On August 12th, writers Amy Chozik and Trip Gabriel of the New York Times collaborated on an article entitled, Carly Fiorina Emerges as a G.O.P. Weapon Against ‘War on Women’ Charge. In it, they quote Kellyanne Conway, a Republican strategist, as saying, “[Republican] Donors have looked at her as the answer to Hillary.” In a GOP field overrun with misogyny, the perception of Fiorina as Clinton’s conservative foil may partially explain the former’s recent rise in the primary polls.
But calling out the obvious discrimination the former CEO of Hewlett-Packard often experienced at the hands of her male colleagues, hardly makes Fiorina Norma Rae. After Donald Trump’s abysmal references to debate moderator and Fox News commentator Megyn Kelly’s “bleeding” earlier this month, she told Jake Tapper of CNN, “I’ve had lots of men imply that I was unfit for decision-making because maybe I was having my period. So I’ll say it, O.K?”
This narrative is helpful and accessible to the uninspired press and provides an air of undeserved legitimacy to a 2016 Republican campaign notable for its brazen rhetorical assaults on women and brown people. And we thought 2012 was the lowest we could go. Perhaps recognizing that the party is well on its way to alienating a combined majority of voters (again) in a national election, journalists such as Seth McLaughlin of The Washington Times have resorted to sad Jedi mind tricks. He opens a recent piece with this:
For years, a question lingering over the Republican Party has been whether it was ready for a woman to lead the ticket in a presidential election. Now some are wondering whether Carly Fiorina could be the one to punch through the glass ceiling — possibly setting up an all-female race against Democrat Hillary Rodham Clinton.
This fantasy ignores a few inconvenient facts about Fiorina’s anything but feminist record. As part of her stated platform, the failed California Senator opposes a government requirement that would give private sector workers paid leave. This despite the clear fact that the absence of paid leave opportunities disproportionately affects female employees. Fiorina’s position reflects a lack of empathy with the challenges faced by her gender, as well as an ignorance about the way real Americans live. Democratic Senator Kristen Gillibrand of New York was quoted by The Huffington Post as saying:
I think it will overwhelmingly [hurt] her with both male and female Republican voters because overwhelmingly, they all support paid leave…She may just not be aware, she may be in her own world, her own bubble where she can afford child care, she can afford support when she needs it, but her low-wage worker can’t.
Another area of feminist failure for Fiorina? Despite the relatively short 95-year history of female suffrage, she cast ballots in a mere 25 percent of the California elections for which she was an eligible voter. Michael Hiltzik of the Los Angeles Times reprints this explanation from the CURRENT CANDIDATE FOR PRESIDENT: “I felt disconnected from the decisions made in Washington and, to be honest, really didn’t think my vote mattered because I didn’t have a direct line of sight from my vote to a result.” Susan B. Anthony she is not. Nor is she in possession of an iota of self-awareness.
The hypocrisies continue in conservative and unmotivated media efforts to paint Carly Fiorina as a viable alternative to Hillary Clinton’s message of female empowerment: her backward-looking health care policy (Deregulate! Obamacare is destroying us!), opposition to funding for Planned Parenthood. I could go on, but plumbing the depths of Fiorina’s not-feminism starts to get depressing.
She is no more a competitor for the general female vote than Sarah Palin was in 2008. While Fiorina may be less laughably and proudly buffoonish than the former Governor of Alaska, the idea of her as a serious option for women, or voters who care about them, is equally ridiculous.