It was all there — easygoing populism, an emphasis on jobs and her family, which includes a son with Down syndrome and a Navy veteran husband. It was as if a Republican pollster had created a politician with the exact profile that Republicans are looking to promote as they head toward this year’s midterm elections. Here was a pro-life, never-offensive woman from a Western state who grew up picking apples on a farm; a youthful, 44-year-old evangelical Christian who is known as one of the savvier social-media users in the House, uploading countless photos to Instagram and videos to Vine.
The essence of the speech was soft outreach and balance. “I’d like to share a more hopeful Republican vision,” McMorris Rodgers said.
She criticized the president without going overboard. She talked about repealing the Affordable Care Act, but didn’t use a rhetorical hammer to make the point. On policy, she touched on economic growth and fiscal reform but never dove into the weeds, frustrating some conservative onlookers. She fulfilled the unspoken part of her duties: sound winsome and engaging, but do not make news.
“Too many people are falling further and further behind because, right now, the president’s policies are making people’s lives harder,” McMorris Rodgers said, citing her days as a McDonald’s drive-through employee as evidence of her empathy. “Republicans have plans to close the gap.”
She also said “Republicans believe healthcare choices should be yours, not the government’s”, which sounds great, doesn’t it?
But in public policy terms, the swaggering-woman rhetoric translates into “don’t ask for handouts.” McMorris Rodgers has voted like a standard conservative, for cuts to nearly every social service. She voted against the Lilly Ledbetter Fair Pay Act and in favor of cutting funding for birth control. Last year, she supported a version of the Violence Against Women Act that excluded gay, immigrant, and Native American women, calling them a “side issue.” And her constituents once delivered empty milk bottles to her office to protest her support for cuts in the “WIC” nutritional program. The war on women, Matt Yglesias points out, is not about symbols. It’s about public policy. So if you want something like that done, ask another woman.