Progressive society appears to be at a loss when it comes to understanding conservative women. Women who are pro-life, in favor of smaller government, and uphold traditional family values don’t fit the left’s mold.
Sen. Marsha Blackburn, R-Tenn., has just released a new book, “The Mind of a Conservative Woman: Seeking the Best for Family and Country,” to explain why conservative values are women’s values. Blackburn joins “Problematic Women” to discuss her new book, why she is a proud conservative, and her 2018 controversy with pop star Taylor Swift.
Also on today’s show, Janae Stracke, the grassroots director of Heritage Action for America, and Jeanne Seaver, a Heritage Action sentinel from Savannah, Georgia, join the show to share how they are supporting law enforcement in local communities across America, and how you can as well. And as always, we’ll be crowning our “Problematic Woman of the Week”!
Listen to the podcast below or read the lightly edited transcript.
Virginia Allen: I am thrilled to be joined by Sen. Marsha Blackburn of Tennessee. Senator, thanks so much for being here.
Sen. Marsha Blackburn: I am so excited to be with you, and conservative women are problematic women. So, there you go. It’s a great point of my book.
Allen: Senator, on Sept. 1, you released your brand new book, “The Mind of a Conservative Woman.” Now, liberals, I think, have been trying unsuccessfully to understand the mind of a conservative woman for a very long time.
So, I do hope that they buy the book and read it. So, maybe, hopefully, they can finally understand, but I want to begin by asking you: Why did you feel the need to write this book?
Blackburn: One of the things that had happened through the years is dealing with the mainstream media and dealing with policymakers in Washington, D.C.
I found it so interesting that conservative women are generally considered to be fourth-class citizens. They’re kind of at the bottom of the pecking order, and the mainstream media like to ridicule women who are pro-life, pro-family, pro-business, pro-military, and they kind of shove them aside or mock them.
And then I would notice how when you’re out in the heartland and around the country, most women will say, “Oh, well, I’m not partisan.” They’re not Democrat or Republican, but they will tell you that what they want, their hopes and dreams and desires.
They want government off their back, out of their pocketbook. They want lower taxes. They want to make certain that their children have every opportunity possible to live their version of the American dream.
And I began to realize most of these women tilt conservative, but they didn’t have a landing spot.
Likewise, I was hearing from a lot of women who said, “My child that was raised in the church went to a good conservative school. They go to college, and they come home, and they’re leaning left.” And they had a need to help their children understand why they as a family believe what they believe, and why it is important to hear both sides of an issue and have discussion.
And then with the advent of the “cancel culture,” again, we were hearing from women who were saying, “My kids are being taught if someone’s not in complete agreement with you, then you can’t have anything to do with them.”
And diversity is one of the richnesses of our lives. Having robust, respectful, bipartisan debate helps us to create a stronger government. So, I decided that this would be my project during 2019 and I would write a book that is a landing spot for women, that is an instruction guide for women on how to talk about conservatism.
It’s a guidebook for how to … debate some certain issues and a book that would be a history book on the roots of conservatism and how we got to modern-day conservatism.
Allen: And how did you come to be a conservative?
Blackburn: I was so fortunate to grow up in a conservative family. We were always taught give back more than you take and leave things in better shape than you found them and not to sit around waiting on the opportunity, to make your opportunities so that you could be learning more, doing more, giving back more.
And that was the spirit in which I was reared. So, I came to the process of conservatism by seeing it lived out for me every single day in my family, in my community, and then going to college, having the opportunity to debate with my friends who were on the other side of the aisle from me and debate those issues, and being challenged in debating strengthens your resolve and your belief.
Allen: You do such a great job right at the beginning of the book of painting a clear distinction between the conservative and liberal vision for America.
Explain how those two visions differ and, specifically, how they each view women.
Blackburn: Yes, indeed. And I was so fortunate to have one of my favorite mentors, [former House] Speaker Newt Gingrich, write the foreword for this book. And, of course, he has been one of the wonderful visionaries of the modern conservatism, and we all appreciate the leadership and the vision he brought to our movement.
One of the things that I did in the book was talk about how the left likes to have government control. And I use an example of Julia. Remember Julia from “The Life of Julia” from the Obama campaign, and how Julia’s life, when you looked at that, and of course, that cartoon was widely mocked by the mainstream media, as well as the conservative media, but what did they do?
Julia had no need for anything else other than the federal government, who was there to provide the needs for her, and then for she and her child and for her in retirement.
And that is an underpinning of the left, that you [had] government first to solve your problems. When you look at conservatives, conservatives look at the strength of the individual, of the fact that government should be there to protect us from government coming in and taking our rights that are given to us. That is why we have the rule of law.
And so you have these two very different footings. Conservatives who say, “Get government in the right spot. Get them over on the side,” and liberals who say, “Oh, we’re going to go to government first to solve everything.” And liberals who say, “Give your rights to the government,” and conservatives who say, “No, these are our rights. And the rule of law in government should be to protect the government from coming in and using a heavy hand and taking those rights and freedoms away.”
So, using the example of “The Life of Julia,” and then also a chapter that I did on “The Stepford Wives of Liberalism,” where I talk about how the liberal, the left, uses the same words, same phrases to try to communicate a message.
So, we kind of draw that paradigm and that difference. And then I follow that with talking about the history of conservatism, going back into our [country’s] Judeo-Christian founding and looking at Jerusalem, looking at the 12 tribes of Israel for the foundation for federalism, then Athens, then London, and then Philadelphia, then D.C., and bringing us to modern conservatism.
As we look at writings from de Tocqueville and Burke, looking at the French Revolution and what Burke learned from that, looking at William F. Buckley and Russell Kirk, and I’ve even put a reading list in the book, because I think it would be helpful for individuals that are just figuring out they’re more center-right than anything else politically—just some good things for them to read to kind of shore them up as to what real conservatism is.
Allen: We are so pleased to be talking with Sen. Marsha Blackburn about her new book “The Mind of a Conservative Woman,” and Senator, I do really love how right at the beginning, close to the beginning of the book, you paint this wonderful picture of the history of conservatism. I found that really, really helpful.
One of my favorite stories that you get into and that you share in your book is about your trip to Iraq in 2003. And on that trip, you spoke with Iraqi women, who lost so much. Their nation had been ravaged by war, and [then-Iraqi dictator] Saddam Hussein had essentially created an anti-American culture, where women were frequently raped and abused.
Can you just tell us a little bit more about that trip and how it impacted your political views?
Blackburn: One of the things that was so impactful to me on this trip was hearing from those that were working on the ground, our State Department, U.S.A. personnel, our military personnel, and Gen. David Petraeus had established a women’s center in Mosul, where we were visiting.
And one of what we saw at this women’s center was Iraqi women who huddled around the openings of this shell of a building that was left, just to listen to our words be translated to them. They had their daughters with them, and to them, this was such a sign of hope.
They loved getting our business cards, rubbing their hands over our business cards. And they loved the fact that we came to see them. And to me, it really was such a lesson that hope lives in the human heart, that your children are not going to have to endure what you have had to endure.
Allen: You describe your mission and passion as being faith, family, freedom, hope, and opportunity. Why those five words?
Blackburn: This is something that came about through my political life, as people would say, “Well, tell me what you’re working on. Tell me what’s important to you.”
And I realized that I needed to hone it down so that it wasn’t a 10-minute speech. And I just began to distill it and came down to those five things that I’m the happy warrior for.
I get up every day, and I go to fight to protect our faith, our families, our freedoms that are so precious, and I hope for better days, opportunities for individuals to live their version of the American dream.
And I realized that that is kind of the lens through which I look at policymaking and legislation. Is this something that is going to further the cause [of] faith, family, freedom, hope, and opportunity? Is it something that is going to diminish or weaken freedom? And Ronald Reagan told us over and over, “You do not pass freedom along into the bloodstream. Every single generation has to fight for it and pass it on strong to the next generation.”
Allen: The media [don’t] do a great job of showing what conservative women actually believe and why we believe it. Why do you think that the media [get] this wrong?
Blackburn: Yeah. The reason the media [get] it wrong nearly every day is because they do not have respect for the belief system of conservative women, because they’ve created this caricature of what conservatism is.
If you listen to the mainstream media, you think conservatives are gray-haired, old guys that are sitting in a room, and they’re greedy and trying to hoard everything for themselves.
And you don’t realize that there is a country full of people who are center-right, who are saying, “I love my family. I want the best for my family. I want more opportunities, not fewer opportunities. I want to make certain that we can go to church on Sunday and that we have the right to exercise our faith, that we are free of the fear of religious persecution.”
They want to make certain that there is job security, that they can go to work every day and work hard and be compensated.
And if they start a business or create some wonderful invention that our laws are going to protect them and allow them to benefit from this. I have many times said that the Republican Party should change the meaning of GOP and make it the “Great Opportunity Party,” because that is what we are for. We are the land of opportunity. We want more opportunities for everyone in this country, everyone equal opportunities.
Allen: Senator, we cannot have you on the show and not bring up Taylor Swift. We covered Swift’s decision to get political quite extensively on the show, including her targeted attack against you.
For those who might be unaware, during your 2018 run for Senate, Swift not only endorsed your opponent, but she also spoke out against you, and she attacked your record, and you discuss Taylor Swift’s film, “Miss Americana,” and her attack on you in the book.
Swift pointed to specifically your vote on the Violence Against Women Act as the central reason why she opposed you. And she says she opposed you because you voted against that act. You set the record straight though in your book. Can you just take us a minute and explain what happened between you and Taylor Swift?
Blackburn: Yes, absolutely. And I’ll say first I’ve had a great working relationship with our fabulous creative community in Tennessee. And I have been one of the fiercest defenders of their intellectual property rights and have authored legislation that has been very helpful to the music industry, and so to have someone from that industry come out with this diatribe against me, which was incorrect information, it was like some of those talking points and that everybody on the left starts to use, and they’re going to stick with them.
So, someone had given her this list of campaign talking points. And so, as I’m talking about how legislation is made and getting into that in the book, I talk about this incident with Taylor Swift, and she had pointed to different things she thought I’d done wrong that had offended her. And so, I pointed out the fact that I had quite a history of working hard to help women and children who had been adversely impacted and had faced abuse and violence.
I’ve done a tremendous amount of work on those that have been caught in that horrific web of human trafficking. And I talk about this specific bill that I had voted for and the version that we had in the House. And then the bill goes to the Senate, and then the bill gets changed, and all of these other things get added on to the bill, and then this final version comes back to us.
And that is a version that I voted against, because I want to make certain that resources are going to our abuse centers and actually going into things like rape kits and are going to help women and children that have been suffering abuse.
So, I think it’s so interesting how, and this is a part of the “cancel culture,” if someone thinks that you have an opinion, or they have assigned an opinion to you, then they assign everything that is negative to you. And this is how you end up having this “cancel culture.”
I’ve said so many times, “I am always willing to have a conversation with anyone who wants to make the lives of Tennesseans better, and my door is always open to have those conversations.”
Allen: Now, I know that you invited Taylor Swift to your home to sit down and have a conversation about these issues. Did Swift ever respond to your invitation one way or another?
Blackburn: No, but we are certainly … I’m always open to have a conversation and discuss issues and see, this is one of those things, Virginia, that you get when you have individuals that say, “Only this opinion is the valid opinion.”
You lose that opportunity for that respectful, robust, political debate. If you do not have that, you’re never going to be able to work toward a more perfect union. It’s important for us to remember that.
Allen: At the top of Chapter 9, you write, and I have to read this because I just love it. It’s so good.
You say, “You are a conservative woman. You are beautiful. You are gifted. You are capable. You are both passionate and compassionate. I admire you. I’m glad you’re in the world. I’ll tell you something else. You can’t hide. You can’t go about your quiet way. To be a conservative woman in this generation means you are going to stand out.”
I love that so much, but I also recognize the weight of those words. As conservative women, we do stand out, and that can be highly uncomfortable. Sometimes, when friends and family members are asking you to defend what you believe because in their mind, as a woman, you must believe in a woman’s right to abortion. You must believe in big-government welfare programs to support single moms and so on.
So, what is your battle cry to conservative women who honestly are just weary of always feeling like they’re kind of on the outside?
Blackburn: Yes. And that is one of the reasons for putting the history of conservatism in there and giving this landing spot, because too many times women who are conservative feel is if they are on defense. They go to work. They hear from other women. They listen to some of these TV shows that are so tilted left, and they feel as if there is not a spot for them.
And it’s important that they realize they are the majority. They are the majority of women in this country. There are more women who are independent or center-right agree with them than agree with the programming on all of these shows that fill up daytime TV.
And conservative women are caring and compassionate. They care not only for their children and their families, but for their communities. They are givers. They’re constantly stepping up to help other people.
In Tennessee, we’re known as the Volunteer State. There are wonderful women who are leading outreach with different community groups simply to stand up and to help others. They have a servant’s heart.
Allen: And how do we, as conservative women, articulate to our friends, sisters, mothers, female co-workers, how do we articulate our conservative views to them in order to bring more women into the conservative movement?
Blackburn: I think one of the things, when you talk about communicating, is being able to learn how to talk about issues and to engage someone to talk with you and to not be combative. And that’s why I actually have some guidance in the book.
How do you talk about some of these issues, whether it’s taxes or health care or abortion or immigration, and talk about it and see the other point of view? You’ve got to learn to engage so that you can help change people’s minds.
And many times the issue of health care will come up and people will say, “Well, of course, I think everybody ought to be able to have access to health care.” Then you ask some of the questions. “Do you think you should have to give up your health insurance in order for someone else to have access to health care?”
And people will say, “Well, no. I don’t see the connection between those two.” And you can agree that health care is expensive, and we need to get the cost down. How do you get the cost down? You have more opportunities for insurance products in the marketplace. You have transparency, price transparency, so that you know what things are going to cost. You look at the cost of pharmaceuticals and you say, “How do we get those down?”
That’s something that President [Donald] Trump has done a tremendous amount of work on. So, you began to look at the different components of the issue.
Likewise, immigration, looking at that. And as you talk about these individuals that were being brought by “coyotes,” taken from their families and their villages in Central America and brought to the Southern border and then put into gangs, put into labor crews, put into human-trafficking rings.
And these families in Central America thought they were sending their child to the U.S. and then they would be able to follow, and they never hear from that child. So, there’s another side to these issues, and it’s important to be able to have good discussions on these issues.
Allen: Senator, we ask all of our guests on this show one question. We love hearing the various answers and responses that we get. Do you consider yourself to be a feminist?
Blackburn: I’ve never applied the term “feminist” to myself. Am I a trailblazer? Yes. Am I constantly breaking barriers and opening doors for women? Absolutely. And indeed, we have kind of chuckled a few times about a profile that was done on me and my college newspaper when I had talked a company into hiring me to let me sell books door to door during the summertime.
And the whole thing was about breaking barriers and opening doors for women. And I think that it is so vitally important that we constantly do this so that we are making it easier for the next generation of women. And I’m going to continue to do that.
I don’t know if there is a label that goes with it. Trailblazer, ceiling-breaker, barrier-pusher. I don’t know. It’s just that women and conservative women, they’re going to be there to help preserve freedom for the next generation.
I want to do everything I can to encourage and embolden them.
Allen: Senator Blackburn, it has been such a pleasure talking with you. Your book, “The Mind of a Conservative Woman,” is available wherever books are sold.
K.T. McFarland, the former deputy national security adviser, wrote about your book: “This book is a joy to read the story of a happy warrior driven by a code of integrity, decency, and common sense.” And I can certainly concur with that. The book is truly a joy to read.
And again, it can be found wherever books are sold. We’ll be sure to put a link in today’s show notes if you’d like to buy it, but Senator, thank you so much for your time today. We really appreciate you coming on the show.