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“Women Don’t Like To Be Lied To”: Mitt Romney’s Case To Women Fails To Convince

Mitt Romney may be a perfect husband. He’s clearly devoted to Ann Romney. Their storybook relationship began as blushing teenagers, and 43 years and five sons later, Mitt is still smitten with Ann. Lovely.

The problem for Romney is that most women don’t live such fairytale lives. And the candidate’s obvious devotion to one woman doesn’t have a great deal of relevance to them as voters. Women are increasingly the household breadwinners, and more women now graduate from college than men. Yet women still earn less then men do, even in comparable positions. They tend to do more of the caring for elderly parents and are more likely to leave the workforce temporarily or limit their hours to see to the needs of young children.

The challenge for both the Romney and Obama campaigns now is to court undecided female voters, a large enough demographic that they could swing the election. To that end, let me make a suggestion: Stop viewing us as a needy constituency and treat us more as equals.

In this, Obama has the edge so far. He shows it in the words he chooses when discussing issues that affect women more directly than men, such as unequal pay and contraception. He also walks the talk, as when he signed the Lilly Ledbetter Fair Pay Act.

The candidate who will win the undecided women’s vote will be able to honestly discuss inequities that face women, especially in the workplace, yet not talk down to them or only to their wombs. It’s about including women as equals without pandering.

Both Romney and Obama can point to strong, intelligent women who were influential in their lives — both of their mothers qualify. Each man has lived through an era in which women’s roles in the home and workplace changed dramatically.

Many female voters are looking for a candidate who understands the difficult choices women are compelled to make with respect to family and work, who understands the pressure women feel from society’s often-outmoded notions of gender roles. They want a candidate who can show he has learned from women’s experiences during his lifetime, and empathized and stood alongside them when necessary.

Romney’s awkward debate gaffe about “binders full of women” only highlighted what many suspect: that he’s not comfortable discussing the problems many women face. In fact, Romney offered the much-parodied comment while trying to sidestep a question about equal pay. Instead of answering it directly, he boasted about making extra efforts to hire women as cabinet members when he was governor of Massachusetts.

What went unexplained was whether Romney understands why such extra efforts are still needed to ensure a range of qualified people are considered. It’s because the deck is still often stacked against women, with unequal pay and promotion for equal work and by attitudes that continue to see their input as extraneous.

It also raised the question of how a man could rise as high as Romney had in private and public life and not have a Rolodex full of women who had proven their value in his most trusted circles.

The regrettable thing for Romney is women will never know which is his true self. Is it moderate Mitt of years past who conceded that abortion should be legal, not so much as an endorsement of the procedure but as a safeguard of women’s health and safety? That’s the sort of nuanced position many women value. Or is it the “severely conservative” Mitt who pandered to the GOP’s right wing throughout the party’s primaries by mimicking its threats to Planned Parenthood? Romney is forever suspect as a flip-flopper. Women don’t like to be lied to, and many of us know how to listen for clues to that end.

Is Romney the type of man who is respectful in a woman’s presence, but wholly different when he gets back with a huddle of guys? Like many politicians, he holds certain women in places of honor. No arguments there. But it’s not clear that he will have all women’s interests in mind when it counts.

As a prospective steward of public policy that affects all women, he fails to inspire confidence. This is the nearly insurmountable hurdle that Romney now faces.

 

By: Mary Sanchez, The National Memo, October 23, 2012

October 24, 2012 Posted by | Election 2012 | , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

“The Wonderland Of Employers”: Binders Full Of Women Aren’t Enough To Solve Pay Inequality

After two debates with almost no mention of women—even the abortion question in the vice presidential debate framed the issue as one of men’s personal beliefs instead of women’s rights—we finally got a solid question about equal pay from an audience member in the town hall presidential debate.

QUESTION: In what new ways do you intend to rectify the inequalities in the workplace, specifically regarding females making only 72 percent of what their male counterparts earn?

Mitt Romney knows this is a weak spot for him. He took a beating on his campaign’s unwillingness to offer support for equal pay legislation earlier this year, and his running mate, Paul Ryan, voted against the Lilly Ledbetter Act to secure a woman’s right to sue after she’s suffered pay discrimination. Even though Romney’s been showing off his moderate shtick at the debates, he wasn’t going to go far enough to say that equal pay is a right. Instead, he framed it as a matter of employer largess:

ROMNEY: … Important topic, and one which I learned a great deal about, particularly as I was serving as governor of my state, because I had the chance to pull together a cabinet and all the applicants seemed to be men.

And I went to my staff, and I said, “How come all the people for these jobs are—are all men.” They said, “Well, these are the people that have the qualifications.” And I said, “Well, gosh, can’t we—can’t we find some—some women that are also qualified?”

And—and so we—we took a concerted effort to go out and find women who had backgrounds that could be qualified to become members of our cabinet.

I went to a number of women’s groups and said, “Can you help us find folks,” and they brought us whole binders full of women.

Romney’s phrase “binders full of women” is what immediately grabbed the attention of the online hordes, enough so that a Tumblr collecting mockery of it has already been created. And while it was an amusingly daft turn of phrase (and the Internet never ceases to amaze), the real problem with Romney’s answer is that his only solution to the obstacles women face when seeking fair pay is that employers need to volunteer to pay it.

Romney went on to correctly observe that inflexible work schedules disproportionately affect women, but that’s a different issue from the wage gap, and even then, his only real solution is to leave it up to employers to decide if they care enough to offer flex time. He tried to soften this laissez faire approach to discrimination against women by promising that employers will be so desperate to hire when he’s president they’ll pretty much be forced to take women: “We’re going to have to have employers in the new economy, in the economy I’m going to bring to play, that are going to be so anxious to get good workers they’re going to be anxious to hire women.”

Even if Romney really could create the wonderland of employers begging for employees that he imagines here—a claim that earned him four Pinocchios from the Washington Post—there’s no reason to believe that new economy would somehow force employers to start treating female employees fairly. If the free market alone could fix the problem, then women during boom times would have, according to Romney’s logic, achieved equal pay. They did not. That’s because the problem is far more complex than Romney lets on here. A little bit more flex time is nice, but it doesn’t do enough to make up for the yawning gaps in affordable child care, for instance. Plus, Romney completely breezed by the continuing problem of discrimination, which is all the Lilly Ledbetter Act addresses.

He also breezed by his position on contraception, side-stepping his campaign’s support of another type of employee discrimination: employers who want to deny their employees the contraception coverage those employees have paid for. The reality, ugly as it may be to some, is that we need more aggressive government intervention to overcome the various social obstacles that prevent women from achieving true equality with men in the employment market. “Binders full of women” is an evocative image, but Romney’s utter unwillingness to address the true causes of inequality is the real story here.

 

By: Amanda Marcotte, XX Factor, Slate, October 17, 2012

October 20, 2012 Posted by | Election 2012 | , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

“Putting The Pieces Together”: Mitt Romney Talking About What He Will And Won’t Talk About

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

April 18, 2012 Posted by | Election 2012 | , , , , , | 1 Comment

“Women’s Right’s Are Not Safe”: Romney’s Model Supreme Court Justices Voted Against Lilly Ledbetter

Earlier today, the Romney campaign responded to a question about whether their candidate supports the Lilly Ledbetter Fair Pay Act’s protection of equal pay for women with an awkward six second silence, followed by a promise to “get back” with an answer about whether or not Romney actually supports equal pay for women. The campaign has spent the rest of the day engaged in ham-handed damage control — first by putting out a statement saying that he is “not looking to change current law,” then by releasing statements by Republican congresswomen who previously voted against the Ledbetter Act.

Yet for all of Romney’s equivocating on whether or not he actually believes that women should be paid the same amount as men who do the exact same job, Romney cannot hide two important facts. The Ledbetter Act was only necessary because of a 5-4 Supreme Court decision which overruled decades of precedent protecting equal pay for equal work; and Romney promised to appoint more justices like the ones who voted against Lilly Ledbetter.

Last November, Romney listed four sitting Justices as the models he will follow if he gets to appoint a justice of his own — Justices Antonin Scalia, Clarence Thomas, Samuel Alito and Chief Justice John Roberts. Every single one of these justices voted against Lilly Ledbetter and against equal pay for women in the workplace. Just like they have voted in favor of corporate immunity from the law on issues ranging from forced arbitration to enabling corporations to buy and sell elections.

But, of course, Congress overruled the Supreme Court’s error in the Ledbetter case when it passed the Ledbetter Act, and Romney now says that he doesn’t want to change “current law.” So doesn’t that mean women’s current rights to equal pay are safe?

Not if Romney gets to appoint any more conservative justices. Just months after Congress spanked the Supreme Court by overruling their attack on women in Ledbetter, the five conservative justices handed down a very similar opinion stripping many older workers of their right to be free from employment discrimination. Worse, in taking away many older workers’ ability to protect their jobs, the Court left no doubt that it was thumbing its nose at precedent. Although longstanding law clearly established that the justices’ assault on older workers was wrongly decided, the Court’s conservatives choose to ignore this law because “it is far from clear that the Court would have the same approach were it to consider the question today in the first instance.” In other words, now that conservatives are in charge, they are free to do whatever they want.

Given that the conservative justices renewed their attack on workers so soon after the Ledbetter Act became law, and that they did so in an opinion that expressly stated that they do not care about precedents or established law, women simply cannot be sure that these same justices won’t hand down another decision much like Ledbetter if given the opportunity to do so. Mitt Romney may claim that he does not want to change “current law” in a way that harms working women, but if he gets to add more justices like Roberts or Scalia to the Supreme Court, he won’t have to. The Supreme Court will do it for him.

 

By: Ian Millhiser, Think Progress, April 11, 2012

April 12, 2012 Posted by | Election 2012, SCOTUS | , , , , , , | 3 Comments

   

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