Post Politics: New GOP is a she

Sunday, December 27, 2009 at 11:45pm
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Rep. Marsha Blackburn

Beyond a steady rightward shift and an increasingly reactionary rhetoric, conservative leadership is taking on another characteristic — it’s becoming more female. Both nationally and in Tennessee, the most beloved and vocal conservative leaders these days seem to be women.

Exhibit A is the 2008 presidential campaign and the continued popularity of Sarah Palin.

In Tennessee, conservative women are not just minor leaders or lawmakers; they’re powerful and prominent ones — and looking to become more so.

Next year in Tennessee may see not only Marsha Blackburn returning to her 7th District seat in Congress but also former state GOP head Robin Smith winning office in the 3rd and state Sen. Diane Black (or Lou Ann Zelenik) winning election in the 6th. That’s a possibility of three — and the strong likelihood of at least two — strong conservative women among the state’s nine-member congressional delegation.

That’s to say nothing of state legislators such as Sen. Mae Beavers, Rep. Susan Lynn, Rep. Debra Maggart and Rep. Donna Rowland — all very conservative and outspoken. Women, in fact, represent a sizable percentage of attendees at the myriad tea party protests held around the state.

Blackburn herself recently observed the phenomenon. “The amazing thing to me about the tea parties is, when you look out across the crowd, the crowd is predominantly female. ... It’s amazing, the number of women attending these events, and women are speaking out as never before. ... They are looking at what’s happening with the cost of health care, they are truly concerned about the strong arm of government reaching into their lives and into their pocketbooks.’’

So what gave rise to this modern matriarchal Right? What does it say when a movement that has historically stood for keeping females in traditional “women’s” roles now celebrates women who cast traditionalism aside to assume leadership?

Conservatives who claim their party is devoid of racism still must concede that their movement opposed the majority of the 1960s civil rights agenda. And modern female conservative leaders must admit that the movement they serve once sought to keep them in the shadows.

But it’s not merely a cultural shift that has brought conservative women to the fore. This influx in female leadership is not an accident of history. These women have been pushed into these roles.

Not reluctantly, mind you. To a man, er, to a woman, these new leaders are independent-minded and authentically ambitious. They are not puppets in any sense of the word.

But just because there are no strings doesn’t mean they aren’t being used. This is more than simply a slow and natural capitulation to the broader culture’s norms.

Whether it’s state Sen. Mae Beavers on the Tennessee Firearm Freedom Act, Rep. Susan Lynn spearheading the effort for a state sovereignty resolution or Rep. Marsha Blackburn taking on Al Gore in congressional hearings, the more confrontational political work is increasingly being left to women. These days, if you’re talking about an unapologetic, unequivocating public conservative, there’s a good chance you’re talking about a woman.

Politically, maybe this trend is good for the GOP, which has long been perceived as the party of white men. Putting too many people of color out front when there are so few in the party looks a bit too on the nose. But white women straddle a middle ground that can serve the movement well. They soften the image of the GOP without smacking of obvious tokenism.

But if the current political culture requires conservatives to leave the dirty work to women, haven’t they lost already? Women should seek political leadership, but if their promotion is simply a cover for timid men peddling a timid ideology, is that really progress — for the movement or the women?

Women need to be embraced as leaders — but not out of fear or necessity. It should happen the right way, or else the Right will merely be seen as a bunch of weak-willed reactionary little boys sending their women out to do their fighting for them.

Kleinheider is’s political blogger. Visit him at

40 Comments on this post:

By: frodo on 12/28/09 at 7:36

Lame. Really lame. Kleinheider lives (or at least writes) in an alternate reality.

By: that_danryan on 12/28/09 at 7:49

Considering all the great things that women like Congressman Blackburn and other leaders such as Diane Black bring I am a little surprised that you found this "speck" to write on and not the real value that they bring.

Just a few years ago the Left was deriding the GOP for having too few women in leadership. These women, and many more like them, are solid and complete leaders and they are not just the bearers of bad news for the party.

You can do better than this I hope....

Dan Ryan
Franklin, TN

By: yogiman on 12/28/09 at 8:09

Consider.., women began taking over the work force during WWII when the men were called off to war. After the men began coming home, they didn't want to quit work and go home to keep house and raise the kids. They have since taken over our whole darn nation.

Just wait! 2012 will finally put one of them in the White House.

By: idgaf on 12/28/09 at 9:50

Its about time the woman decided to clean up the government :).

By: Cookie47 on 12/28/09 at 10:16

Kleinheider wrote: "Conservatives who claim their party is devoid of racism still must concede that their movement opposed the majority of the 1960s civil rights agenda."

Obviously Kleinheider doesn't know it was men like Al Gore, Sr. that opposed the Civil Rights Bill. This racist bigot voted against it but yet his con man son once said his father was for civil rights. Yet another lie from Algore's lips. Oh, by the way, both these men were Democrats.

Kleinheider also wrote: "And modern female conservative leaders must admit that the movement they serve once sought to keep them in the shadows."

What Kleinheider must admit is the party he so blindly serves wants nothing more than to keep minorities under their thumbs and will lie about their past, present and future to make it happen. Yes, they nominated and elected a black man. But he's so inexperienced and inepted at doing his job that he's running this country into the ground. No, this has nothing to do with him being black. He could be blue for all I care. He's a socialist as I would suspect so is Kleinheider.

At least Conservatives have evolved and realized it doesn't matter what gender or color you are that makes you a great leader. At least the Conservatives can tout leaders like Sarah Palin and Marsha Blackburn.

Lets see, who do the Democrats have? Oh, yeah. The Democrats have women like Nancy Pelosi, the poster child for birth control, either by killing unborn babies or having her picture on your nightstand. God, that woman is UGLY!!!

Damn, that makes me even more proud to say "I'm a Conservative."


By: Kosh III on 12/28/09 at 10:55

GOP women are just catching up to the Democrats who have had prominent women in office for years.
The first female VP candidate was Democratic: Geraldine Ferraro in 1984. She was chosen as much for the novelty effect as anything else, but so was Palin, only 24 years later.
Last year Hillary almost won the nomination. No Republican woman has come close. Certainly in the 60s Margaret Chase Smith ran for President on the GOP side, but she got little support and she was part of the now-purged moderate/liberal wing of the party.
The first female Governors were Democrats: Lurleen Wallace in the 60s, Ella Grasso and Dixie Ray Lee in the 70s. Wives appointed to fill husband's vacancy do not count.

Only the fact that the GOP is playing catch-up makes this story significant.

By: Kosh III on 12/28/09 at 11:00

So being ugly is a factor? Talk about shallow.

You also ignore the fact that the majority of Republicans voted against Civil Rights. A simple review of history shows this. 1964 GOP Presidential nominee Goldwater voted against it. Yes, some Republicans voted in favor: the liberal and moderate GOP of the North such as Brooke of Mass. who was black.

The only Democrats to vote against were Southern (dixiecrat) politicians, many of whom then switched to the GOP. Our own Congressman, the liberal Richard Fulton voted FOR and got voted out of office because of it.

By: Cookie47 on 12/28/09 at 11:03


Yes, it's unfortunate the GOP is just now catching up. But, what do think of what Nancy Pelosi has done to the Democrat Party?

At least the GOP is catching up in a big way with Palin and especially Blackburn. I like her more than Palin.


By: Anna3 on 12/28/09 at 11:05

ACK... The Dems were the party that tried to preserve slavery...and yet, the vast majority of African Americans blindly vote for any "D" in an election. So....a party's historical shifts from a position once held do not seem to be penalized by the electorate. This seems to be a controversy only in the mind of ACK. No one cares about this stuff...only what each party stands for today....this is why Barak Hussein Obama's (Mmmm Mmmm Mmmm) leadership will get his party killed in next years elections here in TN.

By: Cookie47 on 12/28/09 at 11:44

No, Kosh, being ugly is not a factor. If it was, I'd never vote. It was an attempt at humor. One you obviously didn't like and may have a been a poor attempt at at best. I'll admit that. But you have to admit Pelosi isn't very easy to look at. Poor humor aside, having her as well as Harry Reid as the "face" of the Democrat Party has only hurt them. These two come off as arrogant and power-hungry at all cost. I know. I know. That's not exclusive to Democrats.

As for the Civil Rights Act, it was something that ALL of congress should have voted FOR. We've verbally sparred enough that I think we both agree a person should be judged by the content of their character rather than their skin color (or how ugly they are).

My point was at least the Conservatives are evolving. We're bringing in all people but not because of their gender or skin color but because they have good ideas. And Conservatives would much rather give a person a hand up rather than a hand out.

The Democrats don't want to help those who they call the lower class. I take that back. The everyday Democrat might and probably does. But the ones in Washington only want to tax the hell out of the upper- and mid-level wage earners so they can throw more and more money at who they see as their base - low-income wage earners. It's the "we'll make them feel sorry for themselves, blame it on the other side, then promise them the world" philosophy. Unfortunately, these people tend to be minorities. Also, unfortunately, both sides have been guilty of this in the past.

I'll admit the Republicans haven't been much better in the past several years. What this country needs, in my opinion, are leaders who will bring all AMERICANS together, no matter what they look like (even the ugly ones, hopefully), for the betterment of the country as a whole. They need to get government out of our pockets and off our backs. Until that happens, this country will keep going in the same direction it's heading now - downhill.


By: Kosh III on 12/28/09 at 11:52

"ACK... The Dems were the party that tried to preserve slavery...and yet, the vast majority of African Americans blindly vote for any "D" in an election."

NO NO NO. Only a minority of Democrats, those from the South opposed Civil Rights. The push for Civil Rights came from the Democrats: Eleanor Roosevelt, Truman, Humphrey, Kennedy(all of them) and they were far more numerous.
Not ONCE did the GOP ever have Civil Rights on their party platform in the post-FDR era, though some liberal northern Republicans voted in favor.

By: rldavenport@com... on 12/28/09 at 12:00

Kosh and his buddies continue to ignore the facts about the civil rights legislation of the '60s. It wouldn't have passed without a large contingent of Republicans voting for it. And this argument about "many" Southern "dixiecrat" politicians switching to the GOP is pure hogwash and always has been. You conveniently sweep Al Gore, Sr., Robert "Sheets" Byrd, etc. under the rug when you talk about civil rights history.

Your hypocrisy is also illuminated when you and your friends continue to slander black Republicans and conservatives who are elected to political office when they fight for less government intervention, fiscal responsibility (which is not a Democrat party priority, I don't care what any of you Dems say), lower taxes, economic prosperity for all, a strong defense, etc. Open your eyes to the blatant hypocrisy of your own party, sir.

By: DustyU on 12/28/09 at 12:28

Politics as usual. Kleinheider is typical of almost all political reporters who slant their stories to reflect their bias and ignore the truth.
As a life-long conservative and I like to think a friend of the late RR, I consider Palin and Limbaugh to be the biggest threats to the future of the Republican Party.


By: pswindle on 12/28/09 at 12:29

To open the paper this morning and see that Blackburn and Black are the new faces of the GOP. God help us all. Have you heard Blackburn talk? She is the airhead from hell. She has nothing to offer to anyone, and Diane Black, good gosh!

By: AmyLiorate on 12/28/09 at 12:57

I care more about how she votes on the real issues a lot more than how eloquently she is at giving speeches.

As long as her talks relay the message about their ideas then I don't care if the candidate stutters, is ugly, or can't dress themselves. What I care about is how they represent me.

By: pswindle on 12/28/09 at 1:01

She represents herself, and so does Black.

By: wizardpc on 12/28/09 at 1:50


House of Representatives:
Democrats for: 152
Democrats against: 96
Republicans for: 138
Republicans against: 34

Democrats for: 46
Democrats against: 21
Republicans for: 27
Republicans against: 6

So it's improper to say "A majority of [insert party here] was against the Civil Rights Act."

It is proper to say that more Democrats than Republicans opposed it.

By: Kosh III on 12/28/09 at 1:52

'Your hypocrisy is also illuminated when you and your friends continue to slander black Republicans and conservatives who are elected to political office when they fight for less"

Like who? 40 Senators. How many are black?
Governors? Representatives?
Name them please, enlighten me.

By: wizardpc on 12/28/09 at 1:52


By: Kosh III on 12/28/09 at 1:55

I never said GOP didn't vote for it, in fact I said that some northern liberal Republicans did in fact do so.

And out of the 21 Southern Democratic Senators, only 1 voted in favor.

By: rldavenport@com... on 12/28/09 at 6:37

You're still evading the statistics noted by wizardpc above about the civil rights legislation votes in the '60s.

By: idgaf on 12/28/09 at 11:42

dems get ready to take a whooping next year after what you and barry did to this country and still trying to do to this country.

If you hate it so much move.

By: oldrip57 on 12/29/09 at 8:57

"...Conservatives who claim their party is devoid of racism still must concede that their movement opposed the majority of the 1960s civil rights agenda..."

Well, no. A larger percentage of Republicans than Democrats in Congress voted FOR both the 1964 Civil Rights Act and the 1965 Voting Rights Act. You can, of course, look it up -- but that would ruin a good talking point, wouldn't it?
The chief offshoot -- which, in fact, is directly contrary to the actual language of the law -- of the civil rights legislation opposed by many Republicans was what became 'affirmative action', which put them on the same side as the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr., who called for its 'color-blind' implementation, at the time.

By: pswindle on 12/29/09 at 2:01

You sure have a short memory. Have you forgotten the damage that Bush and Cheney did to our country and the world? President Obama has one hell of a mess to clean up. Don't count your chickens too early. you may be surprised? When one steals an election, like Bush did, there is only one way to go, and that is down. Oh, I forgot to add stupid and dumb, as in Bush. But what would you expect when one graduates almost at the bottom of his class, and lies about his service record. There is no hope for TN right now. You just wait until, the gov, and the GOP has the majority in each chamber, the truth will come out and the people of TN will suffer, like it has never suffered before.

By: moonrage on 12/29/09 at 2:11

Great article but I'm afraid the supposed novelty and contradiction of strong Republican women can only be sustained by incorrect historical assumptions. I agree with your overarching observation of the dramatic shifts within the Republican Party today. But this shift seems more appropriately understandable as a return to traditional Republicanism than a departure from it in light of actual history. How far back in history is the basis for your assertion that the Republican Party "historically stood for keeping females in traditional “women’s” roles" since the Republican Party is historically the party of women's suffrage? After all, the party's anti-slavery platform was the inspiration for Susan B. Anthony and Elizabeth Cady Stanton's women's suffrage movement and many of the same people involved in the abolition
movement were also involved in women's suffrage.

The 19th Amendment, also known as the Susan B. Anthony Amendment, was introduced by California Republican Senator A.A. Sargent at the personal request of Anthony herself and defeated 4 times by a Democrat-controlled Senate and only finally passed the House and the Senate in 1919 when the Republicans regained control of Congress. Additionally, 26 of the 36 states that ratified the Amendment had Republican legislatures and only 10 Democratic while 8 of the 9 states that rejected the amendment were Democratic. More importantly, all the 12 states that had already recognized women's right to vote prior to the federal amendment were Republican States. Even the National Woman's Republican Association was established in 1888, 24 years ahead of the establishment of the Women's National Democratic League in 1912.

For whatever else the Republican Party did, it did not "historically stood for keeping females in traditional roles". And for however great the Democratic Party may have been, it certainly historically denied women the right to vote.

Here's a compendium of some of the relevant news stories between 1919 and 1920 for some additional context -

By: Cookie47 on 12/29/09 at 3:49


Read and follow these instructions carefully ...
1. Take a deep breath

2. Let it go.

The 2000 election was over 9 years ago. Let it go. Come on, now, stop drinking the Obama kool-aide and remember, slow, easy, deep breaths.

Why is it when liberals have nothing else to bring to the table they want to blame everything on Bush and/or Cheney then call Bush "stupid and dumb"? If that's the best you can do, why bother posting? At least these men kept this country safe for eight years.

For the love of God, pswindle, you need to once and for all get past an election that happened so long ago. Please focus and lets look forward to the time when we not only have a Republican TN governor and legislature but a Republican-majority in the U.S. Congress as well. Won't that be GREAT!!!


By: moonrage on 12/29/09 at 4:09

Civil Rights Act of 1964 Vote Count:

House of Representatives:
--------------------YES -- NO -- TOTAL -- YES% -- NO%
Democrats-----152 -- 96 ---- 248 ------- 61% --- 39%
Republicans---138 -- 34 ---- 172 ------- 80% --- 20%

Senate :
--------------------YES -- NO -- TOTAL -- YES% -- NO%
Democrats------ 46 -- 21 ------ 67 ------- 69% --- 31%
Republicans---- 27 --- 6 ------- 33 ------- 82% --- 18%

Other important historical facts:
*Chief Justice Earl Warren, a Republican appointee, ended racial segregation in schools in 1954 Brown v Board of Education
*Constitutional Amendments passed by Republicans against Democratic oppositon :
13th amendment ending slavery
14th amendment granting citizenship to blacks
15th amendment giving blacks the right to vote
*Civil Rights Acts of 1860, 1867 and Reconstruction Act of 1867
*Nathan Bedford Forrest (D), first grand wizard of the KKK

Historically the Democratic Party is the party of slavery and anti-civil rights.

By: pswindle on 12/29/09 at 4:46

Who was president on 9-11? Kept us safe for eight years! What planet are you on.
If the 2000 election had not been stolen, our counry would not be in this mess. Period!!!!!!!!!!

By: Cookie47 on 12/29/09 at 5:36


For eight years, Clinton did nothing but shoot cruise missiles at people that were gone by the time they got there. He was offered Bin Laden on a silver platter by Saudi Arabia but wouldn't take him because he didn't know what to do with him. He treated the attacks on the World Trade Center (1993), the USS Cole, and our embassies as police actions rather than acts of war.

If Clinton had taken Bin Laden, maybe, just maybe, the attacks on New York, Washington, and Pennsylvania on September 11th could have been stopped.

9/11 happened 7-1/2 months into Bush's administration and you want to ONCE AGAIN blame him when Clinton did NOTHING to stop al Quada. You want to blame Bush for everything. That's your answer to all you see wrong with this world because you're too blind to see your side has done NOTHING, ABSOLUTELY NOTHING, to keep this country safe.

As for the 2000 election being supposedly stolen, you've lost your mind. Yes, Gore won the popular vote but he didn't win the electoral college which is what he had to have to win the election. Hell, that Jackass Gore couldn't even carry his own home state for the love of God. You're so hung up on an election that happened 9 years ago and drinking the Obama kool-aide you can't even have a coherent thought about the present. GET OVER IT!!!

Thanks God, Gore didn't win!!! That moron is nothing by an over-the-edge con-man that can't find his own ass with both hands. If he'd been president, there would have been no response at all. Al Quada, the Taliban, and Bin Laden would have gone unpunished but flaming liberals like yourself would probably have like that.

If all you can bring to this discussion is your hurt feelings over the 2000 election and blaming Bush for everything, I say get some help and get yourself mentally to the present. Once you do that, come on back to the grownup's table and have an adult conversation about what's in the here and now.


By: pswindle on 12/29/09 at 8:02

You deserve what Bush did to the country. You have no idea what VP Gore has done for the state of TN. Go look it up. If you read about it, it might sink in. Get educated. Some people have such hatred that they believe every lie that comes around. What about the lies of Bush/Cheney. They wanted to declare a military state. We would have lived under a dicatorship.

By: idgaf on 12/29/09 at 8:44

I know barry is destroying this country and is surrounded by radicals, socialists and incompetants.

By: Cookie47 on 12/29/09 at 9:06


You're still living in the past there, Pud. Things happen in government all the time that's best we just don't know about. I'm good with that. What I do know is, if Gore were in office during 9/11, we'd be far more screwed than we are even now. It's well known Democrats are weak on defense (ie, Carter and our present Obamanation). I couldn't care less what Gore did for TN. Obviously not much or he would have carried the state in 2000. Now he's nothing more than a common con man.

And your comment about Bush wanting to declare a military state. Really? Come on!!! Are you really that in the tank for the Democrats? I'm sorry but I have to ask. Are REALLY that fricking STUPID?!?!? Jesus Christ, pswindle, come back toward the light. Take someone's hand. We'll try to save you!!!!. . . .Oh, wait, that would be one less liberal. . . .Never mind!!!


By: pswindle on 12/29/09 at 11:03

You can't change stupid!!!!!!!!!

By: Cookie47 on 12/30/09 at 6:56

In your case, you're correct. That NObama Liberal Brand Kool-Aide has made you extremely stupid. Unfortunately, you probably weren't too far from it to begin with. Throw that in with a large dose of gullible and there was and is no hope for you at all.


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