To Comfort The Afflicted
And Afflict The Comfortable

To Comfort The Afflicted And Afflict The Comfortable

Thursday, January 28, 2021


It isn’t About Sensitivity



Susan EstrichHow do you run against a woman candidate?

It’s a question I’ve been asked since 1984, when I worked for Geraldine Ferraro.

In those days, it wasn’t uncommon to see men who were running against women making subtle [and not so subtle] appeals to toughness, using national security and crime issues as a way to raise questions about whether their female opponents had what it takes.

Maybe that’s why my favorite ad from 2008 was Hillary Clinton’s red phone ad. Twenty years ago, that was precisely the kind of ad you’d run against a woman. In the 21st Century, it was a very strong and tough woman who ran the ad. Times have changed – at least on the Democratic side.

Not so, it appears, for Republicans, who are getting special “training” so as to be “sensitive” when running against women or seeking their votes.

House Speaker John Boehner, responding to reports that the Republican Party is now giving “sensitivity training” to male candidates, explained this week that Republican men in Congress “aren’t as sensitive as they ought to be” when running against women.

“We’re trying to get them to be a little more sensitive,” Boehner told reporters. “You look around the Congress, there are a lot more females in the Democratic caucus than there are in the Republican caucus. And some of our members just aren’t as sensitive as they ought to be.”

This is how not to run against women, and how not to win the votes of women. Do what Boehner is doing. Insult them by suggesting that it isn’t policy that matters, but sensitivity.

This is why the Republican Party runs the risk of becoming a party of angry white males at a time when there aren’t enough angry white males to win a majority.

The way to run against women is the same way that you run against men: by focusing on qualifications, experience and policy.

Imagine holding sensitivity training sessions to teach candidates how to run against men. It’s laughable – or worse, insulting. Why should women be different?

What got Republicans into trouble in the 2012 elections was not insensitivity, but stupidity. The two most notorious examples were Rep. Todd Akin of Missouri, done in by comments about “legitimate rape,” and Indiana State Treasurer Richard Mourdock, who said that “even when life begins in that horrible situation of rape, it is something that God intended to happen.” Akin lost to a woman; Mourdock, to a man. In both cases, their problems went far beyond sensitivity.

The same is true in addressing women voters. The fact that women are somewhat more likely to support Democrats than Republicans has absolutely nothing to do with sensitivity and everything to do with policy. The gender gap is grounded in issues: the economy [where women tend to earn less], education [where women tend to care more and are more likely to be the primary or sole parent] and health care [ditto].

Sure, there are many women who are pro-gun and anti-choice, but there are even more who support reasonable restrictions on gun sales and who believe that they – not the government – should decide whether and when to have children.

“A little bit more sensitive”? Americans, men and women, are disgusted with Boehner’s Congress for reasons having absolutely nothing to do with sensitivity and everything to do with his failure, and that of his members, to act like grownups, to put people’s needs ahead of partisan gamesmanship, to address problems rather than just rant and rave. Shutting down the government in protest over ObamaCare – after we had an election in which ObamaCare was front and center and the Republicans lost – isn’t an issue for sensitivity training.

You don’t win votes by patronizing voters, and you don’t run against women candidates by focusing on their gender rather than their positions.

How dumb does Boehner think women are?

Susan Estrich’s columns appear regularly in The Oklahoma Observer



  1. You are always going to have those men out there, that think all women have no right to run for office. Because they always think “women don’t work as hard as we do.” “They don’t know what they are doing.” Well guess what men, we do know what we are doing and if we don’t I am positive we can all learn how to do it. I believe we can do a lot of your jobs either equal or better as you. Yes, I believe alot of men out there need to learn to respect women.

  2. Sensitivity training really, why don’t we try some common sense training in congress? Only in congress, are you able to not do your work, cause the entire nation to be shutdown, and thousand of people are furloughed with out their pay, all while you still get your outrageous check; all because a group of old men cant get along. Can a woman do the job in congress, damn start we can. So we don’t have the same physicality of a man, at least we have the common sense that we are born with; unlike Rep. Todd Akin of Missouri with comments like “ legitimate rape”. For the record rape is defined by Webster to mean: to force (someone) to have sex with you by using violence or the threat of violence. There is nothing legitimate about rape. The reason they are having such a hard time of not just getting the vote of the women, but of the men too; is because they have either forgotten or have no clue what it is like to have to live paycheck to paycheck like a normal person in this country. I bet, that none of them would even now how to change a light bulb if they had to. Personally, I believe in the theory behind ObamaCare is a good concept, however the product that has been produced is not, and needs to go back to the drawing board. To point out that a female candidate is just that a woman is just plain pathetic. Having the honor to represent the people of this great country doesn’t matter if you are male or female, white or black, old or young. What does matter is whether or not you can do the job and whether or not you have the best interest of the people that voted into office at hand. I am a women and vote for the candidate that is best suited for the job, and if that is not the one that has been there for the last 20 years then they need to get out of the way so someone can do it do the job, and just maybe do it right.

Arnold Hamilton
Arnold Hamilton
Arnold Hamilton became editor of The Observer in September 2006. Previously, he served nearly two decades as the Dallas Morning News’ Oklahoma Bureau chief. He also covered government and politics for the San Jose Mercury News, the Dallas Times Herald, the Tulsa Tribune and the Oklahoma Journal.