Newspaper article St Louis Post-Dispatch (MO)

Gop Tries to Close the Gender Gap

Newspaper article St Louis Post-Dispatch (MO)

Gop Tries to Close the Gender Gap

Article excerpt

Who said you couldn't teach an old party new tricks? This Grand Old Party has been on a steep learning curve since 1992. Remember the two Pats - Robertson and Buchanan - ranting about "radical feminism" all over Houston. The f-word was nowhere to be heard in the quality-controlled convention hall here.

Remember when Marilyn Quayle said that "Most women do not wish to be liberated from their essential natures as women. Most of us love being mothers or wives"? Well, Marilyn was silent this week, and the party hierarchy enforced a public truce in the political mommy wars.

Here and there, you could still find a few signs of the old hate-Hillary-speech. A bumper sticker read, "Life is a Hillary." A snide aside in George Bush's introduction of his first lady described Barbara as a "woman who unquestionably upheld the honor of the White House."

But in prime time, family values were no longer a bludgeon with which to hit working mothers. Republicans tried out a whole new courtship ritual to engage the women who recoiled from them in 1992.

Women constituted only a third of the delegates here. Pro-choice women were a scorned minority of a minority. The delegates were whiter, richer and far righter than the party or public.

But at show time, the Republicans created an affirmative action TV program for women and moderates like Christie Whitman and Kay Bailey Hutchison and Susan Molinari. It was sort of like those model fronts the Russians put on dilapidated villages - a Potemkin convention.

What was real, however, was the Republican recognition that there are no percentage points in attacking "uppity women." Especially when one of them is the candidate's wife.

On Tuesday night, Molinari aimed her keynote address into the gender gap as the Republicans redefine it: "I don't know a mom today who isn't being stretched to her limit trying to hold down a job while trying to hold down the fort, too. And how many times have we said to ourselves, `There just aren't enough hours in the day.' And the truth is, there aren't."

The GOP of 1996 feels our pain. More than that, it wants us to believe that the party has a pain killer.

If the Republicans have their way, the fight for the women's vote this year won't be over roles of women but the role of government. …

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