Excuse me, but you put my husband’s name on that yard sign

Dear readers,

I wrote this piece before we moved to DC. In fact, I wrote it before we moved to the carriage house. The facts (e.g., our jobs, which book club I belong to) are outdated but the principle still holds. I pitched it to a political commentary magazine at some point but it wasn’t picked up. So now I’m posting it on my own blog because I still like what I have to say, publicity be damned. 🙂

Excuse me, but you put my husband’s name on that yard sign

When cleaning out a closet not long ago, I found a disposable camera that I had never developed. The camera contained photos from rallies and events during the 2008 presidential campaign, to which I, as a political junkie, holder of a political science degree, and someone with the right friends, had many a front-row seat. I took the camera to a well-known big box store and was told they no longer develop film and I would have to take the little disposable to a specialty camera shop on the other side of town.

My party lost key seats in that election and I wasn’t particularly fond of the candidates whose likenesses were stored in the camera, so I pitched it on my way out of the store. In recounting the tale to a casual acquaintance at a wedding that had a disposable camera on each table, she interrupted me to rib, “Ah! ‘The ’08 campaign…’ spoken like a true political wife!”

It’s true, my husband is in politics. But so am I. He works for an individual congressman, doing policy research and having the time of his life. I work for the Republican caucus in the state House of Representatives, managing communications for a dozen lawmakers. He went to school to be a high school history teacher, and stumbled into his current work when the planets aligned one day. I went to school for my political science degree, confident from sixth grade that politics is where I wanted to be; my current job is my dream job.

Earlier that week my husband and I fell into conversation with a fellow dog owner while our pups played at the local dog park. Our new acquaintance asked what we did for a living, and I responded that we’re both in politics; my husband works for a congressman doing policy and event coordination and I work for the state House of Representatives, managing communications for a dozen lawmakers.

“So, are you planning to run for office someday?” asked the fellow dog owner.

Having considered what running would be like, I have a response to that question. But he wasn’t asking me. When I returned from my brief mental victory party, the fellow dog owner was looking at my husband.

The two events reminded me of an email I received over the summer. The night before, my husband and I had been out for drinks with our county GOP leadership. In close proximity to the only woman on the executive board, she and I talked quite a bit. We also overheard one another’s conversations with various supporters. The next day she sent me an email, saying what a nice change it was to meet a normal, intelligent, competent woman in conservative politics.

Having now twice been assumed the supporting actress for my husband’s unintended political career and being praised for the anomaly that I am by another creature of the same breed, I can’t help but wonder what gives? Why are people, and especially those of my own generation, so quick to assume that if our last name is ever on a yard sign, it will be preceded by my husband’s initials?

Maybe the high-profile women currently carrying the conservative torch shoot the credibility of the rest of us in the foot. Reality shows, hair too long for their age, and ill-fitting “Jesus Saves-Go USA” shirts at 4th of July parades have done plenty to damage the reputation of the rest of us before we even arrive at the party (headquarters).

My senior thesis in college explored the question of why we have never had a female president. My conclusion included nods to military experience,  block voters, a good ol’ boys mentality, and the typical pool of candidates from which we choose a president. Since my college days, two Republican women have launched serious campaigns for one of the two highest offices in the land and neither has been elected.

Fine, so there are no female American presidents yet. But how come a girlfriend from my book club is the only woman on our county commission? It’s hardly the presidency, and this constituency is about as red as you’ll find anywhere. When your own people won’t let you in, the vicious cycle continues.

Let’s face it. Liberals love it when conservative pundits open their mouths because whatever comes out gives the liberals something to eat for the rest of the day. It’s the conservatives who wish rhetoric within our own movement would be toned down.

So do I roll my eyes and later vent my frustrations to my husband when people assume I’m not someone to be taken seriously? Do I pity the ignorance and lack of thought behind titles such as “true political wife”?

Maybe conservative women in American politics will go the way of the disposable camera, although even those continue to make appearances at special occasions. I’m too much of a free market conservative to advocate for women-in-office movements; if there aren’t women in office or in leadership, it’s for a reason. That reason could be that the few that sneak in ruin it for the rest of us. It could be that, facing discouraging assumptions at the earliest stages, we don’t have interest in developing further. But I’m pretty sure the fault is within our own party.

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2 thoughts on “Excuse me, but you put my husband’s name on that yard sign

  1. By the way, I was not trying to be argumentative in my previous comment. I just think that because the appeal of politics is strong to you, you might not have spent much time with the reasons that it lacks appeal to others. Would you consider writing a post on why you enjoy politics and think that it’s a worthy pursuit for other conservative young women?

  2. “if there aren’t women in office or in leadership, it’s for a reason.”

    After reading your post, I had a few thoughts to share with you and your readers on the above quote. They are some potential reasons that may not have been on your radar but that I think merit consideration, or argument, or discussion. Here they are:

    1. You posit that changing party rhetoric could inspire or encourage more women to run for office or become more involved in politics. Among the conservative women of any age whom you know, who would be inspired to do more politically if this changed? What are these women doing now? Would they switch gears if the party’s tone changed?

    2. It seems that full-time elected office, of all political pursuits, requires one of the least flexible and most demanding schedules out there. In the party that gives at least lip service to family values, I think you might find that some conservative women – probably those in their 30s and early 40s – would rather be able to get to their kids’ soccer games, school plays and Sunday school pageants – than have to speak at the local FFA dinner or Lincoln Day event. One does see conservative women older than this in politics to a greater degree.

    3. Speaking *very* generally, some women may tend to personalize conflict more than some men may. Thus the stresses and aggravations of the campaign trail and media scrutiny of elected officials may be more than many women care to sign up for. Or they may wish to protect their families and their privacy from this (could-be-perceived-as) intrusion.

    4. Finally, what reason would women have to want to be elected? For some, they may enjoy the political arena and thrive in it. For others, they may wish “to make a difference.” (Funny how that was always what ascendant school officials told me when I asked why they left teaching for higher-paid administrative jobs. I digress.) And yet, you do see many women spending their efforts on individual causes tied to their particular interests or life experiences. The ranks of activists and social leaders are not short of women, especially at a local level. Maybe they feel their energy is better spent there in a more focused way.

    I’m not sure the fault is entirely within the party, aside from the fact that a conservative party is more likely to appeal to women who may be more like what I have described above than more liberal women may be. On the other hand, how many liberal women are in high elected office? How do the parties compare?

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