Has any group taken more abuse our recent political cycle than right-of-center women?

Mark McKinnon, a campaign and corporate strategist, has a piece on this phenomenon in the Daily Beast:

The nuts and sluts attacks began in earnest when Sarah Palin entered stage right. To combat the wildfire of her natural and spontaneous appeal, a caustic air attack of firebombs ensued. Offended by her success in choosing to be all a woman can be, detractors criticized her looks, her wardrobe, her motherhood. Her IQ and her bra size were debated. Though unsuccessful in her first foray into national politics, unbowed, Palin has shown more mettle at times than President Obama. And the more the Mama Grizzly has been brutalized, the stronger her support has grown.

With the left unsated, Christine O’Donnell became the surrogate Palin piñata, beaten about by a blindfolded press and a dizzy, disdainful establishment. Not a professional politician, she was ridiculed for her beliefs and naiveté. A logical question posed by Professor William Jacobson went unanswered: “If O’Donnell is so nuts, why did the Delaware Republican Party nominate her to run against Joe Biden just two years ago?” The National Organization for Women, self-anointed defender of the limited liberal view of womanhood, has finally condemned the latest round of online sleaze and misogynistic attacks against O’Donnell. But its outrage is diminished by its months of silence.

Even if you did not think O’Donnell was ready for the U.S. Senate, the tenor of the attacks on her should have been dismaying. But the name-calling and distorting wasn’t limited to Palin and O’Donnell-Nikki Haley, the new governor of South Carolina, Meg Whitman, and Michele Bachmann have received the same treatment. This sort of invective can cause many good women to eschew politics (which may be one of the reasons the left indulges in it):

By choosing to step forward to serve the public good, women who are wives, mothers, and daughters are called crazy, loony, and mentally unstable. Conservative women who dare to run for office are simultaneously attacked as sleazy and prudish. Phony reports of illicit affairs are leaked online, where the damage can never be undone. Their sex lives and the parentage of their children are called into question.

As a husband and as a father of girls, I cannot imagine any woman in my family making the sacrifice of sanity required to run for office. The limited reward for public service cannot blunt the cost.

I tend to see much of this kind of name calling (Maureen Dowd’s “mean girls” column is a particularly pathetic example) as coming from middle-aged women who have made their careers in a liberal milieu and can’t stand to see this crop of dynamic women coming along. 

But the joke is on them: this is the first national election since the 1980s without a gender gap. Yes, women are no longer automatic supporters of the nanny state but are willing to embrace a more free-market point of view that calls for a vibrant economy rather than more and more government programs. It must be scary for the left-of-center mean girls to feel they’re being left behind.