When I first heard outrage over Democratic strategist and CNN talking head Hillary Rosen’s so-called “controversial” statement pertaining to Ann Romney, my first question was: Who’s Hilary Rosen?
Seriously, who is she?
In case you’ve been living under a rock (or, like me, consumed by the start of the NHL Playoffs season), here’s the comment that got many of my conservative friends fired-up:
Rosen’s comments made it sound like stay-at-home mother’s really don’t know the value of work. Look, I agree with all the criticism fired at her statement. The point she was trying to make was lazy, sloppy, and sounded a bit out-of-touch. Ms. Rosen eventually apologized to Ann Romney for her comments after many of her liberal allies backpedaled and hid from her as fast as they could.
However, even though her basic argument wasn’t formulated in the most artful of ways, the argument was spot-on.
Ms. Rosen is essentially correct.
Bear with me a second.
First-off, I love politics, and I understand the one major battle a politician or political party must do from the get-go is to win The Optics War. You win the perception of the debate, you ultimately win the debate. Perception becomes reality, eventually. That’s why the Republicans–with some help with semantics champion Frank Lutz–have been enormously successful at winning battles at both the state and federal level.
On the flip-side, Democrats seem to be winning the perception debate that THEY are the party fighting for women’s rights. Polls have shown President Obama with a huge lead with female voters over Ann’s husband–former governor Mitt Romney.
The fight over contraception, Planned Parenthood funding, and other women’s health issues didn’t do the GOP any favors during the early months of 2012. Additionally, Mr. Romney’s campaign had a rough time finally coming to the conclusion that they do, in fact, support the The Lilly Ledbetter Fair Pay Act, which allows women to file lawsuits for pay discrimination at their job.
Not only that, but Michigan Republican senatorial candidate Pete Hoekstra called the Ledbetter law “a nuisance.”
Or, let’s not forget cascade of state laws either passed or proposed that deal with women’s issues. My favorite this week came from Iowa. A state senator proposed legislation that would force anyone receiving child support payment to take a drug test–at the request of the person making the payments!!! The proposed law failed, but you have to give that guy high fives for appearing to be an incompetent, cold-hearted dude completely detached from reality.
Awesomeness, indeed in Iowa!
With provocative statements like that, it’s not really hard to imagine why Obama and the Democrats are winning the hearts and minds of the majority of women in the U.S.
So, cue Ms. Rosen’s comments, and Romney and his many powerful media cohorts caught a break: a symbolic enemy they believed could erase all of those policy fights conservatives had been losing.
You see, according to Romney’s people, Rosen wasn’t just attacking Ann Romney for being a stay-at-home mother. No, she was attacking ALL stay-at-home mothers.
Hence, the Romney team tried to win the optics war. And, to a certain extent, they did in the short term. Rosen was vilified by not only conservatives, but by her Democratic friends. She later apologized which signaled weakness, and ensured that her overall point that Ann Romney doesn’t understand what it’s like to be a working mother would be forever lost.
Which is sad because someone should be speaking up for the nearly 80% of working mothers in the country. Rosen’s argument is relevant and correct. Does Ann Romney really know what it’s like for the average mother in this country? Should Mitt Romney use his wife as guidance when it comes to women’s issues when she doesn’t truly have an accurate gauge on the daily trials and tribulations a working mother endures each and every day?
That’s not taking any away from Mrs. Romney’s work as a mother. She’s obviously done a fantastic job raising her five children, and has had to endure her own personal hardships like living with Multiple Sclerosis and battling breast cancer. On top of that, she’s loves to ride horses, and is reportedly very good at it.
Let’s face reality, though. Similar to Rose Kennedy before her, Mrs. Romney did have the benefits many other mothers didn’t have. Many Moms out there don’t have the luxury of receiving assistance from help staff around the house. That’s not putting her down, but it’s reality.
To drive this point home, Leslie Bennetts wrote this week in The Daily Beast:
Whether you’re a father with a stay-at-home wife, a working mother with a partner, or a single mother on her own, the buck stops with you if you’re providing the primary financial support for your family—and that responsibility is often terrifying. We all have our wide-awake-at-3-in-the-morning nights, and no doubt Mrs. Romney has endured her share. But her worries, however grave, have never included the ability to feed her kids or keep a roof over their heads—and those are problems that regularly torture countless American women.
For most of them, working for pay is a necessity, and staying home to raise their children is not an option, despite the constant blather about “choice.” Whether or not we want to do so—and many of us do—the majority of us work because we have to, and our children depend on us to bring in a reliable income. No one who has never shouldered that responsibility can ever really know what it’s like—how scary it is, how hard it is, and how lonely it can feel.
The issue that should be discussed is how certain policies affect those millions of women who don’t have the luxury of staying at home with their kids. For example according to Bloomberg News, Republican Congressman Paul Ryan’s budget (passed by the House but later rejected by the Senate) would’ve levied major cuts affecting women, including food stamps, Medicaid, and Pell Grants.
It would be fantastic if we could discuss how certain policies will or are affecting millions of American women. Instead, we’re dealing with the stupid sideshow of the Politics of Perception.
American politics. Gotta love it!
I need a drink.
UPDATE: Via Buzzfeed, a recent Census study reveals stay-at-home motherhood increases for those without a high school degree. So, stay-at-home Moms aren’t rich people; or, as conservative writer David Frum notes, stay-at-home motherhood is a class marker rather than a cultural one. It’s those who aren’t educated enough or can’t find work who stay home with their kids. That’s also not good.
It’s a fascinating subject that leads to so much more discussion and debate. Let’s hope Ms. Rosen’s statements lead to further discussions on the subject of motherhood in America. It deserves true examination rather than the stupid sideshow we’ve been treated to during the past week.