Roy MooreRoy Stewart MooreRoy Moore loses lawsuit against Sacha Baron Cohen Shelby backs ex-aide over Trump-favored candidate in Alabama Senate race Of inmates and asylums: Today's House Republicans make the John Birchers look quaint MORE was rejected this week. You may have heard the collective sigh of relief from women across the country. For many of us, it was a welcome reassurance that there is a moral line even rock-ribbed conservative voters will not cross. Deep south, red state voters in Alabama collectively rebuked a credibly accused sexual predator and refused to compromise moral integrity for political expediency.
The election in Alabama was not the first for Republicans featuring an allegedly misogynistic or sexually abusive candidate. But by and large, in my lifetime, such candidates represented the loathsome fringe and were confronted and quietly excised from within. Conservative women could look at cases like Todd Akin and take solace that while the party contained fringe elements, the leadership opposed those elements.
Moore’s nomination had proved that, in 2017, that wasn’t necessarily true. With President TrumpDonald TrumpMcAuliffe takes tougher stance on Democrats in Washington Democrats troll Trump over Virginia governor's race Tom Glavine, Ric Flair, Doug Flutie to join Trump for Herschel Walker event MORE in the Oval Office and the Republican National Committee endorsing a man credibly accused of sexual deviancy for U.S. Senate, the fringe elements threatened to grab the reins of the GOP and send the party careening over the cliff’s edge.
It’s a jarring change of direction for the party. It was only five years ago that the GOP presidential nominee’s biggest "scandal" was an awkward description of an otherwise feminist idea: Mitt Romney’s request for “binders of women” to level the playing field for women in the workplace. The sexism charges aimed at Mitt Romney rang hollow, but the shoe fits the current GOP, and they're paying for it at the ballot box with moderate women and young voters in particular.
In Alabama this week, Roy Moore lost women voters by 17 points. He won white college-educated women by 11 points, an historically weak margin compared to Romney, who carried that demographic by 55 points. This isn’t just a reflection on a singularly unfit candidate, it’s a sign of an ongoing cultural change.
The shift in the national conversation about sexual misconduct has touched every high-profile industry politics included. In political media, women like Fox News’ Gretchen Carlson helped to expose the predation of Roger Ailes and paved the way for fellow journalists to follow her lead. Women like Leigh Corfman, who has long voted Republican, shared her story of Roy Moore’s alleged abuse and set off a wave of new revelations about Moore and other politicians past and present.
Republican Congresswoman Barbara Comstock said the Moore GOP does not represent her and has used her platform to share sexual assault victims’ stories. Even UN Ambassador Nikki HaleyNikki HaleyUS rejoins UN Human Rights Council, reversing Trump exit Smarkets betting site makes Trump favorite in 2024 Nikki Haley gets lifetime post on Clemson Board of Trustees MORE said that victims deserve to be heard without exception for her boss President Trump.
While the mainstream cultural trend is clear, it’s not yet clear if those Republicans who openly air their concerns about the treatment of women are the future of the GOP, or its casualties. The allegations against Moore inspired Jackie Curtiss, once the youngest member of the GOP convention platform committee and the current head of Alabama's Birmingham Young Republicans, to lead her organization in rebuking his candidacy.
Joyce Simmons, Nebraska’s GOP committeewoman resigned her position in protest after the Trump White House and Republican National Committee backed Moore. RNC Chairwoman Ronna Romney McDaniel for her part caved to pressure from the White House to re-endorse and send resources to support the child predator's candidacy. Trump chastised Haley too, coordinating stories of his disapproval through media leaks to put her in her place. The message sent to women in the party: You must trade on your integrity for acceptance.
Without an extreme intervention, female leaders in the party must recognize that the direction it's headed under Trump is not one that advances women. Trump relies on women staff like Kellyanne Conway and Sarah Huckabee Sanders to defend his well-documented history of alleged sexual misconduct but has selected almost no women for senior cabinet positions and less than 20 percent of his judicial nominations are female. He’s playing down to every misogynistic stereotype leveled at the GOP and, in so doing, confirming for Millennials and young Americans that Republicans are not the party to represent them.
Worse, he’s dragging the party base with him. Current trends suggest that a new generation of women in America will find the party’s current manifestation so anathema to their deeply held values that they’ll depart, find themselves politically homeless or join the Democrats. As of this month, 68 percent of American women disapprove of the president’s performance marking a sharp uptick from 55 percent disapproval in May 2017.
That Republican Party clean-up effort began on Tuesday with the defeat of Roy Moore in deep red Alabama. But it isn’t enough. Resignations and non-endorsements by GOP leaders and Republican women voters staying home or crossing the aisle are the tough love required to shirk the toxicity of the Party's worst moral offenders. Part of the solution must also include a concerted drive to bring women not just into the voting booth, but into the leadership and offices of the party itself.
Republican and conservative women, now is the time to push your party forward. If the GOP doesn’t take action against sexual harassment and assault, women will continue to take action against the GOP like they did in Alabama.
Mindy Finn is the co-founder of pro-democracy organization Stand Up Republic and founder of non-profit Empowered Women. She was the vice presidential running mate for 2016 Independent presidential candidate Evan McMullin. Follow Finn on Twitter @mindyfinn.