Barack Obama, as I have argued, needs to spend much of the next few months reaching out to women voters to repair some of the damage from the primary campaign. And now John McCain and his team are cultivating disaffected Hillary supporters. Yesterday, McCain threw a bouquet at Hillary, stating that "she has inspired generations of American women to believe that they can reach the highest office in this nation." I'm verklempt. And McCain advisor Carly Fiorina (former Hewlett-Packard CEO) is joining the fray, defending Hillary against sexism. The McCainiacs are even reaching out to women bloggers, hoping to stoke the anger of die-hard Clintonites who feel that Hillary was unjustly denied her place as the Democratic frontrunner.
It's more likely, however, that McCain will give Obama an assist in bringing Hillary supporters into the Democratic camp. McCain came up in the intensely anti-female culture of the military, ditched his first wife rather unceremoniously, and has, of course, been a member of a party whose more prominent spokeswomen include Phyllis Schlafly. The Republican Party is infused with a boy's club culture of which he is a part, one that tolerated his appalling sexist joke about Chelsea Clinton at a 1998 Republican Senate fundraiser. "Why is Chelsea Clinton so ugly? Because her father is Janet Reno." It's important to remember that the anti-Hillary vitriol that came out in the Democratic primaries has deep roots in the GOP. The woman who called Hillary a bitch at a McCain town meeting in South Carolina was not speaking just for herself. Any sexism that may have emanated from the overzealous, misguided Obama supporters is nothing compared to the decades of anti-woman bile and Hillary hatred that has poisoned the GOP. But even more so than his stupid slurs, McCain has to account for his opposition of legislation to protect of women workers against discrimination and retaliation in the workplace, his belief that the pay gap between men and women is a result of women's own educational deficiencies, and his longstanding opposition to reproductive freedom. Anyone who cares about women's issues can't seriously consider supporting McCain.