Outsourcing the job to his wife isn’t going to solve Mitt Romney’s problem with women voters.
That, though, does seem to be the candidate’s first instinct. Romney, when asked last week about the gender gap, twice said he wished his wife could take the question.
“My wife has the occasion, as you know, to campaign on her own and also with me,” Romney told newspaper editors, “and she reports to me regularly that the issue women care about most is the economy.”
Note to candidate: Women aren’t a foreign country. You don’t need an interpreter to talk to them. Even if you’re not fluent in their language, they might appreciate if you gave it a try.
As if to emphasize their candidate’s unfamiliarity with the territory of gender, the Romney campaign then released a fuzzy-wuzzy video, titled “Family” and starring, of course, Ann Romney, reminiscing over grainy film and vintage snapshots.
“I hate to say it but often I had more than five sons,” Ann recalls. “I had six sons, and he would be as mischievous and as naughty as the other boys. He’d come home and” — here Romney makes the sound of a building blowing up — “everything would just explode again.”
Somehow I doubt that Ann Romney, circa 1982, having finally managed to get her five boys under control, was all that happy about their father coming home only to “get them all riled up again.” Somehow I doubt that beleaguered moms, circa 2012, listen to her story and think, “Oh, Mitt is so much more fun than I thought.” Rather, I suspect, they wonder whether he should have been doing more to lend a hand.
Indeed, the video offers an unintentional glimpse of Ann’s own frustrations. “It was hard to maneuver,” Ann notes. “I could do okay when I had the two. Three, not so bad. Four, it got to be a little much.” On the campaign trail with her husband, Ann often talks about the old days when she would be at home dealing with her rambunctious brood and Mitt would call from the road. “His consoling words were always the same: Ann, your job is more important than mine.”
This story is supposed to buttress Mitt’s bona fides as a supportive husband, and Ann is, no doubt, a more tolerant spouse than I am. But every time I hear that patronizing line, I imagine responding, “Great. If my job is more important, then you come home and do it and I’ll check into the nice room at the Four Seasons.”
Romney’s biggest problem with women voters is among those with college educations and among those under 45. A new Washington Post/ABC News poll, for example, showed President Obama leading Romney by 57 percent to 38 percent among registered women voters, while Obama lagged with men, 44 percent to Romney’s 52 percent.
However, the gender gap was markedly bigger among college-educated women, 65 percent of whom supported Obama, compared to 52 percent of those without a college education. Same with age, with 63 percent of female voters 18 to 44 backing Obama, compared to 54 percent of those 45 and older.
How many of these younger and/or better-educated women are going to identify with Ann Romney’s father-knows-best description of life in chez Romney? I understand that the candidate badly needs humanizing but, especially for general-election purposes, it would be more powerful to combine the family story with examples, assuming they exist, about Workplace Mitt promoting women or adopting family-friendly policies.
Even as Mitt was playing a bit role in his wife’s video, Obama was hosting a “White House Forum on Women and the Economy.” In an unstated yet unavoidable contrast with stay-at-home mother Ann Romney, Obama described his wife as “the woman who once advised me at the law firm in Chicago where we met” and related how Michelle Obama, after their daughters were born, “gave it her all to balance raising a family and pursuing a career.”
Obama and Romney come from different backgrounds and generations, and their experience of gender roles is inevitably different as well; if Obama connects better with younger, working women, that’s no surprise. And Romney is not alone in performing poorly with women voters. The GOP has suffered from a gender gap in every presidential election since 1980.
So Romney can lose the women’s vote and still win, but not if the gap remains this big. Narrowing it will be, in this case, a man’s job.
By: Ruth Marcus, Opinion Writer, The Washington Post, April 10, 2012
In 1973, a small but powerful group of right-wing state legislators and activists met in Chicago. They gathered to form an organization for those who believe that government, in their words, ought to be limited and “closest to the people.” And since, thanks to Chief Justice John Roberts and Mitt Romney, we know that corporations are, in fact, people, it makes sense that Exxon Mobil, Wal-Mart and Koch Industries are among the funders of this secretive and influential group, the American Legislative Exchange Council, known by its sweet-sounding acronym ALEC.
For nearly forty years, ALEC has quietly and successfully pushed its extremist agenda in state assemblies across the country. As The Nation and the Center for Media Democracy exposed last summer — work recently cited by The New York Times’ Paul Krugman — ALEC literally writes state laws by providing fully drafted model legislation to more than 2,000 state legislators. This corporate leviathan backed the recent national conservative push to further enrich the one percent while rolling back workers’ rights, inventing new ways to harass and debase women and suppressing the vote. They also wrote the so-called “Stand Your Ground” gun bills that now blight some 20 states across the country and are implicated in the killing of Florida teenager Trayvon Martin.
While conservatives are skilled puppeteers, progressives are great at mobilizing people and channeling energy for the big fights, whether it’s putting the crisis of income inequality at center stage, or even electing a progressive president. But ALEC’s astonishing influence exposes the progressive Achilles’ heel: a lack of a similarly entrenched, nationwide infrastructure of state and local policymakers and advocates that can create and support lasting change.
Sure, well-coordinated progressive responses throughout the country, thus far, have prevented more extensive damage to our democracy. Mississippi, for instance, soundly defeated a ballot initiative to legalize “fetus personhood.” Maine saved same-day voter registration at the ballot box. The people of Wisconsin have fought back against a relentless right-wing attack on workers’ rights and forced Governor Scott Walker into a recall election.
But playing defense isn’t enough. The progressive movement needs to build a bench that can play offense at the grassroots, local, state and national levels, and one that is positioned to pull every lever of power in our multi-layered political system. Without that, for every big union busting bill defeated, or every progressive president elected, there still will be hundreds of right-wing initiatives percolating through the political system, eroding our rights and unraveling our hard-earned progress.
The good news is that this is already happening, resulting in key wins on paid sick leave, the minimum wage and gay and lesbian equality at the state and local levels. “People are now looking to do what the right has done so effectively — coordinating ideas, narratives, legislators and activists to really push in a progressive direction,” says New York City councilman and Progressive Caucus co-chair Brad Lander.
It was in this spirit that Lander met earlier this month with other progressive city leaders from across the country, key allies and groups like Progressive States Network, New Bottom Line and PolicyLink, to discuss the creation of a national network focused on promoting local progressive action by sharing and spreading great legislative ideas. This budding network joins established organizations like the Center for American Progress, Working Families Party, Progressive Majority, and Center on Wisconsin Strategy.
At the same time, Progressive Majority director Gloria Totten and a range of allies are pursuing a complementary project called the Elected Officials Alliance to coordinate state lawmakers across issue and organizational lines. Ultimately, the goal is to link state and local officials to policy organizations, like the Economic Analysis and Research Network (EARN). All of these groups are aiming to build a counterforce to ALEC.
On the policy front, the centerpiece of the effort is an initiative called the American Legislative and Issue Campaign Exchange (ALICE), started by Center on Wisconsin Strategy director Joel Rogers. ALICE would offer model laws for both state and local legislators and support citizen-directed efforts like ballot initiatives, all based on the values of equity, sustainability and responsible government.
But much more is needed. To successfully counter ALEC, the progressive movement also needs troops on the ground to complement the work of legislators. While conservatives may have built the best movement that money can buy, progressives build movements fueled by what politicians need more than money: people and their votes.
That’s why the time is right for this week’s launch of the 99 Percent Spring, a new movement led by a huge coalition of progressive organizations — from MoveOn.org to the UAW. It will train 100,000 people across the country to tell the true story of how the one percent’s financial excess and political abuse destroyed our economy. Participants will be trained and equipped to campaign for change through non-violent direct action.
As I’ve often said, political leaders move to where the energy is. If we want to see lasting progressive change, we need to inject that energy, driven by ideas and strategy, into every level of the process. That’s what the growing networks of progressive legislators and the 99 Percent Spring are positioned to do.
By: Katrina vanden Heuvel, Opinion Writer, The Washington Post, April 10, 2012
That Rick Santorum made it this far in the GOP primary shows just how much his views on sex and reproduction resonate with the most religious part of Republican base. The fact that he made it this far by attempting to relitigate the importance, usefulness, and morality of contraception, and getting the country to even discuss it, shows how much Mitt Romney will be forced to contend with the mark Santorum has left on the campaign.
To be sure, with or without Santorum, Romney would have had to address the contraception coverage mandate that has revitalized an anti-contraception movement in the guise of “religious freedom.” But it was Santorum who first brought issues of sex and reproduction to the fore of the presidential campaign, even before the insurance coverage issue made national headlines.
Just days after he won the Iowa caucuses (at the time, he was a close second until additional votes were found and counted), Santorum began the race to the dark ages:
Rick Santorum thinks Griswold v. Connecticut, the 1965 case that invalidated criminal bans on contraception, was wrongly decided. He’s off the deep-end on this one, and completely out of touch even with his fellow Catholics, but his statement provoked an exchange at last night’s debate about whether states should be permitted to ban birth control.
Mitt Romney feigned surprise — and emphasized that he would be absolutely, positively against banning birth control — but the moderators failed to ask him about his enthusiastic support for “personhood” bills that would effectively ban certain kinds of birth control (not to mention fertility treatments). Santorum turned the question to be all about the Griswold ruling on a “penumbra” of rights created under the constitution, anathema to conservatives because of how it underpins Roe v. Wade, and, as Chris Geidner points out, Lawrence v. Texas. They claim these rights are not actually found in the Constitution but were created by “activist judges” — this from the people who think the 14th Amendment guarantees equal protection to fertilized eggs.
At his press conference today, Santorum alluded to reproduction and procreation by praising the family as “the moral enterprise that is America,” and by specifically thanking the 19 Kids and Counting Duggars for campaigning for him. It might have sounded like a standard political homage to wholesome family life, but to anyone who knows Santorum’s views, it was an homage to uber-fertility. As Kathryn Joyce noted here last week, it rings of Quiverfull:
It’s the movement that looks to the Duggar family as de facto spokespeople (even if the Duggars have often hedged whether or not they consider themselves a part of it), and that so venerates the role of proud “patriarch” fathers leading their families—comparing them to CEOs and generals—that it’s easy to see where Harris’ appraisal of Santorum’s family-man qualifications come from. In this election, and the birth control debate that has become a significant part of its soundtrack, the convictions of the Quiverfull community seem to have made a mainstream debut.
Santorum’s speech this afternoon was suffused with other religious imagery, calling Good Friday his family’s “passion play” because of his daughter Bella’s hospitalization; he talked about “witnessing” for Americans’ stories and voices, and belief in miracles. Miracles, that is, for the true believers, not the Kennedys who want to keep religion out of governing, or the mainline Protestants whose congregations are supposedly in shambles, or the believers in “phony religion.”
Santorum brought rhetoric into the race that many conservative activists routinely deploy but few politicians with national aspirations dare to use. “We were winning in a very different way, we were winning hearts, we were raising issues that other people didn’t want to raise,” Santorum said today. Many of his fellow Republicans probably didn’t want him to raise them, and now they’re stuck with them, even with Santorum gone.
By: Sarah Posner, Religion Dispatches, April 10, 2012
The Democrats are putting all their emphasis on touting the Buffett Rule ahead of a Senate vote for next week to coincide with Tax Day. The push is ostensibly an effort to twist the arm of a few of the more moderate Republicans—say the two Maine Senators or running for reelection in Democratic territory Scott Brown—under the hope that they’ll fear public backlash if they vote down the measure, a policy favored by over half of the country. However even if they peel off a few Republicans there is little hope that the bill would make any progress in the GOP-controlled House. Instead, as a conference call hosted by the Obama campaign Monday afternoon made clear, the push is an effort to focus attention on Mitt Romney’s wealth as a viability as the Republican nomination contest begins to come to a conclusion.
Senate Majority Whip Dick Durbin and Wisconsin Representative Tammy Baldwin joined Obama campaign manager Jim Messina on the call. Messina used most of his time talking with the reporters to attack Romney’s refusal to release his tax returns beyond the past two years. “Why is it ok to give John McCain 23 years and the American public only two? It doesn’t make sense, he can’t justify it, and he should release it,” Messina said, referring to the records Romney provided to McCain in 2008 while he was being vetted as a possible VP candidate.
“Romney is the beneficiary of a broken tax system and he wants to keep it that way,” Messina said, hinting at Romney’s 13.9 percent rate for his 2010 taxes. “He wants a system in which firefighters, cops, teachers and middle class Americans all pay a higher tax rate than he does. We think that’s wrong.”
Durbin went a step further, questioning why Romney keeps some of his money in a Swiss bank account. “It is impossible for him to explain or defend owning a Swiss bank account,” Durbin said. “I asked Warren Buffett at a meeting we had recently, ‘have you ever had a Swiss bank account?’ He said, ‘No, there are plenty of good banks in the United States.’ I started asking people ‘why do you have a Swiss bank account?’ There are two reasonable explanations. Number one: you believe the Swiss Frank is a stronger currency than the United States dollar, and that apparently is the decision the Romney family made during the Bush presidency. And secondly, you want to conceal it, you want to hide something.” Durbin didn’t quite accuse Romney of impropriety, but the implication was clear that the Senate Majority Whip believes the Republican presidential candidate is hiding information that could damage his political campaigns.
By: Patrick Caldwell, The American Prospect, April 9, 2012
No matter what Reince Preibus says, the Republican “War on Women” is no fiction. Last week, Preibus likened the war on women to a fictional war on caterpillars. Nice try, but the Republican National Committee chairman might want to quickly review the legislative assault on women’s reproductive freedom on both the state and federal levels since the Republican wave of 2010.
According to the Guttmacher Institute, in 2011, states enacted 135 new reproductive healthcare laws. Personhood amendments, transvaginal ultrasounds, and attacks on contraception make 2012 sound more like 1912. Once you translate the terms for these bills into what they actually mean for lives of real women, the war on American women becomes much clearer.
Whatever your personal opinion of abortion, it is still the law of the land. Personhood amendments, which define life as beginning at the moment of conception, would criminalize all abortions, essentially forcing a woman to give birth against her will. Ultrasound bills, whether they are transvaginal or otherwise, are procedures that force women to endure state-mandated medical procedures simply for choosing a legal abortion. Attacks on contraception, namely the birth control pill, are the most egregious considering the significant number of women who rely on contraception throughout their reproductive years. This attack will certainly not be forgotten in the fall, since fights over a women’s right to control her reproduction in order to freely plan out her life is a fight that was won a generation ago.
Women are not an interest group. President Obama is right about that. The freedom to make choices about your reproductive health is essential to the economic and political freedom of women. Women have fought for generations for these rights and have suddenly seen attempts to strip them away. To add insult to injury, members of the Republican Party who ran in 2010 nationwide on job creation, improving the ailing economy, and cutting spending have focused like a laser on cutting funding to Planned Parenthood, which provides essential healthcare for low-income and uninsured women, voting against the reauthorization of the Violence Against Women Act, voting against equal pay for women, and even an ill-fated attempt to redefine rape. Republicans have attacked women’s rights on all fronts in 2012. Women, who have already begun moving to support President Obama in droves, will be able to fight back at the ballot box.
By: Zerlina Maxwell, Washington Whispers, U. S. News and World Report, April 10, 2012