The GOP Failed Millennial Moms Like Me. But It Needs Us Now More Than Ever.

The GOP Failed Millennial Moms Like Me. But It Needs Us Now More Than Ever.

When I became a mother, I saw the party’s blind spots on family policy more clearly than ever. But I also saw an opportunity.

Abby McCloskey seated at a table.

I spent the night at the Beacon Hotel in Washington, D.C., but I don’t remember sleeping much. I had flown out of Chicago the night before for an interview at one of the venerable conservative think tanks. I was 22, an economics major from the evangelical Wheaton College, the president of our Students in Free Enterprise chapter who had wrapped up a Koch Foundation internship the previous summer, and the oldest daughter of a man who ran for Congress as soon as he was legally allowed, winning the Republican primary outside of Cleveland. Working in Republican public policy felt like destiny.

I remember wearing a black suit that I’d gotten for the occasion and having a full day of interviews, meeting with different department heads and scholars and going up and down back staircases all locked with keycards. I was both tired and on an adrenaline high heading into my last meeting with the executive who made the final hiring decisions. We sat in chairs in the middle of his office. He had gray hair and wire glasses and asked what I wanted to work on. I said women’s economic opportunity.

He chuckled and shook his head and said something along the lines of That’s cliched; why do women always want to study women’s issues? And then he lowered the boom: “Because of how you look, no one’s going to take you seriously in policy. You should get a job in communications instead.”

Now that these women are becoming mothers, they are finding even less to like. And the GOP should pay attention — or it might find itself without the voice in the party that could save it.

I’m an economic analyst, not a pollster. But reasons given for the general flight of women from the GOP abound. There are few Republican women in leadership — in Congress, think tanks or policy campaigns — relative to that of Democrats, but that’s been the case for some time. The tone and the crassness of many in the party’s leadership — “Legitimate rape”; “grab ‘em by the p—-”; “blood coming out of her wherever” — has ticked up. The hardline party stance on immigration or health care or gun rights, which women voters tend to care about more than men, have been in the spotlight. Then there’s the fact that millennials came of age during 9/11 and the Great Recession and now Covid-19, and so might be more inclined to recognize the world is fragile and that government in theory could help.

But I can’t help but think that the GOP’s yawning gap among millennial women in particular has to do with their becoming mothers. The millennial generation is typically defined as being born between 1981 and 1996, meaning that these women are now in their mid-20s to 40 — prime years for starting families.

More than a million millennials are becoming mothers every year. Millennial mothers are facing the intense time, financial, emotional and physical pressures that come alongside the joy and delight of children. Millennials without children also see this dynamic among their friends — part of a cycle potentially influencing their own fertility decisions, according to New York Times polling.