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Why do Republican women like Katie Britt and Nancy Mace subject themselves to this?

Alabama Senator Katie Britt was widely ridiculed for her rebuttal (Getty Images)

Early last year, I spoke with Republican Congresswoman Nancy Mace about the fallotut from the 2022 midterm and the Dobbs v Jackson decision that overturned Roe v Wade.

She is mostly known these days for wearing an “A” on her shirt after she and a band of rogue Republicans voted to remove Kevin McCarthy as speaker of the House. But Mace’s story is at times both devastating and inspiring.

After being raped as a teenager, she dropped out of school before she returned to get her GED, became one of the first women to graduate from the Citadel miltary acadedmy in South Carolina before she flipped a Democratically held seat in 2020. As a single mom, she has occasionally broken with her party on protecting birth control, and told me that the GOP was “not going to win hearts and minds over by being a******* to women.”

But on Sunday, Mace came under fire when she appeared on on This Week with George Stephanopolous and faced tough questioning about supporting Donald Trump despite him being held liable for sexually assaulting E Jean Carroll. In response, Mace accused Stephanopolous of “shaming” her and said that, as for the finding of Trump’s culpability, “it was not a criminal court.”

All of this came after Mace had vocally criticised Trump in the days after the January 6 riot, which led to Trump endorsing her primary opponent in 2022 , leading to her shooting a video of herself in front of Trump Tower, which the ex-president himself mocked. She also openly said about fellow Republican congresswoman Marjorie Taylor Greene in 2021, “bless her f***ing heart,” which any Southerner knows is not a compliment below the Mason-Dixon line.

Conversely, at the beginning of last year, after she was sworn in, Senator Katie Britt of Alabama took office and quickly made it a point to introduce herself to journalists; she also forged an unlikely friendship with fellow freshman Pennsylvania Democratic Senator John Fetterman, having visited him at Walter Reed while he underwent treatment for depression (though her gigantic husband Wesley, a former tackle for the New England Patriots, likely bonds with the garganguan Fetterman).

Nevertheless, both have a received a firestorm of criticism. Journalist Jonathan Katz reported that Karla Jacinto Romero, the woman Britt described as experiencing sex trafficking, underwent her horrible ordeal when George W Bush occupied the White House, not Joe Biden. Romero later blasted Britt on CNN, saying the senator “should first take into account what really happens before telling a story of that magnitude.” Similarly, Scarlett Johansson parodied Britt’s State of the Union response on Saturday Night Live.

She did not receive much love from the right, either. Charlie Kirk, the head of the conservative youth group Turning Point USA, said on X/Twitter “Joe Biden just declared war on the American right and Katie Britt is talking like she’s hosting a cooking show whispering about how Democrats ‘dont get it’.”

Senator Tommy Tuberville, Britt’s colleague from Alabama, told friend of The Independent’s Inside Washington newsletter Igor Bobic at HuffPost that his colleague “was picked as a housewife, not just a senator, somebody who sees it from a different perspective.”

It should be noted that Britt was gaining political experience while Tuberville was losing to Vanderbilt while still head football coach of Auburn University.

Calling her a “housewife” diminishes the legitimate way she climbed the ladder in Alabama politics. She is a former Senate chief of staff to her predecessor Richard Shelby and sits on the Senate Banking and Appropriations Committee on which Shelby once served as chairman at different points. While many people mocked her performance as too forced, Britt has shown she can be aggressive without being too abrasive as was the case when she grilled the chief executive of Silicon Valley Bank last year when it went under.

Similarly, while many senior senators would die to receive a spot on the Appropriations Committee, she has shown deftness at bringing back money for Alabama. In the most recent six spending bills, she brought back more than $353m in federal dollars back to the state, sometimes with the help of Tuberville and House members, but often on her own. That money will improve the lives of people in a poor state like Alabama.

Simiar to Mace, Britt endorsed Trump and indeed, she got behind Trump the day that the Republicans also-rans held a debate in the Yellowhammer State.

Some may say that Britt and Mace are angling for power by putting themselves in this position. But all elected officials do and anyone who makes it to Washington without hopes of attaining more is lying.

The difference is that while Republicans are much better at promoting young talent than the Democratic Party – just look at the young House GOP leadership compared to the cadre of octagenarians who led House Democrats last Congress – Republicans often do not give their female politicians enough latitude to not be in compromising positions.

Mace must have known how eventually she would face questions about the multiple accusations of sexual assault against Trump, to say nothing of the Carroll case. In the same way, Britt, a highly accomplished woman who all but ran a Senate office as chief of staff, and who knows how to bring home cash for her state, is reduced to a cooking show host or a “housewife.”