Another setback for the GOP’s outreach to women

State Rep. Peter Hansen (R-N.H.)
State Rep. Peter Hansen (R-N.H.)
Associated Press

Say hello to state Rep. Peter Hansen, a Republican from New Hampshire.

In an email sent April 1, Hansen, who once came face-to-face with an intruder in his own home, referenced a speech given by another lawmaker, who described how he had been able to retreat without using deadly force in public.

“There were two critical ingredients missing in the illustrious stories purporting to demonstrate the practical side of retreat. Not that retreat may not be possible mind you. What could possibly be missing from those factual tales of successful retreat in VT, Germany, and the bowels of Amsterdam? Why children and vagina’s of course. While the tales relate the actions of a solitary male the outcome cannot relate to similar situations where children and women and mothers are the potential victims,” Hansen wrote, according to messages posted online this week by liberal blogger Susan Bruce.

Well, let’s see, where to start.

First, Hansen now says he’s “embarrassed” by what he wrote, but keep in mind, in the face of criticism, he initially did not back down. He eventually said he was sorry “to those who took offense,” which does not a genuine apology make.

Second, the plural of “vagina” is “vaginas,” not “vagina’s.” If the guy is going to be a misogynist, the least he could do is use appropriate grammar while being crude and disrespectful.

Third, if you think “vagina” is an appropriate synonym for “woman,” perhaps a career in public service isn’t for you.

But let’s also not forget the larger context: the Republican Party is trying to improve its reputation among women and minority voters. Indeed, GOP officials have received lectures from pollsters, explaining, for example, that they should consider rape a “four-letter word.”

Presumably the pollsters didn’t think it was necessary to remind Republican lawmakers not to use refer to women as “vaginas.”

Indeed, it seems incidents like these keep happening. On the one hand, Republican Party leaders say they’re serious about growing their ranks and welcoming voters who’ve been eager to keep the GOP at arm’s length. On the other hand, Republican officials at one level or another have recently used racial slurs in reference to Latinos, made inappropriate remarks about Native Americans, compared Middle Eastern men to monkeys, and now this.

I suspect RNC officials would say the entire party can’t be held responsible every time a Republican lawmaker says something offensive about women or minorities, and that’s not an unreasonable argument.

But the point is, the party already has a tarnished reputation, after years in which the GOP deliberately cultivated a small, old, white, Christian, male-dominated base. All of these incidents, in turn, create a pattern that tells a diverse, forward-thinking nation that Republicans are stuck in a narrow-minded past.