Episode 14 – Confessions from a Non-Non-Partisan Show

November 15, 2018

If you google “Most Disrespected Profession”, “politician” appears in virtually every single solitary top ten list (of which there are many.)

Americans are all but hard wired to love to hate their elected officials, and, for good reason. The broken campaign promises, the corruption, gridlock, egos. Research indicates that negative advertising has more than tripled since the 1960s, and account for the majority of the ads featured in most presidential and congressional races.

For all of the wonderful inroads that women have made in these midterms, one that stands out for us at Run Like A Girl is that they have collectively managed to restore a semblance dignity, compassion and principal to the moniker of politician.

So many of the candidates we talked to and witnessed on the campaign trail ran not motivated by ego and ambition, but driven by purpose and cause for a greater good. They ran not to enhance their own lives, but to sacrifice on behalf of ours.

As a little girl growing up, Lucy McBath didn’t have dreams of being a powerful politician. In 2012, her son Jordan was shot to death. Lucy, a self-proclaimed “mother on a mission” is determined to put a stop to the horrific trend of gun violence in our country, and she will now work to do so as member elect of the United States House of Representatives from Georgia’s 6th Congressional district.

This is what democracy looks like. This is how democracy works. This is why democracy is an unparalleled system of government of which we are blessed to be citizens.

Today marks the final show of the season. On behalf of our motley crew at Run Like a Girl, we’d like to thank you for being part of our race through election day.

When we launched our show, just after the Michigan Primaries ~ we made a concerted effort to produce a non-partisan program devoted to promoting women on both sides of the aisle. But after reflecting on this season, even we can see it’s blaringly obvious that we came up short in that wishful pursuit.

In all, we featured a total of 12 democratic candidates compared with a paltry 4 republican candidates. And, as if that’s not imbalanced enough, admittedly, much of our editorial commentary was derived from data from think tanks devoted to women’s rights, which as a rule, tend to lean left as well.

For some, the lack of balanced coverage might be attributed to the fact the three principal players on our podcast team, Donna, Corny and myself, are self-described progressives. But, from where we stand, that would be a false narrative – because at heart, we all emphatically believe that the more women elected the more change will occur, regardless of party affiliation – and that was our mission statement prior to launch:

In the spirit of full transparency, and because we made promises and invited you along for this ride, we feel it’s important to share our beliefs as to why we didn’t fulfill our non-partisan promise– and those reasons are three-fold.

First, out of the gate, the pool of republican candidates from which to choose was significantly smaller than that of their democratic counterparts.
As of Tuesday, 23 women ran for Senate, only 8 were Republicans; 237 women ran for the House, only 52 of which were republicans and of the 16 women running for Governor, only 5 were Republican.

While the media has dubbed 2018 “The Year of the Woman,” it might be more appropo to dub it “The Year of the Democratic Woman.”

The basic causes for these disparities, as we see it, both revolve around President Trump. On the Democratic side, his treatment of women and bragging about sexual assault ignited a fire storm of resistance and righteous indignation that had been festering long before his election. A large number of female democratic candidates and many with whom we spoke, cite his election as the principal catalyst for their run.

And on the Republican side, while many women were equally incensed by Trump’s rhetoric – there have been multiple stories in which viable candidates postponed their jump into the political arena in 2018 for fear that they’d have defend and/or be an apologist for president Trump’s misogyny – thereby damaging their chances for a future run.

The second reason we believe that our nonpartisan aspirations blew-up was not for lack of trying. We made a very concentrated and deliberate effort to book republicans, but their response rate was abysmal.  Martha McSally in Arizona, Katie Arrington in South Carolina, Barbara Comstock of Virginia – all over the country we searched, we called, we emailed, we border-line stalked, but to little avail.

Our theory for this lack of response is that historically, Republicans are significantly less likely to campaign with identity politics. And if they don’t want the fact of being a woman to play a significant role in their campaigns, it would be hard to imagine they would want to contribute to a show called “Run Like A Girl.”

And third and last reason we believe we didn’t fulfill our nonpartisan promise – and this is bound to irk some people off, but Republican women need to learn to tell a better story. After literally hundreds of hours digging into candidates and their campaigns, their policies and their beliefs – we have found that female republican candidates – and the groups devoted to organizing them are, as a rule, not all that adept at telling compelling narratives necessary to set these candidates up for success.

As we were booking guests, our biggest priority was to find women whose stories are rich, compelling, emotional, inspiring. And we found that Democrats had this quality down in spades. The Republicans not so much.

Our theory is that because they have for so long resisted identity politics, Republican women are reluctant or unable to claim any advantage to being a woman among voters. And, we believe based on that reticence to play the “women’s card,” they are leaving the story of their whole selves off the table in order to promote policy and politics in the same way as their male counterparts.

As an example of this phenomenon, go to MaggiesList.org, and read how they position the Re-publican women they are promoting. It’s all about policy, priorities, voting history, but no story. Now, go to EmilysList.org and how they are positioning Democratic candidates… policy, priorities, voting history, and incredibly compelling stories of why they are running, and how their experiences as women have informed their choices.

Our 2018 candidates are mothers, daughters, teachers, healers, they’ve lost children to sense-less gunfire, they’ve endured sexual assault, they’ve overcome breast cancer and bankruptcies – these are the stories being told en masse by Democratic candidates. Not at the expense of policy and position, but in addition to it. These are the narratives that imbue connection and devotion in their constituents.

When women, Republican or Democrat, treat the experience of their gender as nothing of great importance, voters are robbed of some of their most appealing and important attributes.

Again, this is not a blanket referendum on all republican candidates. Many ran brilliant campaigns infused with personal story…

So in closing, and to our Republican sisters and brothers, if you feel slighted that we promised you non-partisan, and we were less than balanced – we owe you a Run Like A Girl Mea Culpa. To Corny’s aunt Laurel and her mother’s best friend Cheryll, we apologize. “To School J” who gave us three stars on Apple Podcast and said that our theme song is a “treacly piece of faux-feminist claptrap,” we apologize. And to “Loraine 36” who also gave us three stars on Apple and said our theme song reminded her of the femininity so often presented in period commercials, “Floaty sounds felt apt for girls running through golden wheat fields with soft voices crooning above, we apologize.” 😊

Governor Elect of Michigan, Gretchen Whitmer joins us.

Also lessons learned from Mallory Hagan, Jeannine Lee Lake, Margaret and Virginia Drye and Morgan Murtaugh!

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