The best thing Texas Republicans can say about this week is that no one has told a rape joke yet. More than a week has passed since Attorney General Greg Abbott refused to say whether he would sign an equal pay law as governor, and the issue won’t die no matter how many female apologists he trots in front of cameras. Can you believe it? Texas women apparently want to be paid the same as men for the same work. There’s just no making some women happy.
This all started a couple Sundays ago when Abbott said that Texas did not need an equal pay law because the federal Lilly Ledbetter rendered that moot. This was despite the fact that as attorney general he defended a state university against a professor who claimed pay discrimination, demonstrating exactly why states need their own equal pay laws.
With Abbott unwilling to directly answer a straightforward question, the controversy has dragged on long enough to draw comparisons to Clayton Williams, Ann Richards’ opponent in 1990 who was something of a Republican pioneer in rape jokes when he compared it to bad weather. “If it’s inevitable, just relax and enjoy it,” said Williams. Abbott has chosen a different tactic, though it’s not working any better. First, Cari Christman of Red State Women went on the same local Sunday-morning show on which Abbott made his non-responsive response about equal pay. Presumably, Christman’s role was to show that conservative women support Abbott for his lack of support, which is kind of like when Republicans get a black surrogate to go on TV and explain why Paul Ryan isn’t a racist just because he quotes racists to insult the “urban” poor.
All Christman succeeded in doing was proving that conservative women can screw things up just as much as the conservative male politicians they defend.
This is verbatim, folks, down to the awkward pauses:
“Well, if you look at it, women are...are...extremely busy. We lead busy lives whether working professionally, whether we’re working from home...and...and...and...times are...are extremely...extremely busy. It’s just a busy cycle for women and we’ve got a lot to juggle and so when we look at this issue we think: what’s practical? And...we want more access to jobs. We want...we want to be able to go to...get a higher education degree at the same time that we’re working or raising a family,” she said. “That’s commonsense and we believe that that real world solution is a more practical way to approach the problem.”
Obviously, what “extremely busy” women want is access to jobs but not necessarily jobs where they would get equal pay on account of how busy they are.
Somehow, this failed to quell the uprising. Into the breach leapt Beth Cubriel, the executive director of the Republican Party of Texas who went on television to set this matter to rest.
“Men are better negotiators,” said Cubriel. “I would encourage women instead of pursuing the courts for action to become better negotiators.”
According to state campaign finance reports, Cubriel makes more than $4,000 a year less than her predecessor at the Republican Party of Texas who was, you guessed it, a dude. But it’s her fault she isn’t paid as much as a man. Maybe she would have realized this sooner if she weren’t so “extremely busy.”
And while it’s true that you get what you ask for, sometimes you have to ask for it in a courtroom. That’s what the Founding Fathers said, and these days it even applies to women.
The question remains in front of Abbott, and it’s nothing like bad weather. It won’t blow over, and he can’t use female surrogates to shield himself from having to summon the courage to give an honest answer to a real question. When it comes to equal pay for women, it’s time for Abbott to man up and say what he really believes.
Jason Stanford is a Democratic consultant who writes columns for the Austin American-Statesman and MSNBC. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org and on Twitter @JasStanford.