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Last week, Ted Cruz announced Carly Fiorina as his running mate, which was a masterpiece of cynicism that's going to fail quite spectacularly. Given that a pet rock should be able to beat Trump in any reasonable election, it's kind of amazing to see the Cruz campaign making such poor decisions — and it's surprising that the Republicans rallying around Lucifer incarnate (aka the Zodiac Killer) aren't offering him better campaign advice.
There are a lot of theories as to why the flailing campaign thinks Fiorina can resuscitate it, most obvious of which being that Fiorina is going to appeal to women voters, which is sexist, insulting, obnoxious, and reminiscent of Sarah Palin in 2008. Women are in fact smart people who don't actually vote solely on the basis of a candidate's gender, and the same people who didn't vote for Palin are likely the same people who aren't going to be casting votes for a ticket with Fiorina on it — because those people believe that issues trump gender.
Speaking of trumps, a woman on the ticket does, of course, mean that Donald Trump is going to find it difficult to resist saying something horrifically sexist — so some critics suggest that she's basically the sacrificial lamb, serving as Trump bait. It's a gross but not entirely unreasonable suggestion, predicated on the belief that people who are on the fence about Trump might vote for Cruz if The Orange One says something incredibly horrific about Fiorina, which he will.
Here's the thing, though: People are really underestimating the amount of misogyny on the right — Trump voters obviously don't care about misogyny or they would have stopped voting for him long ago — and they're also pointedly ignoring Fiorina's own misogyny. If adding her to the ticket was a transparent attempt at getting women behind Cruz, the campaign, and the GOP, has made a fatal mistake. Republican women choosing between Trump and Cruz might go for Lucifer incarnate over Trump, but it's honestly kind of a tough call. Trump is a misogynistic poop emoji, but so are Cruz and Fiorina.
Throughout her time as a businesswoman, and as a politician (with multiple failed campaigns to her credit), Fiorina has repeatedly illustrated that she's incredibly misogynistic, and incredibly had for women. In a Cruz vs Hillary faceoff in November, which isn't going to happen, having Fiorina on the Republican ticket isn't going to siphon off Clinton voters.
Fiorina has repeatedly claimed that her candidacy makes it impossible to play the "gender card," forcing "identity politics" out of the race and requiring Clinton engage with the actual issues. Notably, that's... what Clinton was already doing, and it's Fiorina who keeps bringing up gender, much like her male counterparts. Repeatedly attacking Clinton because she's a woman is misogynist, and refusing to discuss the issues that Clinton is engaging with in lieu of making snide comments about the "woman card" is also misogynist.
One of her core arguments is that as a female candidate, she can magically make the "war on women" rhetoric from the left disappear. That's not actually how it works, because this issue isn't about the gender of the candidates, but the actual social and institutional policies that are harming women.
These policies are implemented, supported, and propped up by people of all genders, including women — they are rooted in deep conservatism, often Christian conservatism specifically, and women are just as capable of hurting women as other people are.
Speaking of which...
Carly Fiorina's life story, which she likes to trot out on the regular, is a classic bootstrapping narrative. She went from working as a secretary to being the CEO of a major corporation, which is an undeniably huge achievement for a woman in the United States. She also, of course, enjoyed considerable advantages along the way. She was white, she had a husband who supported her career, and while she has two stepchildren, her husband took a very active role in raising them, freeing her to focus on her professional development in a climate where women are repeatedly told that they cannot have it all (Fiorina opposes paid maternity leave, incidentally, because what's good for the goose evidently isn't good for the gander).
While it's important to recognize Fiorina's accomplishments, it's equally important to discuss the fact that she faced fewer obstacles than many other women.
That bootstrapping narrative and her own conservatism underlie many of her stances on social issues, starting with fair pay, which, yes, she opposes. While she admits that a gendered pay gap exists in the United States, she blames it on liberalism, believes that women have sufficient legal protections, doesn't acknowledge the racialized nature of the pay gap, and opposes minimum wage increases, which would improve quality of life for millions of women. Pay is a pretty fundamental issue for women in the United States, because poverty is a factor that prevents people from advancing their lives — it's worth noting that Fiorina comes from a rather privileged background.
She also opposed the Affordable Care Act and has regressive attitudes about access to health care in general, especially when it comes to reproductive health services. Like many conservative women, she doesn't support access to contraceptives, and she's extremely anti-choice, identifying herself as "pro-life" and supporting restrictions on access to abortion. She even gangpressed unsuspecting children into serving as pawns for an anti-choice speech, in a particularly galling move.
Limiting access to any kind of health services hurts women, and hitting reproductive health care is a particularly low blow — certainly no Clinton supporter is likely to switch allegiances for a woman who thinks abortions over 20 weeks should be banned.
Moreover, she's actively supported the sustained attacks on Planned Parenthood. She participated in the rhetoric surrounding the Planned Parenthood videos last year, taking pleasure in leveraging them for the anti-abortion cause. Additionally, Fiorina has outright lied about Clinton's stances on abortion, making lurid and suggestive remarks that amount to calling her a babykiller.
Fiorina is quite conservative, which makes her appealing to a very right-trending Republican party, but ultimately, people need to make their own decisions about how they want to vote. Female Trump supporters certainly aren't going to magically switch allegiances, enticed from the fold by Fiorina. If anything, they're going to recognize the move as a cynical ploy to attract their votes, and it's going to repel them. Just as Trump likes to spew rhetoric about the "woman card," so too will they reject a Cruz/Fiorina ticket in the primaries.
Liberals of all genders with concerns about social issues, including her misogynistic policy positions, aren't going to vote for her — in a general election, pretty much any Democrat is going to capture the majority of the liberal vote in the United States, and Fiorina on the Republican ticket isn't likely to woo voters away. If Cruz is hoping to package himself as more electable in the general by having a woman on the ticket, he just made a grave mistake.
Photo: Gage Skidmore/Creative Commons