What do women want? Campbell Brown doesn’t have a clue; President Obama does.
Campbell Brown penned an op-ed for The New York Times that is so irritating and wrong-headed, that I found myself saying “oh, do shut up, lady” several times as I read it. So, consider that your trigger warning. Also, while reading it, keep in mind that her husband is a top Romney advisor (a fact which she doesn’t disclose until nearly the end of her op-ed):
My bigger concern is that in courting women, Mr. Obama’s campaign so far has seemed maddeningly off point. His message to the Barnard graduates was that they should fight for a “seat at the table” — the head seat, he made sure to add. He conceded that it’s a tough economy, but he told the grads, “I am convinced you are tougher” and “things will get better — they always do.”
Hardly reassuring words when you look at the reality. According to the Center for Labor Market Studies at Northeastern University, about 53.6 percent of men and women under the age of 25 who hold bachelor’s degrees were jobless or underemployed last year, the most in at least 11 years. According to the Pew Research Center, if we broaden the age group to 18- to 29-year-olds, an estimated 37 percent are unemployed or out of the work force, the highest share in more than three decades.
The human faces shouldn’t get lost amid the statistics. I spent last weekend with a friend who attended excellent private schools and graduated from Tufts University two years ago. She’s intelligent, impressive and still looking for a full-time job.
The women I know who are struggling in this economy couldn’t be further from the fictional character of Julia, presented in Mr. Obama’s Web ad, “The Life of Julia,” a silly and embarrassing caricature based on the assumption that women look to government at every meaningful phase of their lives for help.
My cousin in Louisiana started a small company with a little savings, renovating houses. A single mom, she saved enough to buy a home and provide child care for her son. When the economy went belly up, so did her company. She was forced to sell her home and move in with her parents. She has found another job, but doesn’t make enough to move out. Family, not government, has been everything to her at this time of crisis. She, and they, wouldn’t have it any other way.
Another member of my family left her job at an adoption agency just before the economy crashed. Also a single mother, she has been looking for a way back to a full-time job ever since. She has been selling things on eBay to make ends meet. Friends and family, not government, have been there at the dire moments when she has asked them to be. Again, she, and they, wouldn’t have it any other way.
This is not to say that government doesn’t play a role in their lives. It does and it should. But it isn’t a dominant one, and certainly not an overwhelming factor in their daily existence.
It’s obvious why the president is doing a full-court press for the vote of college-educated women in particular. The Republican primaries probably did turn some women away. Rick Santorum did his party no favors when he spoke about women in combat (“I think that can be a very compromising situation, where people naturally may do things that may not be in the interest of the mission, because of other types of emotions that are involved”); when he described the birth of a child from rape as “a gift in a very broken way”; and how, if he was president, he would make the case for the damage caused by contraception.
But Mitt Romney will never be confused with Rick Santorum on these issues, and many women understand that. (I should disclose here that my husband is an adviser to Mr. Romney; I have no involvement with any campaign, and have been an independent journalist throughout my career.) The struggling women in my life all laughed when I asked them if contraception or abortion rights would be a major factor in their decision about this election. For them, and for most other women, the economy overwhelms everything else.
Oh really, Campbell? Many women understand that Mitt Romney will never be confused with Rick Santorum on “these issues”? Issues that include whether or not women should be paid equal pay for equal work or whether or not women should allow men to beat them up? Even though Mitt Romney’s position on “these issues” is exactly the same as Rick Santorum’s?
Exactly which women comprise your group of “many women”? Who did you ask? Your friend who went to “excellent private schools” (plural) and who graduated from Tufts University?
Tell me, Campbell: Do any of these friends of yours rely solely on Planned Parenthood for healthcare like so many women have to? Because to those women, there’s no difference between Rick “have a rape baby” Santorum and Mitt “Planned Parenthood — we’re gonna get rid of that” Romney. It doesn’t much matter that Santorum is a true believer and that Romney is a shapeshifter. Romney and Santorum both stand for the exact same policies! A President Romney will enact the same policy that a President Santorum would because it’s Republican policy. And as The New York Times editorial board put it, “that women’s rights and health are casualties of Republican policy is indisputable.”
As for this —
I have always admired President Obama and I agree with him on some issues, like abortion rights. But the promise of his campaign four years ago has given way to something else — a failure to connect with tens of millions of Americans, many of them women, who feel economic opportunity is gone and are losing hope. In an effort to win them back, Mr. Obama is trying too hard. He’s employing a tone that can come across as grating and even condescending. He really ought to drop it. Most women don’t want to be patted on the head or treated as wards of the state. They simply want to be given a chance to succeed based on their talent and skills. To borrow a phrase from our president’s favorite president, Abraham Lincoln, they want “an open field and a fair chance.”
— stop the bullshit, lady.
Yes, women don’t want to be patted on the head or treated as wards of the state and it’s a good thing that’s not what President Obama is doing. The Life of Julia is not about women looking to the government for help — it’s about acknowledging that women are people who are affected by government policies in ways that men are not, and in ways that Republicans would rather ignore.
The bottom line is this: President Obama has repeatedly stuck up for women, whether by providing funding for family planning to Planned Parenthood of Northern New England so that women in New Hampshire could continue to obtain birth control despite Republicans’ attempt to ensure that they could no longer do so, or creating a women’s health policy which requires that women have access to contraception coverage in health insurance plans they already pay into. (Women are not asking to be wards of the state, nor are they asking for people to pay for them to have sex. Women pay into health insurance plans, just like men do. Women’s health should be covered by such plans, just like men’s health is. It’s not hard of a concept, really.)
A President Romney would throw women — especially low-income women — to the wolves. And no matter how many personal friends Campbell Brown asks, nothing will change that fact. I dare not even ask how many of her friends are low-income women or women of color. I’m sure I know the answer to that question already.
Addressing the salient concerns of women is not pandering because women are not a special interest group. We are people. We have concerns. And Republicans don’t care. And rather than feigning that they care, they are choosing to pretend like the so-called “war on women” is not real. John Boehner will pound the podium and scoff at the notion. Reince Priebus will laugh it off and talk about “the War on Caterpillars.” And Republican women like Campbell Brown (and Cathy McMorris-Rodgers and Nikki Hayley) will continue to be thrust on stage to make the case for their menfolk that the war on women is all in our heads so we should stop being so hysterical all the time.
It’s not going to work. We’re not stupid. The only thing that will convince women that Republicans aren’t engaged in an all-out assault on women’s rights is for Republicans to stop engaging in an all-out assault on women’s rights.
In the meantime, I beg of you: Stop the bullshit.