Republican presidential candidates would be smart to get a clue that this time they are not going to get a free or easy ride on pay discrimination against women, as former Michigan Governor Jennifer Granholm’s HuffPo post “Equal Pay for Women: 5 GOP Hopefuls Who Just Don’t Get It” makes clear. Granholm writes,
If I knew in 1995 that we’d still be talking about gender-based income inequality in 2015, I’d have been thoroughly depressed…In my opinion, every candidate who enters this presidential race should have a record of fighting to end inequality in the workplace.
Instead, here’s what we have:
When asked if he supports the Paycheck Fairness Act to give women equal pay for equal work, Jeb Bush replied, “What is the Paycheck Fairness Act?”
Marco Rubio repeatedly voted against equal pay legislation, calling it “a welfare plan for trial lawyers.”
Rand Paul voted against paycheck fairness legislation multiple times and compared equal pay legislation to the Soviet Politburo.
Scott Walker repealed a Wisconsin law allowing victims of pay discrimination to seek damages in state courts.
Ted Cruz voted against the Paycheck Fairness Act three times.
It is kind of stunning. These are all mainstream GOP candidates, albeit in their party’s admittedly narrowing philosophical context. You have to wonder, how do these guys think they are going to justify opposing something as simple as fair pay for women in the general election, especially when the Democratic front-runner is the country’s most eloquent champion of the principle?
As Granholm notes,
In the Senate, Hillary Clinton consistently advocated for paycheck fairness, introducing legislation to fight discrimination in the workplace and co-chairing hearings on the need to close the wage gap between men and women. Senator Clinton also was an original co-sponsor of the Lilly Ledbetter Fair Pay act, signed into law by President Obama in 2009, which expanded workers’ rights to take pay discrimination issues to court.
Either they think they can deflect the question with dodgey distractions, which have served the Republicans well on some occasions, or they will try some fancy footwork walking it back. Neither option leaves them looking credible.
Perhaps they are gambling that most white women voters have cast ballots for Republicans in recent presidential elections, despite the GOP’s long-standing opposition to fair pay for women. But 2016 will likely see the Democratic nominee and media pressing the issue as never before, and at a time when family income is lagging nationwide.
Expect lots of hemming and hawing on this topic from these five Republican candidates, and they are probably not the only ones in their party who will find themselves in a well-baited trap — largely of their own making. Indications are 2016 will not be a good year for candidates to project themselves as champions of pay discrimination against women.