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Republicans need a good woman for 2024

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Vice President-elect Kamala Harris delivered a stunning acceptance speech just over a week ago. Her remarks introduced the country to the president elect, but they also signaled that she herself has all the makings to become U.S. president one day. If Republicans want a shot at taking back the White House, they’d best start grooming a female candidate capable of competing with Harris. 

Why should Republicans choose a woman? As a registered independent, it is clear to me that Republicans have an image problem. They need to signal that they can attract and retain diverse leaders — leaders who, in turn, attract diverse voters. A female candidate would show the country that Republicans are serious about expanding their base. Since 1996, a narrow majority of women have backed the Democratic candidate, but that majority was smaller this year than pre-election polls predicted. A female GOP candidate who can compete with Harris is sure to win back evangelical women who felt they had no choice but to vote for Biden.  

Which sort of woman should Republicans choose? The 2020 election, if anything, cemented the country’s fault line. The fact that half of voters chose the president despite the turmoil of recent months demonstrates how fundamentally uncomfortable many Americans are with the political left. These voters declared that they will vote Republican no matter what. And given that significant groups of conservative voters defected because of the president’s rhetoric, a strong conservative candidate would once again attract those voters. 

Republicans would be wise to consider a female candidate with working class roots and coastal elite appeal. They need a woman who understands — and has even lived in — America’s heartland but was educated in the Ivy League — a woman who speaks both languages and understands both cultures. They need an intellectual who understands science and can speak meaningfully about it to her fellow Americans in plain English. Such a candidate would be comprehensible to the “highly educated elites” of the Democratic Party and may appeal to moderate Democrats. 

Republicans need a woman who endorses Republican ideals without embracing Trumpism. Although Republicans generally voted for President Trump this election, many were not voting for Trumpism. Others repudiated Trumpism altogether by casting a vote for Biden. Trumpism has deepened the divisions in this country and glorified dishonesty, slander, shaming and greed. A woman with old-school virtues such as honesty, integrity, service and courage to do what’s right, could put the country back on track. 

In recent weeks, pundits have offered a host of names that the GOP might consider for 2024, but only three among them are women — United Nations and former South Carolina Gov. Nikki Haley, South Dakota Gov. Kristi L. Noem and Ivanka Trump. Trump literally embodies Trumpism, so she wouldn’t be a wise pick.   

Haley has the potential to be a suitable candidate in 2024. She’s the daughter of immigrants and first female minority governor of South Carolina. Although she once kept her distance from Trump, that’s no longer the case. Her speech at the Republican National Convention in August was replete with the president’s vernacular, referring to Biden as “Joe” and the Democratic Party’s left wing four as “the Squad.” She described the United Nations as a “place where dictators, murderers and thieves denounce America, and then put their hands out and demand that we pay their bills,” She also blamed “communist China” for giving “us the coronavirus.” Her strong defense of the president suggests that she, too, embodies Trumpism.  

What of Noem? Of names put forward, she may be Republicans’ best bet. She has populist appeal, leadership experience as South Dakota’s first female governor and she’s been willing to break with the Trump administration on trade wars. With regard to addressing the pandemic, however, she has embraced the president’s anti-science rhetoric. She has derided masks and touted the health benefits of the now-discredited drug hydroxychloroquine in treating COVID-19. Scoffing in the face of evidence is less likely to resonate with educated voters. 

There’s no question some Republicans won’t favor the idea of a female candidate. But frank misogyny is on the outs. And there’ll be Democrats who hope Biden will pick up a second term. But he is already set to become the oldest president in U.S. history. He might not win that title twice. 

Where does this leave the Republican Party? Needing to do its homework. And they can’t wait — as they did with Sarah Palin — to come up with a candidate in less than 48 hours. Republicans can start now by keeping their eyes open for a few good women and investing in them. Someone, after all, has to be prepared to go head-to-head with Harris in the future. 

L.S. Dugdale is a physician and she is the director of the Center for Clinical Medical Ethics at Columbia University Vagelos College of Physicians & Surgeons and author of The Lost Art of Dying.

Tags 2020 election 2024 election Donald Trump Female President GOP Ivanka Trump Joe Biden Kristi Noem Nikki Haley presidential election Republican women Republican women candidates trumpism vice president-elect women voters

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