Katie Britt and the cult of the kitchen

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It was “The Stepford Wives” meets “The Handmaid’s Tale.”

Nearly a week later, people are still talking about the State of the Union response given by Alabama Sen. Katie Britt, which has been widely mocked by politicians and pundits alike. It certainly didn’t require the skills of a futurist to realize her less-than-stellar efforts would result in a raw and ruthless parody on “Saturday Night Live.”

One Republican pollster called Britt “creepy,” while a national Republican consultant told Rolling Stone, “I’ll give Biden this — He at least gave a better speech than Katie Britt.” “It’s one of our biggest disasters ever,” another unnamed Republican strategist told The Daily Beast. Radio host and former Fox Newser Megyn Kelly all but served the junior senator her political severance papers.

Katie Britt was successful in one manner. She had people talking about her.

Giving the State of the Union response is pretty much a thankless job. You are in the crosshairs of the opposing party, which is bound to attack or misrepresent anything you say in an effort to discredit you. More often than not, it provides few advantages to the career of the individual who receives the ambiguous honor of delivering it.

There have been some very poor performances. Britt’s, however, was a colossal failure, a wipeout that overshadowed even the less stellar attempts such as Louisiana Gov. Bobby Jindal’s near drowning in 2009, Sen. Marco Rubio’s water guzzling in 2013, and Rep. Joe Kennedy appearing in front of the cameras with ChapStick plastered over his chin in 2018, prompting viewers to believe he was panting.

What tipped Britt’s lukewarm performance from merely clueless to outright obscene was its darkest moment, when she told a horrific and sadistic story that, at least by implication, turned out to be a bold-faced lie. It was about a woman Britt met when she visited the Texas border. “She had been sex trafficked by the cartels starting at the age of 12. She told me not just that she was raped every day, but how many times a day she was raped,” Britt said. “We wouldn’t be okay with this happening in a Third World country. This is the United States of America, and it is past time, in my opinion, that we start acting like it. President Biden’s border policies are a disgrace.”

Such an account appeared to be a powerful, touching, and emotional story. However, some stealth fact checking, led by journalist Jonathan Katz, revealed that although the woman in question and her experiences are accurate, they did not take place on American soil, but rather occurred in Mexico. They also occured between 2004 and 2008, more than a decade before Biden was sworn in as president. The Post’s fact checker Glenn Kessler awarded Britt four Pinocchios for the way she twisted this tragic story to make a craven partisan point.

Britt, a 42-year-old rising star in her party, was supposed to represent “America’s mom,” according to talking points that were sent around to conservative influencers before she spoke from her upscale designer kitchen. Fellow Alabama Sen. Tommy Tuberville commented, “She was picked as a housewife, not just a senator.” Really?

Britt is actually an an attorney who served on Capitol Hill as chief of staff to her predecessor, Richard Shelby. She was also the first woman to lead the Business Council of Alabama, which is the state’s chamber of commerce. She’s been a pioneer insofar as it relates to female politicians in Alabama, so presenting her as a housewife first reveals some alarming and major flaws behind why the GOP struggles to effectively recruit suburban women.

That deeply contradictory and problematic message is hardly reassuring during a moment when the Republican Party is attempting to dispel its image as a retrograde entity that desires to return women to the pre-1960s era.

An era of women being largely nonexistent in the workplace, primarily raising families, forced to accept physical and emotional abuse, battling mental health issues by suffering in isolation and silence, having to quietly overlook, if not, outright tolerate marital infidelity, bereft of any legal rights from the judicial system, and residing in a state of potential economic and social vulnerability by deeply mired in second-class status. Such an image will hardly prompt many women across the political and generational spectrum — particularly many millennial and Gen Z women — to embrace the party.

There are people weighing in on Katie Britt’s future. Some argue that she has likely been omitted from Trump’s short list for vice president. Others believe it will take her years to recuperate from such a politically disastrous situation.

One thing is certain. Neither the Republican National Committee nor the National Republican Party did themselves any favors by ushering Katie Britt into the political lion’s den to deliver such an ill-judged response.

Copyright 2024 Elwood Watson, distributed by Cagle Cartoons newspaper syndicate

Elwood Watson is a professor of history, Black studies, and gender and sexuality studies at East Tennessee State University. He is also an author and public speaker.