Simply incredible — those are the only two words that come to mind after learning about a debate stunt perpetrated by the Colorado GOP this past week. It was on Tuesday that three of the four Republican candidates for Colorado Governor (ex-congressman Tom Tancredo abstained) assembled for the “Women and Colorado’s Future” debate, a forum intended to show that Republican’s are not tone deaf to the needs of their female constituents.
On its face, this seems a very smart ploy by the Coloarado GOP. It is no secret that the past few years have been absolutely dreadful for Republican’s nationwide where women’s issues are concerned. Whether you consider the numerous state-level trap laws meant to do an end-run around Roe or the particular failings of a candidate who legitimately believes a woman’s body has the ability to shut down a pregnancy after rape or the poor attempt by a Texas GOP women’s organization that tried to explain away pay disparity by saying women were just too busy with life and stuff to put effort toward getting paid equitably, the GOP has been sticking their foot in it for quite some time. So, the hosting of a gubernatorial debate that focused on the role women would play in Colorado’s future should have been a slam dunk at dispelling the bad blood the GOP has engendered with the fairer sex.
Unfortunately, they had to open their mouths. It all started when the moderator invited the panelists, four women, to join the candidates and himself on stage saying, “It’s so much more ornamental if the four of you would be on the stage with the four of us.” And as those pretty little ornaments made their way to the stage, it went from misogynistic to absolutely demeaning. Someone on the debate committee thought it would be a good idea to play the theme to the TV game show, “The Dating Game” as the panelists made their way to the stage. Yes, that’s right. Women and the issues they bring to the political table rate as important to the GOP as that painfully silly ’70’s game show.
It is likely, though, that this nominated panel found nothing wrong with being viewed as electioneering eye candy. Not one challenged the candidates on their positions for equal pay, the prevention of sexual assault or maternity leave. Instead, they proffered hard hitting questions that dealt with where each candidate stood on drilling for oil, job creation and which women they admired (excluding, of course, their own wives and mothers). In fact, Colorado Christian University faculty member and debate panelist Krista Kafer alluded to the ickier women’s issues like birth control and abortion and other preventative health care measures when she said she resented “being appealed to under the belt.”
While Kafer resents being appealed to under the belt, it is a sure bet that far more women resent being legislated to under the belt. The latest cadre or ultra right wing freaks, both at the state and federal level, have made it their life’s mission to deny women the right of choice and access to responsible and legal healthcare options. Additionally, they seem uninterested in even addressing the pay gap men enjoy over women. It should be noted that in Colorado, women only five years ago made 83 cents on the dollar compared to men. That figure is down 5 points to 78 cents on the dollar now.
It is hard to understand how the GOP remains so completely tone deaf to women and their issues but they completely are. As evidenced this past week, even in what appears their sincerest attempt to smooth over that failing, they can’t help but do it tongue in cheek and with a wink and a nod. Perhaps they’ll one day understand women. But, don’t hold your breath.