On Thursday, from both inside and outside the Republican National Convention, Republicans simultaneously tried to woo women voters while opposing essential women’s rights.
The RNC largely ignored social issues, but socially conservative organizations held many events outside of the RNC security perimeter. On Thursday afternoon, two such groups that are composed solely of women—Concerned Women for America and the Susan B. Anthony List—honored anti–abortion rights female politicians in a restaurant upstairs from the Hooters just past the RNC security gate.
The common theme of the various politicians’ remarks was that the truly feminist position is to oppose reproductive freedom. Representative Michele Bachmann (R-MN) called President Obama, “the most anti-woman, anti-life president in history.” In essence, the argument is that women are mothers and fetuses are babies, so legalized abortion leads to widespread infanticide, and that is disrespectful to women.
But those were just some of the provocative statements made. Senator Kelly Ayotte (R-NH) claimed that, “the president is doing everything in his power to radically expand abortions in this country.”
Another persistent theme was that society must protect the defenseless. But the interest in doing so only lasts until they exit the womb. “How we treat the most vulnerable among us is a reflection of who we are,” said Ayotte. She did not mean that we should feed the hungry or house the homeless, only that we should not allow abortions. Similarly, Florida Attorney General Pam Bondi, said that her newborn niece’s Down Syndrome has reified her commitment to opposing abortion. “It breaks my heart to think how many people would not have chosen to keep that precious angel,” said Bondi.
Bondi gave a speech with Georgia Attorney General Sam Olens at the RNC on the evils of healthcare reform that was widely panned for its awkward, flat delivery. After the event on Thursday I buttonholed Bondi and asked her how she responds to disability rights groups that all support healthcare reform. If she does not believe in preventing insurers from excluding people with prior conditions and expanding Medicaid, I wondered, how does she propose to provide healthcare for disabled people who may be less fortunate than her niece? The answer? She doesn’t. “Our insurance system isn’t perfect,” conceded Bondi. “But my niece has incredible insurance. I haven’t experienced [inadequate coverage] at all.” That, of course, is no answer at all.
In his acceptance speech on Thursday night, Romney followed up on the RNC’s week-long theme of appealing to women through tokenism and condescending rhetoric. Here is what he had to say about his mother and how her foray into electoral politics shaped his own behavior:
My mom and dad were true partners, a life lesson that shaped me by everyday example. When my mom ran for the Senate, my dad was there for her every step of the way. I can still hear her saying in her beautiful voice, “Why should women have any less say than men, about the great decisions facing our nation?”
I wish she could have been here at the convention and heard leaders like Governor Mary Fallin, Governor Nikki Haley, Governor Susana Martinez, Senator Kelly Ayotte and Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice.
As governor of Massachusetts, I chose a woman lieutenant governor, a woman chief of staff, half of my cabinet and senior officials were women, and in business, I mentored and supported great women leaders who went on to run great companies.
That’s the tokenism. Everything Romney said about appointing women is good, but none of it is a substitute for policy. The number of women Romney appointed in Massachusetts would be a rounding error on the total workforce in the state. The question is whether Romney supports policies that would help all women obtain equal treatment in the workplace. His record on that is mixed at best. Although his campaign said he would not appeal the the Lily Ledbetter Fair Pay Act, they initially waffled on it. And he refuses to say whether he would support the Paycheck Fairness Act, a Democratic bill in Congress that would crack down on pay disparities between men and women. Compared to President Obama, Romney is simply not a leader on gender equality. Planning your pregnancies is also essential to women’s ability to manage their careers, and Romney’s policies would create obstacles to that as well. He opposes abortion rights and requiring hospitals and health insurance companies to provide access to contraception.
Romney’s efforts to substitute hiring women for supporting their legal equality is reminiscent of his misleading answer to a debate question on gay rights. He said he opposes discrimination and hired openly gay employees. Hiring gay employees means you do not practice discrimination, but it does not mean you actually oppose discrimination. To do so would require pledging to sign into a law bill that would protect them from being discriminated against by employers who are not inclined to be as kind as Romney. And that is something Romney opposes.
Then there was Romney’s grossly patronizing paean to stay-at-home mothers, in the person of his privileged wife. Recalling their early years of marriage, Romney said:
Those days were toughest on Ann, of course. She was heroic. Five boys, with our families a long way away. I had to travel a lot for my job then and I’d call and try to offer support. But every mom knows that doesn’t help get the homework done or the kids out the door to school.
I knew that her job as a mom was harder than mine. And I knew without question, that her job as a mom was a lot more important than mine. And as America saw Tuesday night, Ann would have succeeded at anything she wanted to.
As Matthew Yglesias pointed out in Slate, this makes no sense. If Ann’s job was harder and more important than Mitt’s, why is Mitt the one running for president? And if raising kids is more important than working in a job, why did Romney earlier tout his record of appointing women to high office?
His comments also raise a number of unpleasant questions. Are women who work outside of the home engaged in less important work than stay-at-home moms? If so, Romney is denigrating the majority of American mothers. And why does he create this false dichotomy of more and less important jobs? Families need money and they need childcare. Some, such as the Romneys, are fortunate to get enough of the former from one parent that the other can focus full-time on providing the latter. As is typical of the Romneys, they seem blissfully unaware of their own class privilege. And since Romney also blasted Obama for supposedly undermining the work requirements in welfare reform, he is contradicting himself. If the best thing for Ann to do was to stay at home with her children, why is that not the case for single mothers on welfare? If Mitt believes that Ann’s child-rearing was harder and more important than his job in private equity, then why does he not believe that unemployed single mothers are also engaged in harder, more important work than he? Why does he want them to abandon that work for, say, menial jobs in the service economy? And why is he running for president instead of finding the welfare recipient with the most children and nominating her?
Romney’s appeals to women make no sense because his positions are not good for women. Therefore, he, like Republican women, tries to spin policies that would limit women’s rights as being in their best interest. It’s an impressive feat of mental dexterity, but it’s a far less honest approach than making the more straightforward “traditional family values” argument that Republicans used to rely upon. They’ve realized that won’t work, but this probably won’t either.
By: Ben Adler, The Nation, September 3, 2012
Among politicians, as among athletes or practitioners of a hundred other arts, there are “naturals,” people who have an instinctive feel for how their endeavor ought to be done and display an effortless level of skill. Then there are those who have less of an instinctive feel for it but work hard to master the various components until they become the closest approximation of the natural as possible. Bill Clinton, for instance, would be in the first category, while Hillary Clinton would be in the second category. Then there are people like Mitt Romney, who not only isn’t a natural but can’t quite seem to put all the pieces of being a candidate together.
Look, for instance, at this exchange from an interview Romney did with ABC’s Diane Sawyer:
DIANE SAWYER: I want to talk about a couple of issues relating to women. This 19 point difference between you and the president on women. Here are some specific questions. If you were president– you had been president– would you have signed the Lilly Ledbetter Law?
MITT ROMNEY: It’s certainly a piece of legislation I have no intend– intention of changing. I wasn’t there three years ago–
DIANE SAWYER: But would you have signed it?
MITT ROMNEY: –so I– I’m not going to go back and look at all the prior laws and say had I been there which ones would I have supported and signed, but I certainly support equal pay for women and– and have no intention of changing that law, don’t think there’s a reason to.
This is something Romney has done before: talking about what he will and won’t talk about, instead of just talking about the thing he wants to talk about (for instance, when he gets uncomfortable questions about Mormonism, he tends to say things like “I’m sorry, we’re just not going to have a discussion about religion in my view”). He has a meta-communication problem. It pulls him outside the moment, making him an observer of his own campaign. It’s a subtle thing, but it reinforces the idea of Romney as a distant, overly analytical, and ultimately unknowable figure. As every aspiring writer learns in their first writing workshop, the first rule of storytelling is “Don’t tell ‘em, show ‘em.” Until now, Romney hasn’t found a way to show Americans much; he’s much more comfortable just telling us.
Unfortunately for him, it isn’t as though there is some kind of dramatic change Romney could make to address this basic problem. If he tries, he might start singing “America the Beautiful” again, and lord knows nobody wants that.
By: Paul Waldman, The American Prospect, April 17, 2012
Mitt Romney thought he had found the right wedge to drive between President Obama and women: unemployment. On Wednesday morning Romney started the day off with a speech in Hartford, Connecticut, blaming Obama for job losses among women since he took office. Said Romney:
I was disappointed in listening to the President as he’s saying ‘Republicans are waging a war on women.’ The real war on women is being waged by the President’s failed economic policies.… These are just some statistics which show just how severe the war on women has been by virtue of the President’s failed policies. The number of jobs … this is an amazing statistic…the percentage of jobs lost by women in the President’s three years, three and a half years, 92.3 percent of all the jobs lost during the Obama years have been lost by women. 92.3 percent!
This is merely a variation on the same intellectually dishonest nonsense that Republicans have been slinging at Obama for years. There is a lag between when a president takes office and when his policies are imposed, then take effect, and then have measurable results. The job losses during Obama’s first year in office are the result of the economic collapse that began before he was elected. Since then, the private sector has been slowly adding jobs. The public sector, meanwhile, has been shedding jobs because there is also a lag between an economic downturn and the compressed government budgets that force layoffs of civil servants. Also the president cannot pass everything he wants by fiat. Obama and other Democrats have pushed for stimulus measures such as aid to states that would reduce the number of teachers, police officers and so forth getting laid off. That would benefit both citizens who depend on their services and the economy as a whole. Republicans have refused to vote for these bills on the grounds that we cannot afford to add to the national debt to pay for them, and then turned around hypocritically lambasted Obama for the job numbers that are the direct result of Republican policies.
And that is just what Romney is doing on the subject of women’s employment. As Slate’s Matthew Yglesias explains:
Recessions hit male-dominated highly cyclical sectors like construction and manufacturing first. Women tend to disproportionately work in sectors like health care and education that show slow and steady job growth. But those male-dominated cyclical sectors also bounce back relatively quickly. So since the recession started more than a year before Obama’s inauguration, male job losses were close to bottoming out by the time Obama took office and he’s presided over a lot of rebound growth in male employment. Women, by contrast, have been devastated by cascading waves of teacher layoffs.
No wonder New York Times reporters Ashley Parker and Trip Gabriel labeled Romney’s claim “misleading for several reasons.”
Mere intellectual dishonesty is a daily operation for Romney, and it would hardly have caused a mainstream media kerfuffle. But on a conference call Wednesday Romney’s advisers were dumbstruck when asked whether he supports the Lilly Ledbetter Fair Pay Restoration Act that Obama signed into law in 2009. Romney can’t credibly present himself as an advocate of women in the workplace if he doesn’t support legislation that would protect them from discrimination. (The law makes it possible for women to sue for being paid less than male colleagues within 180 days of the last, rather than first, paycheck. The Romney campaign later said he would not repeal the law.)
But Republican women seem to think they can do just that. Romney’s campaign spent Wednesday flooding reporters with statements from female Republican politicians attacking Obama’s record on women in the economy. Here’s a sample from a conference all they pulled together on Thursday:
“Women have faced massive job losses under this administration and the policies of this president have failed women voters.” —Senator Kelly Ayotte (R-NH)
“Since President Obama and the Democrats can’t run on the record, which includes the longest streak of high unemployment since the Great Depression, a record increase in the national debt, and near-record gas prices they’re working desperately to change the subject. And that’s why they’ve created this whole ‘war on women’ campaign. It’s really designed to distract women from the real issues…. There’s no ‘war on women’ by the Republicans.” —Representative Cathie McMorris-Rodgers (R-WA)
“The Obama policies have failed. In fact, they’ve made the economy worse, and they’ve made it worse particularly for women.” —Representative Cynthia Lummis (R-WY)
Something is funny about all these Republican women rushing to Romney’s defense. None of them support women’s rights. Ayotte co-sponsored the Blunt-Rubio amendment that would allow employers to refuse to cover any medication, including birth control, which they object to on moral or religious grounds. McMorris-Rodgers and Lummis voted against the Ledbetter Fair Pay Act, as did Representative Mary Bono Mack (R-FL), who issued a statement attacking on Romney’s behalf saying, “Women in the Obama economy are facing hardships of historical proportions.” All three congresswomen voted against the Paycheck Fairness Act, which would take other steps to make it easier for women to fight for equal pay, such as prohibiting retaliation by companies against workers who raise wage-parity issues. Just because these politicians are women does not mean they have women’s interests at heart. If they oppose women’s rights to be protected from discrimination in the workplace, then they are hardly credible as critics of the effects of Obama’s policies on women’s economic standing.
And it’s not just at work where Romney’s female surrogates oppose women’s rights. Virginia Delegate Barbara Comstock, who also participated in the Thursday conference call, voted to require women to have an ultrasound prior to an abortion.
The Romney campaign seems to think that merely being a woman makes one qualified to represent all women. As Jessica Valenti notes, this patronizing belief manifests especially in their use of Mitt’s wife Ann as his supposed ambassador to women. But this is only slightly less ludicrous to claim that because a Republican politician with typical anti-women Republican policies happens to have two X chromosomes that she is somehow a spokesperson for women’s political interests.
By: Ben Adler, The Nation, April 13, 2012
Last week, Romney campaign press secretary, Andrea Saul, set off a firestorm when she tweeted, “FACT: Women account for 92.3 percent of jobs loss under @BarackObama.”
Before you knew it, the Romney campaign had locked onto the statistic and made it the centerpiece of their effort to turn the corner on the mass defection of female voters to Obama—a stampede that, should it hold up, will make it very difficult for the Governor to defeat the President in November.
The strategy is a tricky one—although it certainly doesn’t hurt the Romney meme that Ms. Saul’s statement is factually true.
However, there is a great deal more to the story and—should women become acquainted with the facts rather than the bumper sticker—Governor Romney may find that he has dug the hole deeper by trying to pull a fast one on female voters. Unlike we male troglodytes, women tend to pay closer attention to the facts because…well…because they are smarter then men.
To get to the truth behind the numbers, we begin with Gary Burtless, a labor market expert with the non-partisan Brookings Institute, who highlights what took place during the recessionary period that began in December 2007.
I think males were disproportionately hurt by employment losses in manufacturing and especially construction, which is particularly male-dominated. A lot of job losses in those two industries had already occurred before Obama took office. Industries where women are more likely to be employed – education, health, the government – fared better in terms of job loss. In fact, health and education employment continued to grow in the recession and in the subsequent recovery. Government employment only began to fall after the private economy (and private employment) began growing again.
Burtless’ perspective is borne out by data that reveals that men lost 5,355,000 jobs during the recessionary period that began in December 2007 and ended in June 2009 when things began turning around, albeit unconvincingly. During that same period, women lost 2,124,000 jobs. Thus, during the recession, roughly 72 percent of all the jobs lost were taken from the men.
Oddly, it was not until things started moving in a better direction that women began experiencing the lion’s share of the pain.
There is a reason for this. What followed the recession were the deep cuts in state and local government jobs—jobs that tend to be filled by women in far greater numbers then men.
According to Joan Entmacher, vice president and director of family economic security at the National Women’s Law Center in Washington, D.C., while the private sector has added more than 2.5 million jobs since March 2010, state and local government jobs have been cut by 500,000—the majority of these jobs once belonging to women.
What’s more, it turns out that this pattern of men getting fired first followed by women losing their gigs just when men are beginning to return to work is a pattern that has held in previous recessions.
So, can you rationally blame this female job loss problem on President Obama?
Some could argue that had the President’s policies brought about a more emphatic recovery, states and localities would be racking up greater tax receipts, giving them more money to spend and, as a result, would not have found it necessary to cut so many of the jobs that have put women out of work disproportionately.
But to make that argument, you would necessarily have to support keeping or returning women to their state and local government jobs.
This is a problem when one acknowledges that it is the Romney side of the political ledger that makes ‘small government’ a hallmark of their reason for being. Thus, even if there were more dollars available to fund government at all levels, it seems fair to point out that conservatives would strenuously argue that the money should remain in the pockets of the taxpayers and not be shuttled off to government coffers to be spent on more public workers.
This is where it gets a bit sticky for the Romney camp.
It’s awfully hard to pursue a position that conflicts with your central reason for being—let alone making it a major campaign plank. If you support smaller government, you necessarily support fewer government employees. If those employees happen to be women— because women make up the majority of people who hold these jobs—you can’t really grouse about their job loss when the very act of their losing the job is a fulfillment of a critically important piece in your political platform.
And if you do decide to grouse, you run the risk of being exposed for a measure of hypocrisy.
It is no secret that a great many of the government job losses have come in education where states have cut back spending dramatically in response to budgetary problems. It is also no secret,as the following chart reveals, that the teaching profession—overwhelmingly dominated by women—has taken a major hit during the recent, post-recession years.
So, do we blame Obama for the firing of so many teachers?
Education budgets are controlled by the states. Of the top ten states that have made the deepest cuts into education, eight of them are under the firm control of Republicans.
Meanwhile, reviewing the only three states that have increased funding for education during the past year—Maryland, South Carolina and Massachusetts—we find that two are led by Democrats. Governor Nikki Haley of South Carolina is the only Republican governor in the nation to increase spending on education.
Now, one can again suggest that a more robust recovery would have allowed these GOP governors and legislators to hold onto more of the teaching workforce. However, when it comes to cutting state and local jobs, blaming the President is somewhat akin to blaming him for the state proposals we’ve seen over the past few months attempting to subject women to vaginal ultrasound testing before an abortion is permitted.
At the end of the day, there is simply no rational basis to pin the loss of women’s jobs following the recession on the President. When taking in all the information, the argument just does not hold up.
In some respects, I have sympathy for Governor Romney in having to wear the mantle of a ‘warrior against women’. He didn’t start this. Indeed, there is ample evidence that he has not discriminated against women throughout his career and campaign.While right to life supporters might take issue with my cutting the governor such a break, given Romney’s flip-flop on the subject of abortion, I remain convinced that Romney is, in reality, no more opposed to abortion rights than he was when he was the Governor of Massachusetts.
Of course, the governor didn’t help himself with his milquetoast response to Rush Limbaugh’s attack on Sandra Fluke just as his campaign did him no favors yesterday when it appeared they had never heard of or, at the least, yet to form an opinion when asked about the Lilly Ledbetter Act—the first piece of legislation signed into law by President Obama and one aimed at improving women’s access to the courts to redress pay discrimination.
Fair or not, as the party standard bearer, Governor Romney takes on the troubles caused by Limbaugh and the many GOP state and federal legislators who have come up with some pretty bizarre, old century ideas that are the stuff of the “war against women.” If he’s going to overcome the handicap, I suspect he’s going to have to do much better than attempting a little misdirection in the effort to fool female voters.
Because if the women of America are anything like my own wife—and I strongly suspect that they are—the Governor’s ploy is a non-starter that will easily be found out.
If Romney wants the women to come back, he’s going to have to do much better.
By: Rick Ungar, The Policy Page, Forbes, April 12, 2012
As part of Mitt Romney’s ongoing attemptto project all of his weakness onto President Obama, the presumed GOP nominee is accusing his general election opponent of waging a “war on women.”
Democrats have used the same charge to highlight Republicans’ systematic attacks on women’s rights, but Romney flipped the claim at a rally last night night, saying, “The real war on women has been the job losses as the result of the Obama economy.” He continued the attack on Fox News this morning, where he repeatedly went out of his way to attack Obama’s record on women:
ROMNEY: Over 92 percent of the jobs lost under this president where lost by women. His policies have been really a war on women. … Women in particular suffered under this presidency. Watch it: http://youtu.be/F7H_FcJifM0
The “92 percent” statistic that Romney cites is highly misleading. For one thing, it attributes to Obama job losses from January 2009 — a terrible month for jobs — before he was even sworn in as president, and long before his policies were enacted. If you count the entirety of the recession beginning in 2007, 39.7 percent of the jobs lost — less than half — were lost by women.
The reason women’s job losses are skewed towards the end of the recession is that the earlier job losses were largely in male-dominated industries such as construction. Women, meanwhile, tend to work in industries that have been hit harder on the back end of the recession, such as education and health care — public sector jobs that have been decimated by GOP austerity budgeting. Princeton University Professor Betsey Stevenson told Politifact that “in every recession men’s job loss occurs first and most, with unemployment rates for men being more cyclical than those of women’s.”
Meanwhile, Obama has enacted policies to help women, like the Lilly Ledbetter Fair Pay Act, designed to help close the pay gap between the genders. This morning, Romney’s campaign wouldn’t say if their candidate supports the law, which was blocked by Senate Republicans. In fact, the campaign couldn’t offer any coherent explanation for how Obama has waged a “war on women” at all.
On health care — which polls show is women’s number one issue, beating even the economy — Obama’s health reform law includes a number of provisions to help women women, such as free preventive services and better access to contraception, both of which were enacted over opposition from Republican lawmakers. Meanwhile, Romney has called for eliminating Planned Parenthood and restricting access to contraception.
Romney’s concern for women is a new development, likely spurred by very bad polling for him, as just last month he told a college student concerned about losing access to her insurance-covered contraception, “vote for the other guy.”
By: Alex Seitz-Wald and Pat Garofalo, Think Progress, April 11, 2012