Pamela Powers Hannley, a progressive voice for Arizona
When Congressional candidate Martha McSally ran for Congress in 2012, she was full Tea Party:
Fast forward to 2014, and we find that Tea Party Martha with her flight pants, t-shirts, and natural hairdo has morphed into Corporate Republican Martha, with a complete makeover of her ideas and her image. God, the sanctity of life, repeal and replace, and War on Women denials have quietly slipped off of McSally’s campaign website.
McSally’s Shift from Teapublican to Corporate Republican
McSally’s plain spoken “I’m wanna kick him in the jimmy” attitude from 2012 has slid to the left as the November 4 election approaches. This is no surprise; perhaps McSally’s handlers realize that extremism is not is vogue this year. (The American people now see that the 2010 Tea Party revolution has wreaked havoc with Congress and brought us the two least productive Congressional sessions in history.) Consequently, the Tea Party was much more popular in 2012 than it is now, and her past policies weren’t much different from her primary opponent Jesse Kelly’s. This year, McSally’s policies aren’t much different from her Democratic opponent CD2 Congressman Ron Barber.
Barber’s mild-mannered, Republican-lite approach beat McSally’s Tea Party fervor in 2012, just as former CD2 Congresswoman Gabby Gifford’s centrism beat Kelly’s extremism in 2010. Highly competitive CD2 includes bright blue midtown/downtown Tucson and bright red Cochise County. Anyone who is too extreme– left or right–doesn’t have a chance.
Barber is about as middle-of the-road as one can be, often voting with Republicans on issues like militarization of the border, cuts to food stamps, increases in the military budget (even beyond what they asked for), and ceremonial anti-Obamacare votes that go nowhere (scoring political points in Cochise County). Although Barber wiggles around on some issues, he stands strong on women’s right to choose, equal pay for equal work, ratification of the Equal Rights Amendment (ERA), raising the minimum wage, gay marriage, LGBTQ rights, and other social issues (scoring political points in Tucson). In fact, Bill Moyers recently wrote that the Barber-McSally rematch may be one of 10 races that could turn on women’s issues this year.
I think the McSally camp read Moyers’ article. In 2012, McSally dissed American women as a bunch of whiners, saying the real War on Women was in the middle east, where they have to wear burkas; there are honor killings; women have no choice regarding birth control, marriage, sex, or pregnancy; and women can’t vote, drive, or go outside, in some cases. Swap “burka” for “prairie dress” in that sentence, and you have hopped 1000s of miles from Riyadh to Arizona. In countries dominated by religious fundamentalism, women are not free to make their own choices– just look at Texas. In 2012, McSally said the so-called “War on Women” was a “distraction” from real issues.
She’s Got Issues!
Earlier in 2014, McSally was running a stealth campaign with no issues on her website, but constant hammering (by this blog and eventually the main stream media) has resulted in a slick new website featuring laundry list of well-crafted (but somewhat vague) public relations statements.
Many of her opinions are similar to what they were in 2012 but massaged for a broader audience. As in 2012, she strongly supports the military-industrial complex and completely ignores the civil rights of workers, the poor, immigrants, people of color, and gays. She is making a direct pitch to white women, which is interesting considering the recent flop of the #IAmARepublican ad campaign.
McSally’s Pitch to Women
Likely realizing the Barber has an advantage with women, since most women already vote Democratic and since the Republican Party has been stripping women of their rights for years, McSally’s Tea Party anti-woman, pro-fetus talk from 2012 is gone from her 2014 website.
Her new ad campaign features feel-good, pro-woman messages to trick us into bailing on Barber, who has been a staunch supporter of women’s issues. The ad at the top of the page says McSally is “passionate” about “equal opportunity for women.” That sounds great until you look at the words. She’s not saying she’s going to do anything about discrimination against women in hiring, pay, or access to care. There are no action words like “fight”, “work”, or “vote”; she’s just “passionate.” Passion and $5 will get you a latte at Starbucks. OK, she’s not calling American women whiners this year, but she’s not really saying she’s going to help us by voting against Republican anti-woman legislation (which Barber has done). Also, “equal opportunity” sounds great, but that has been the law of the land for decades. It’s a very safe stance that sounds good but lacks substance. In her issues section “rebuilding the middle class”, all of her strategies are based on trickle down economics–building business by getting out of the way of capitalism, cutting taxes and cutting regulations. (No wonder the Koch Brothers like McSally so much.) Raising the minimum wage–a simple measure that would directly help people–has no place in McSally’s economic plans.
On her website, there is no mention of choice, abortion, reproductive health, access to affordable contraception, equal pay for equal work, support for the ERA, support for raising the minimum wage, or support for social safety net programs that help women and children living in poverty. Even though she is not invoking the “sanctity of life” and God, as she did in 2012, she’s still not standing with women. (In fact, when the Supreme Court sided with “deeply religious” corporate person, Hobby Lobby, over the rights of their female employees to have access to all types of contraception, McSally publicly sided with Hobby Lobby over women.)
On her website, McSally does say that she thought it was wrong for all Congressional Republicans to vote against equal pay for women multiple times, but she doesn’t say that she supports the Lilly Ledbetter Fair Pay Act or the Paycheck Fairness Act, or that she would have bucked her party and voted for these bills, or that she would fight to end wage discrimination. No substance.
McSally says that she’s against violence against women– also a pretty safe opinion (even though Republicans have voted against domestic violence laws). When you compare her website PR to reality, there’s a disconnect. The recent influx of women and unaccompanied children into the US gave McSally the opportunity to say “secure the border!” about a dozen times in this Fox News interview. She showed no compassion whatsoever for the mothers and children who were fleeing rape, violence, and death in their home countries. Although most of the Central American women and girls had been raped coming north, McSally ignored that in her interview, instead she stressed changing the US laws to make it easier and quicker to deport the refugees and stop them from coming here. (I guess violence against non-white women–and most likely Lesbians–is OK with her.)
McSally’s Stance on ‘Obamacare’ Softens with Polls
Tea Party McSally was solidly in the “repeal and replace” Obamacare camp in 2012. After 40+ meaningless ceremonial votes and a Republican-led government shutdown over ending the Affordable Care Act (ACA) before it took effect a year ago, 12 million Americans now have health insurance who didn’t have it before. Even though it’s not perfect, lots of people like it!
Consequently, the call to “repeal and replace” has softened. The access-to-care section on her website is somewhat convoluted. Buried in a mountain of text, McSally still calls for replacing the ACA with a “bipartisan” solution (forgetting that the ACA was based upon a Republican model and that many compromises were made in the spirit of “bipartisanship” when the ACA was negotiated). Basically, she now says that she likes the parts of the ACA that Americans like– no pre-existing conditions, adult children can be on their parents’ insurance plans, and the end of price discrimination against women. Her proposal is a hodge-podge of Republican ideas, but she specifically avoids the lightening rod issues of access to contraception and Congressman Paul Ryan’s highly unpopular voucher system (which she supported in 2012).
Will the Real Martha McSally Please Stand Up?
Who is Martha McSally really? Is she the feisty Tea Party McSally of 2012, or is she the highly controlled, very slick, and somewhat deceptive Corporate Republican McSally of 2014?
This year, McSally is obviously being groomed and coached by mainstream Republicans. Her stances have moderated to be more closely aligned with Barber’s and the politically diverse CD2. Basically, they are both running as Republican-lite this year. Will the strategy work?
I say, “Don’t buy the lie.” We don’t know who McSally is, but it’s clear she still doesn’t stand with all Arizona women because we’re not all straight and white.