During the long battle for the Democratic presidential nomination in 2007-08, a popular conservative radio host—a thrice-divorced male—opined that Hillary Clinton reminded men of their ex-wives. It was not a compliment.
Fast forward to 2011-12 and the Republican race for the same nomination.
When women see and hear Newt Gingrich, of whom are we reminded?
- How about the ex-husband who traded you in at middle age for a newer model young enough to be his daughter?
- How about the ex-husband who cheated on you with other women during your marriage and, in the end, ditched you to advance his career?
- How about the ex-husband with whom you shared marriage vows, bed, and years together, but who petitioned to have his newfound religion “annul” his marriage to you, as though you had never even been his wife?
- How about the ex-husband who, despite all this and much more, is today riding high in polls of vacillating Republicans, wavering Evangelicals, and erratic Tea Partiers for the GOP’s nomination to the highest elective office in the nation?
What’s a woman to think? What’s a discarded wife to believe about the ethical moorings of these brand-new Gingrich fans? What are women voters to conclude about the authenticity and moral fiber of Republicans who vehemently “defend” marriage legislatively but are promoting a repeat adulterer to head the GOP ticket in 2012?
Recently Dr. Richard Land, President of the Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission of the Southern Baptist Convention, appeared on Laura Ingraham’s radio show to talk about Newt Gingrich. Dr. Land reported that Evangelical men often support Newt under the theological auspices of his professed “repentance” for his past adulteries. However, Evangelical women are not willing to fall in line. In taking the measure of Newt’s character, Evangelical women cannot get beyond his history of marital infidelities. Virtually all the Evangelical women to whom Dr. Land had spoken said they would not vote for Gingrich.
To remedy this gender gap, Dr. Land suggested that Newt give a speech to reiterate his “repentance” and play up his role as a “grandfather.” Maybe such a tactic will win over the grandkids vote, but it’s D.O.A. with wives and ex-wives. Wives are partners—equal, vowed, monogamous sexual partners—not primarily grandmothers. Wives have the right to expect fidelity from their husbands and not merely post-adultery, post-divorce attentiveness to their grandchildren.
I offer these observations as a woman, a lifelong Republican, and a concerned conservative who has been happily married to my first and only husband for nearly 25 years. He is an extraordinary man, a beloved partner, and a transformative influence in my life. That said, I’ve seen many a marriage fall apart because of selfishness, failure to cultivate shared values, and, most painful of all, infidelity. The lies, double-life, and cruel rejections at the core of an extramarital affair leave permanent scars on the betrayed spouse and family.
Except for the “annulment” of Newt’s second marriage (to accommodate the religious qualms of his former mistress/third wife), his marital infidelities are not particularly unusual in the rarefied universe he inhabits. Newt is a consummate Washington, D.C., insider operating in an elite political sphere where power, prestige, and money are the ultimate aphrodisiacs.
What is unusual—shocking, in fact—is that many Republicans seem to be embracing this self-serving cad as their presidential standard-bearer in 2012.
If the Republican Party wants to flush more than half the electorate’s votes down the drain in 2012, by all means pick Newt Gingrich as the nominee. Newt will never be President of the United States. But he may just ensure that legions of women vote against the GOP for years to come.
10 December 2011
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