Michelle Quist: Both parties have a Republican women problem

(Francisco Kjolseth | The Salt Lake Tribune) Sen. Deidre Henderson, R-Spanish Fork, makes a few remarks alongside Lt. Gov Spencer Cox, as they hold a press conference at the Utah Capitol on Tuesday, July 7, 2020, following their win in the Republican primary race for Utah governor over former Utah Gov. Jon Huntsman.

Republicans, arguably, elected Joe Biden president. Republican women, to be exact. Never Trumpers. And Black women. And Democrats. But he was always going to get their votes. The tipping point was probably Republican women.

Don’t get me wrong, most Republican women voted for Trump. But the defectors seemed to have swung the election.

And after the pu*@#-grabbing, serial adulterer, accused rapist, misogynist, racist, ableist we’ve had to endure for four years, that ending is rich enough for me.

(The fact that we have another accused rapist in the White House isn’t that great. But at least we’re back to pretending it’s not OK. Men — stop raping women. Thanks.)

I still don’t understand how Utah Republicans supported Trump in the first place. When Bill Clinton got caught philandering with an intern it was literally the only thing we ever heard about again. But Trump’s sexual, financial (taxes anyone?) and ethical improprieties? Silence. Is a means to an end really good enough for Utah Republicans?

It seems that this election was more about a repudiation of Donald Trump than a repudiation of Republican policies. It turns out, character matters. But so does limited government and fiscal responsibility (if only Republicans actually practiced fiscal responsibility).

That’s why Republicans gained seats in the House. And, most likely, kept the Senate.

In fact, the nation had a record number of Republican women win House seats. Of the nine House seats flipped so far, seven were won by women. A record 227 Republican women ran for the House this year, and 94 made it to the general election — another record.

And the Republican women wins were huge. The Washington Post reports, “Michelle Fischbach, a former lieutenant governor, unseated 15-term Rep. Collin C. Peterson (D), the chairman of the House Agriculture Committee. Yvette Herrell, a member of the Cherokee Nation, defeated first-term Democrat Xochitl Torres Small in New Mexico. Cuban American journalist María Elvira Salazar bested Florida Democratic Rep. Donna Shalala, who served as President Bill Clinton’s secretary of health and human services. Stephanie Bice, who will be the first Iranian American to serve in Congress, won the only Democratic-held seat in Oklahoma’s congressional delegation, defeating Rep. Kendra Horn.”

Trump is no Captain Moroni, as Sen. Mike Lee recently claimed at a Trump rally in Arizona. (Captain Moroni is a war hero in The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints' signature scripture, the Book of Mormon.)

Captain Moroni is famous for leading a Nephite army by divine intervention with prayer and humility. One of the Nephites dissented and wanted to be king because he was “seeking for power.” The dissenter led the people with “flatteries” and promised them if they would elect him king, they would be rulers over the people. He led many “dissensions.”

Moroni was angry that this dissenter sought to install himself as king and “destroy the foundation of liberty which God had granted unto them.” Moroni “rent his coat” and made a piece of it into a banner on which he wrote, “In memory of our God, our religion, and freedom, and our peace, our wives, and our children.”

In honor of our God, and our religion, our freedom and our peace, our husbands, and our children, Republican women — all women, really — rent our housecoats and business suits and proclaimed liberty against the tyrant who wanted to install himself as king.

As a result, according to The Atlantic, Democrats now have a Republican women problem. With their defection and votes for Joe Biden, where do Republican women fit now? Will Democrats court them to stay? Will they moderate more extreme positions to keep these votes?

Women didn’t just vote against Trump’s cult personality. Women voted against Trump, as The Atlantic article noted, because of “his antipathy toward the issues that feel most urgent to them,” including affordable health care, a humane immigration system, equality and police brutality, and the mishandling of the coronavirus pandemic.

The message is: Women care, and good policy will win us over.

Maybe 2021 will be Utah’s Year of the Republican women. After all, we have a female in executive office now with the election of Sen. Deidre Henderson as lieutenant governor. Gov.-elect Spencer Cox’s transition team has a large number of female participants as well.

Perhaps there’s hope, if the Legislature can get on board and make female leadership a priority. If lawmakers don’t, they might also have a Republican women problem.

I have cautious optimism.

Michelle Quist

Michelle Quist is a columnist for The Salt Lake Tribune.

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