This article was originally written for the Indianapolis Business Journal where Megan is a monthly columnist for Forefront.
August 13, 2016
A dark cloud has descended upon the Republican Party—and for once I’m actually not talking about Donald Trump.
It has been a tough year for Hoosier Republican women. In the last six months alone, we have had three major setbacks for women in the Indiana Republican Party.
First, we all watched in dismay as a universally respected woman was essentially shown the door by Gov. Mike Pence when Lt. Gov. Sue Ellspermann left the ticket. In a bizarre series of events, Pence essentially said Ellspermann was so wonderful and extremely qualified that she needed to leave the ticket to go run Ivy Tech Community College.
While Ellspermann is a great fit for Ivy Tech and has far too much class to ever speak negatively about the situation, it was more than a little awkward that this decision forced her to leave the current position of lieutenant governor before the Ivy Tech board was ready to give her the new job. She was left twisting in the wind while the board was deliberating and the governor was holding press conferences with her replacement.
Next, over the loud objections of pro-life Republican female legislators, the Legislature passed one of the most restrictive abortion bills in the country. The bill, which is likely to be found unconstitutional and has been stayed by a federal judge, restricts the reasons a woman can have an abortion and requires the burial or cremation of miscarried or aborted fetuses.
The language was added by the Senate, then the House used a procedural rule to bypass any debate until the vote for final passage of the bill. Republican women decried the extreme nature of the bill, unconventional process, and lack of research and testimony. They were ignored. Even one of their male colleagues, Rep. Sean Eberhart, stood with them, saying, “Today is a perfect example of a bunch of middle-aged guys sitting in this room making decisions about what we think is best for women.” He, too, was ignored. The bill passed, the governor signed it, and the infamous “Periods for Pence” movement was born.
The final blow came this month, when Rep. Susan Brooks was passed over in a hasty campaign to nominate the new Republican candidate for governor. This is not meant to take anything away from the Republican gubernatorial nominee, Lt. Gov. Eric Holcomb. Yet, the fact remains that Brooks had a heftier resume and stronger fundraising ability, and presented the best narrative to defeat John Gregg. Despite all this, the wagons were circled and here we are, in the not-so-groundbreaking position of having a man at the top of the ticket.
As a party, we are going to have to get serious about promoting and actually listening to women. Yes, we have Republican women’s organizations, but their memberships weren’t mobilized in this case and have taken a pass on other recent formidable women candidates.
In addition to missing the opportunity to elect the first female governor from either party in Indiana, we have had two outstanding female Republican lieutenant governors who weren’t promoted to lead the ticket.
Not only must Hoosier Republican women break through the glass ceiling, they must also escape a seemingly soundproof box.
It is long past time for Republican women to stand up, demand to be heard, support one another, and work toward having 50 percent of the influence in our party.•
Robertson is the executive director of Enterprise Republicans and runs her own consulting firm, Frontrunner Strategies.