Why These Republican Women Are for Hillary — and How the GOP Is "Losing" Young Conservatives
If you're a young Republican woman, firmly believing in limited government, free market capitalism, a strong national defense, and the same basic liberties for all, what are you to do when your party nominates Donald Trump?
The ascent of the businessman-turned-reality-star-turned-presidential-candidate has rallied millions to back his raucous, brash campaign rhetoric — and millions more to recoil in anguish at the prospect of Trump holding the highest office in government. Some brave souls have spoken out against the candidate, and some even braver souls have gone so far as to denounce him entirely in favor of supporting his presidential rival, Hillary Clinton. Two such women: Jennifer Pierotti Lim and Meghan Milloy, the founder and chair, respectively, of the organization Republican Women for Hillary.
The mission of the group is fairly self-explanatory: They are a group of Republican women who, when faced with the prospect of electing Donald Trump, are opting for the Democratic candidate and are engaging with other like-minded women to make it happen (you might have even caught Lim during the DNC, speaking as a Republican voice for Hillary Clinton). Glamour recently chatted with Lim and Milloy about why they’re with her, how they hope to shape this election, and what their party can do to win back disillusioned voters.
Glamour: You've both been lifelong Republicans — what GOP principles and ideas most resonate with you?
Meghan Milloy: The Republican ideals of economic prosperity and economic growth, lower taxes, pro-business, pro-trade — these sorts of things. That’s been one of the segues that’s made it easy to make the jump and go to Hillary Clinton this round. She has been pro-economy, pro-trade, and pro-growth and that’s been important to me.
Jennifer Pierotti Lim: Meghan covered a lot of what I agree with. I’d definitely be focused on more of a limited government and deferring to the states on a lot of issues — that resonates with me, as does a free market approach. A lot of these things are more in line with what Hillary Clinton is standing for this election in terms of strong national defense and pro-trade policies.
Glamour: During the primary process (and even before any votes were even cast) which Republican candidate or candidates did you support?
MM: I voted in the D.C. primary and I voted for John Kasich. Though, I attended some events for Jeb Bush and was a big fan of what he was representing. Probably those two guys, but I did vote for John Kasich.
JPL: I was definitely excited about Jeb Bush. I think he's a very thoughtful policymaker. During the debates, I thought Carly Fiorina was by far the best prepared and most articulate on a lot of the policy issues I care about. And I liked the fact that Carly Fiorina came from the business sector.
Glamour: How does Donald Trump most depart from your political beliefs? Was there one specific moment where you thought, OK, that's it. I'm done?
MM: There were so many. [Laughs] Trump’s rhetoric, his anti-immigration policies — building a wall, keeping out Muslims — is really against Republican ideals of increasing the GDP and increasing productivity. Look at his proposals to renegotiate NAFTA, which has been hugely successful for the country, and to pull out of NATO, which has been essential to our national security and our presence worldwide. These are Republican ideals, and the fact that he departed from them made me start thinking, Not only has this man been vile in the rhetoric he's used against women and minorities, but he's espousing policy concepts that are not Republican ideals. I'm certainly not going to support him. I guess the breaking points — I don’t know if I had one; I think I had many — pushing me further and further were his whole spat with Megyn Kelly, the names he’s called Rosie O'Donnell, when he was talking about the disabled journalist, and his fight with a baby [at a campaign rally]. You listen to his supporters at [his events] saying things like, "Kill them!" and I certainly don’t want to be part of any movement like that.
JPL: I think if you're a Republican you’ve gone through many stages of grief during this election. The breaking point for me was when people I looked up to as Republican leaders started endorsing Trump amidst his comments about women. Obviously his comments about women resonate with us first because we're women, but a second breaking point for me was when he went back on Megyn [Kelly's show] and Megyn Kelly said to him, "You've called me a bimbo and other names," and he responded with, "I've bet you've been called a lot worse." It was so vile that he would say that on TV, and nobody responded to it. When you look at things like [Trump's proposed] Muslim ban and a building wall between the U.S. and Mexico, it hearkens back to some of America’s darkest days — the Japanese internment camps or McCarthyism. It hearkens back to very scary times that we should have learned from as Americans.
Glamour: Tell me a little about Republican Women for Hillary. How did the group come about and what inspired you to start it? What kind of response have you received?
JPL: I was shocked when Republican leaders started endorsing Trump. I had thought about it for a while, and if Trump was the nominee there was absolutely no way I’d want him to represent me. By May, there were a lot of us who had been talking and commiserating about the election and I reached out to them. I needed a steering committee if we were going to do something that was big and made a difference. One of the steering committee members knew Meghan and knew how passionate Meghan was about the cause. She is amazing in media, so we’ve had a great partnership and we’re lucky that both of us can be on the record as representing Republican Women for Hillary. We had our first networking event in D.C. a week before the Democratic convention. We had about 40 to 50 folks attend, many of whom were Republicans who needed a safe space to talk to similarly-minded people about the election and that they were supporting Hillary this time around. Since the DNC, we’ve had an overwhelming amount of people who want to get involved and see what they can do to add to the public dialogue about Republican Women for Hillary.
Glamour: What kind of impact do you hope Republican Women for Hillary will have on this year's election?
MM: I hope obviously that we get Hillary Clinton elected! In the short term, our goal is to serve as a voice and to be thought leaders out there in the public space, putting out points that people might not have considered.
JPL: We started this group to be the voice of Republican women who were not only against Trump, but for Hillary Clinton. We were out there before a lot of people spoke up and we knew part of the job was dealing with the Trump trolls and dealing with public response. We’re not the level of the women who have come out recently, like Meg Whitman or Caroline McCain, but we really hope that we inspire other people to speak up. Now that we've been around since May, we have such good connections with other Republicans for Hillary groups, and a lot of people know to come to us to see how they can get involved. We’ve been doing a lot of ground work and connecting volunteers with the right people. We’ve been a lot more successful than we ever thought we would be.
Glamour: You both mention business and trade as issues you think Hillary is strong on. Are there any other issues that you think Hillary holds a strong position on or that particularly resonate with you favorably?
MM: We are Republican Women for Hillary, and if you look at Hillary’s previous work with women and children, her dedication to women's issues — like equal pay for women — that's really encouraging as women, and as Republican women. Our party hasn’t really focused a whole lot on the women contingent.
JPL: I want to reiterate that I'm not speaking for the chamber here, but I really appreciate her focus on small business. Part of her platform is reducing the regulation and red tape on small business. [Compared to] how Donald Trump has treated small businesses over the years, I find her perspective refreshing. We're more attracted to her because she has such a long history working across the aisle on a wide range of issues, whether it was getting health care for 9/11 victims and their families, working on CHIP [the Children's Health Insurance Program], and [advocating for] women’s issues. She’s had a long history of working across the aisle to make the best policy she can.
Glamour: Have you faced any sexist criticism from the public or your peers that you're "only supporting Hillary because she's a woman?"
JPL: That’s the comment we get the most on the internet: "You're just voting for Hillary because she's a woman." Which is so ridiculous, because she is one of the most prepared people who has ever run for president. It’s a way people try to discredit our voices as women.
MM: That’s the G-rated version of the comments we're getting. So many of these folks — Twitter, Facebook, whatever platform they’re hiding behind—have been nasty. I’ve been shocked at the lack of restraint that these people have in contacting strangers they saw on TV just because they disagree with them. I’ve been called every name in the book. I’ve had memes made of me where my face has been filtered over with a zombie face—I mean, I look good as a zombie, I think—
JPL: You're the prettiest zombie ever.
MM: Oh, well, thanks. It's been shocking. We expected we’d get [criticism] to some extent, but the volume of crude comments has been shocking — but also somewhat entertaining.
JPL: You just have to not get bogged down in them and realize they're people with nothing better to do.
Glamour: Jennifer, How did you end up getting involved with the DNC?
JPL: Since we were on the scene a little bit earlier than some of the other groups, and we have a very specific call of action, a lot of the right people saw us at the right time. The Clinton campaign got in contact and asked if we would be interested in being part of a segment highlighting Republicans who were voting for Hillary. Doug Elmets and I spoke at the DNC representing Republicans who were crossing the aisle this year. He worked in the Reagan White House and we obviously were representing the female millennial vote, which I think is going to be extremely important this election.
Glamour: According to recent polling, only about 28 percent of young voters think that the two-party system is working. After a fairly tumultuous election, what do you think the future holds for the Republican Party, or even the binary party system in general?
MM: You look back at 2012, we had a pretty heated election too. After the Republican candidate lost, they issued the 2012 autopsy of the Republican Party, which said that if the party were to remain nationally successful, they'd have to do things like reach out to more women, and reach out more — and better — to minorities. And now, not only have we done nothing about that, we’ve done worse than we did four years ago. We’re at a crossroads as a party. After this election, win or lose, the party is going to have to come together and figure out how to win back the women, minorities, and millennials that they lost. I think anyone will agree that the younger voters, and even those under 45, have moved toward the center on a lot of social issues. But if you look at the Republican platform, it is so far to the right, especially on social issues, and more so than ever before. The party really needs to reconcile those differences to keep the younger generation of voters and remain a nationally successful party.
JPL: It’s going to be a question of whether the Republican Party owns this new platform that they have, which will disassociate a lot of folks from the party. People who are more socially moderate but still care a lot about the core Republican policies and platform issues — like Megan and myself — are not going to have a home. And the Democratic Party is going through some similar issues with the resurgence of a large, far left-leaning group in the Bernie supporters. It’s going to be interesting to see how the parties define themselves after the election. Right now, the Republican Party is just about being against Hillary Clinton. There isn’t any cohesive set of values. I think, especially with our generation, the time is right for a third party, and a lot of millennials associate with an Independent title more than Republican or Democrat.
Glamour: To reflect back on the first question about which principles of the GOP most resonate with you, is there anything within the party that might not fit with your worldview that you would like to see in a new iteration of the Republican Party or a new, emerging party?
MM: One policy, and I’m not a single policy voter by any means, but I think the Republican Party [needs to evolve its] stance on gay marriage and all these bathroom bills, for lack of a better term. I’m in favor of equal rights for all people. I had hoped when the Supreme Court decision came down that that would be the Republican Party’s out. That maybe they'd say, "Ok maybe we don’t support gay marriage but the Supreme Court says it’s OK so we’re going to say it’s OK too." Instead of taking that stance, they totally doubled down and said, "We're going to overturn the Supreme Court and get rid of all these liberal judges!" I'd like to see them have a more reasonable viewpoint on gay marriage and issues like that. I think the Republican Party should not be trying to overrule that, especially when public sentiment is so much in favor of things like gay marriage.
JPL: What worries me the most about where the Republican Party is going is exactly what Meghan said. They’re doubling down on these social issues that they know aren’t going to keep the party current. They addressed a lot of these issues with the LGBT community in the 2012 autopsy report, and here we are with the most right-leaning platform we’ve ever had. Doing that, they're losing an entire generation of Republican voters.
Glamour: In regard to women's issues there's been a push within the party toward a more conservative approach to women's rights — especially reproductive rights. Is there anything in this approach that may not resonate with you?
MM: I can’t say I’m as far left as the Democratic platform is on reproductive rights and those sorts of things. But as I am with the other social issues in the Republican platform, I’m not as far right as the platform leans, and neither are a majority of women, especially millennial women. I would very much like to see them come toward the center and just be more reasonable. Use your head. I know the party is run by old white men, but look at who is actually voting and look at what their needs are and what they’re in favor of.
JPL: Pro-life issues are so tricky and I think both sides have missed the boat. The direction we’re going, especially with the choice of Mike Pence, [is too far]. He’s had such an extreme view on pro-life issues that’s farther that most pro-life people even want to go. His bill that spurred the @periodsforpence account or having to have funerals for miscarriages: That is ridiculous. A lot of the things that the Democratic Party think about these pro-life, pro-choice issues are a little too far left for me, but obviously the Republican Party has gone way too far right. I think the answer for everybody is more in the middle.
Glamour: And finally, if by some crazy chance Donald Trump does drop out, who would you want to see take over the Republican ticket?
MM: Is this in a dream world? We want someone who is strong on economic policies, who is pro-growth, who is fiscally responsible, who actually knows what they’re talking about, and who knows there are more than twelve amendments to the Constitution. Plus, someone who is more socially to the center. His name hasn’t been thrown out, but [I'd pick] President of the American Action Forum Doug Holtz-Eakin. He’d make an incredible president. He’s a man who could take American and keep it great. But again, dream scenario.
JPL: I'll say too, if I had to pick from one of the folks that ran, I’d pick Jeb Bush because he has not actually endorsed Trump — which I think is a sign of good character. But if I could have anyone, my favorite lady ever is Condoleezza Rice. She would never run for president because she’s too smart, but I think she would be amazing on national security. She has a strong policy background. She's well-respected by both sides. She would be my dream candidate.
This interview has been edited for length and clarity.
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• Donald Trump Suggests Violence Against Hillary Clinton by "Second Amendment People"
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• Meg Whitman Is the Latest in a String of Republican Women Supporting Hillary Clinton
Photo Credit: Courtesy of Meghan Milloy and AFP/Getty Images