
This morning I am seeing a wave of Democratic apologists cheering themselves with a chorus of “At Least Iowa Has A Female Senator!” Like it was in the Dems pocket the whole time, knowing Bruce Braley was going to lose (that’s a whole other ball of wax to be discussed later). I saw one Facebook post – from an Iowa Democrat (an elected state official) – stating even though Braley lost Iowa should be proud to have its first female senator, and now at least the state wouldn’t be compared to Mississippi anymore. Really? Des Moines Register columnist Rekha Basu (a woman I like personally and respect professionally) said this:
At least she makes clear that Iowan’s need to start working on making her a one-termer. But there is nothing historic about sending an unqualified boob to D.C. One of the commenters on Basu’s thread said, “yeah, we broke the glass ceiling but did we have to do it with such a blunt instrument?” The senate race in Iowa was fraught with issues from the moment long time Senator Tom Harkin announced his retirement. Bruce Braley – an Iowa Representative was seen as heir apparent. As a result, his inept campaign machine promptly rested on its laurels.
Tom Harkin is wrong – Obama isn’t to blame for Braley’s loss – Braley is. And, moreover, the Democratic party is. Excuse me, Democrats have to go away. They have to let the ‘Hell Yes I Am Democrat’ crowd start running things or we can kiss abortion rights goodbye and un-marry all those gays. It may not happen in this legislative cycle, but if Democrats don’t remove their heads from their asses, it will.
Women, however, have the most to lose. With state after state after state legalizing (finally) same sex marriage it was largely missing from the larger, national electoral conversation. Oh, for sure you are going to run into the nut job that drags out everything but the kitchen sink right-wingery to woo his/her adoring public. The erosion of women’s reproductive rights is happening at an alarming rate at the state level. It would be nice to rely on legislative gridlock to keep any anti-choice legislation off the floor of the house and senate, but don’t be so sure.
Andy Kopsa is a writer based in New York City. Her work has appeared in numerous publications including Ms. Blog, Religion Dispatches, RH Reality Check and The American Independent. She is a native Iowan and former Iowa newspaper editor. She blogs at Off The Record and you can find her on Twitter @andykopsa.