5 Questions For: Rep. Gwen Moore (D-WI) on the GOP’s war on women, welfare moms and voters
Congresswoman Gwen Moore (D-WI) represents Wisconsin’s 4th Congressional district, which includes Milwaukee and several of its working-class suburbs. She comes to the job from a path not normally followed by her colleagues, which included being a single mother while finishing college and — like President Obama’s mother — needing government assistance to make ends meet. She spoke with Raw Story at the Time Warner Cable Arena, where the Democratic National Convention is being held.
Raw Story: Coming out of last week, there was a lot of talk about loving their mothers and the respect that Republicans have for women. What are some of the differences you’ve seen between the Republicans’ support for women last week and that which you’ve seen at the Democratic convention?
Moore: I can tell you that the Republicans seem to be clueless about what it really means to support women. It’s not a matter of giving platitudes and saying, “I love my mother.” Of course you love your mother. Who doesn’t love their mother except for a serial killer? Of course everybody loves their mother. But that’s not the same thing as caring about the lives of women and the children that they give birth to. It’s not the same thing as understanding what a tremendous sacrifice it is to be a parent and to try to struggle to help kids go to college.
I think Michelle Obama really made the case for how much parents sacrifice so that the next generation can do better than they have done. And that’s more than just saying, “I love women.” When you are part of the Republican party and you want to cut every single benefit and service that benefits women, I don’t care how much you say you love me — I mean, women have heard that all their lives, people saying that they love you and beat you up the next moment — everything from Social Security to WIC has been in the Ryan budget to be cut, and each one of those programs has a disproportionate impact on women. Medicare, Medicaid, Pell grants, food stamps — all these women, not just a percentage point or so, but disproportionately women access these programs to a greater extent than men.
Raw Story: In contrast to the Republican platform last week when the issue of reproductive choice got short mentions from Huckabee and Santorum, the Democrats came out strongly in favor in choice on Tuesday night. Why are the speakers at the Democratic convention so much more specific about where they stand on choice?
Moore: I tell you, that when I say that the Republicans are clueless… Republicans want to separate women’s reproductive capacity from economic, psychological, social issues. Of course it makes a difference whether you have one kid or ten kids with respect to your economic security, to your physical, psychological security. I mean, day care for an infant can cost you a thousand bucks a month, and that would be a bargain. Even if you got a relative to do it, to give you decent child care, that’s going to cost you maybe upwards of eight hundred bucks a month. Of course, having control of your control over your reproduction is important. As a family, it’s something that could put a strain on a marriage, you know, perhaps you need both people to work in order to pay the bills and you can’t do that if a woman is pregnant every nine months. So for them to decide that that’s a side issue, that contraception is a side issue, is absolutely disrespectful, disregarding a woman’s life. And to say that a woman shouldn’t be able to have an abortion even if her life is in danger is absolutely dismissive of her value.
Raw Story: You have a lot of experience, having struggled yourself to get through college as a single mother, using government programs to help fill in the gaps, so when they talk about the importance of making women on welfare go to work, but that’s one of the programs that helped you go to college and make a better life for yourself, what do you hear when they say that?
Moore: Well, I can tell you, they messed with me, too. I had to put my daughter in my sister’s home as a foster child in order to be able to access the college scholarships because they wanted to count he scholarships as income. So it wasn’t very easy for me.
But I can tell you this: As a former welfare recipient, if the services and the benefits of welfare reform were what they say they were, that they’re going to give women a hand up instead of a hand out, that they’re going to help people articulate themselves from welfare to work, women would have stormed the White House a generation ago demanding it. No, I think that they kind of welfare programs that they are putting forward are programs that want to keep women as a permanent underclass so that they can be part of a low-wage work force and not have any opportunities to rise. That’s the kind of welfare program that they want.
I think all of the rhetoric around welfare — because, by no means is Barack Obama curtailing the work requirements — that’s the dog whistle to try to scare up racial tension. Barack Obama has been very successful in pulling together the old coalition that wins against corporatist mentality and aristocracy in this country, and that’s blacks and whites and immigrants and gays and lesbians and working white men and those who are unemployed. And to pull that coalition apart, because they’ve figured it out, they need 63 percent of the white vote to defeat Barack Obama, so a lot of their efforts are aimed at generating a lot of resentments among white people, so they are anti-immigrant and anti-black-welfare-queens and ginning up those old resentments. But it won’t work this time I think.
Even the Medicare attack to try to convince the elderly, that they’re trying to “take something from you” and “transfer that wealth to those unworthy poor people,” it’s very very clear that they need racial hostility to win.
Raw Story: Michelle Obama addressed it some on Tuesday night and more on Wednesday morning at the African-American Caucus meeting, the issue of voter turn-out and being access to polls, that was a big problem in Wisconsin already. What’s the impact on voter turn-out in districts like yours?
Moore: Well, let me tell you, there’s absolutely no question. I think that the Speaker of the Assembly in Pennsylvania just plain right-out said it, that these voter suppression laws are going to enable Mitt Romney to win. When you look at the states that ALEC has helped them to target, they’re basically swing states.
And it’s amazing that they’re getting away with it, or trying to get away with it, because there are five, five constitution amendments devoted to voting rights. You think of the precious right of freedom of speech, that’s only one amendment. The rights to your guns that the NRA has built an industry around, that’s just one amendment. Five constitutional amendments — five — devoted to voting, and the Voting Rights Act.
And we have been so fortunate to have 501(c)(3) groups like the NAACP, like the League of Women Voters, like LULAC, the ACLU, bring lawsuits in these various states to stop this voter suppression. It’s the most precious right we have. And the audacity of folks to compare this with, “If you need an ID to get on an airplane…” I hate to tell people, but flying in an airplane is not a right. “You gotta have an ID to get some Sudafed.” Unfortunately, getting Sudafed is not a constitutional right. Health care ought to be maybe, but it isn’t. The bar should be very high to deny people the right to vote, and it’s just plain old wrong.
Of course, the racial element is hard to miss.
[Image via EMILY’s List on Flickr]