I thought women’s issues would play a much bigger role in Tuesday night’s second Presidential debate since Mitt Romney practically erased President Barack Obama’s lead with women after the last debate. Thankfully, they didn’t. That might sound funny coming from a woman but women need to demand that politicians speak to us on other issues besides abortion and birth control. Because quite honestly, both sides have been using these issues to divide us. And women on both sides are being manipulated to play roles that are 40 years old. And we’re playing them.
Let’s look at the “women in binders” comment and how a liberal PAC bought the URL and flipped the switch that sent the phrase viral, lampooning Romney. I was part of a CafeMom forum right after the debate and while Ariana did mention it, it didn’t ignite much interest or controversy, because we were too busy talking about more substantive things. Check it out: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=9M7s5hEDh_0&feature=youtu.be. I believe Romney was referring to the many women whose resumes he considered and eventually employed, which is what Paul Ryan told the morning talks shows this morning : http://abcnews.go.com/blogs/politics/2012/10/internet-takes-off-with-mitt-romneys-binders-full-of-women/.
My best childhood friend and I disagree on Romney because she is worried he is going to appoint a conservative judge who could overturn Roe v. Wade just to get re-elected to a second term. A conservative Democrat friend sent me literature from the Ultra Violet organization yesterday mocking Romney for his flip flops on women’s issues. Good, smart women feel alienated and are worried but aren’t sure where they fit in to the discussion or how to influence it. Or whether the information they are getting is real or “spin.” It doesn’t help when reasonable women like Olympia Snow bow out of politics altogether. Or when the New York Times publishes an article like yesterday’s, on the eve of the debate, scaring women into thinking that if Roe v. Wade is overturned, 30 states will ban abortion.
I believe if you polled every person in this country, you would find most of us want legal protections to remain in place while agreeing to disagree on whether you personally would have an abortion. Unfortunately. a lot of women are so tired of the abortion dialectic, and the fact that it hasn’t moved forward in 40 years but is stuck in a tug-of-war between the extremes, that they don’t dial in until the scare tactics kick in weeks before a major election. We should be letting our legislators know, Republican or Democrat, we’ve moved past that. You can’t take it away and you can’t use it to divide us.
I read a great Gallup poll the other day that said pro-choice voters are much more likely to vote for a pro-life candidate than the other way around. I think it’s because pro-choice voters are more reasonable about where the line is between religion or personal beliefs and government. They are not always pro-abortion but they are respectful of an individual’s right to choose. Because at the end of the day, many of them realize abortion and birth control are personal issues that the government has no role in deciding. Ditto stem cell research and gay marriage.
The majority of new small businesses in this country are started by women. Single women make up 20% of the electorate. The unemployment rate for single women is 3 percentage points higher than the general population. And reportedly, the most fought over segment of single women voters right now is the “Waitress Mom.” Blue collar single mothers who could turn out to be this election’s Reagan Democrats.
Call me naive but no politician in our lifetimes should think it’s a good idea to alienate women voters by seriously trying to overturn our right to control whether we bear children. The landscape has changed dramatically in the last 40 years. Women work, they earn more money, they lead major corporations and they are not one issue voters. It is a shame that a decent person and excellent manager and business person like Mitt Romney, whose mother ran for the US Senate on a pro-choice candidate after a family friend experienced a horrific, illegal abortion, had to appease the small but loud group of social conservatives that have hijacked these conversations to get thru the nomination process.
That isn’t to say that some of the cavemen in Republican politics won’t keep coming up with ideas like the law that would have required women to undergo invasive sonograms before undergoing an abortion. But I would argue that this is crass politicking whose ultimate goal is to galvanize social conservatives and not to actually undo abortion rights overall. That’s why neither candidate is talking about the Supreme Court lately, which now has 4 justices over 70 and at least one who is seriously ill. Paul Ryan did say it should be up to lawmakers and not unelected judges to decide, which was interesting. I would say the Supreme Court should be apolitical, a collection of the brightest legal scholars who are detached from polling and politicians, and whose appointments are not subject to litmus tests.
Kudos to Romney for saying he believes all women should have access to birth control. And he showed he really has worked side by side with women over the last few decades when he said, the truth is many women prefer flexible hours to higher wages. For the record, I support equal pay and birth control and am pro-choice. But none of these issues should trump the deficit and budget as the biggest concern our country has right now. I don’t think either candidate is perfect (Who is, really?) but I do not like the distortions. And that’s why I feel the need to point out that Bain Capital was ranked one of the best companies for working mothers by Working Mother magazine because of its flex time and the high number of women in top management positions.
So, did Obama pull those waitress moms back in on Tuesday night? Well, with polls leading up to Tuesday night’s debate showing only 1 in 6 voters said they were still undecided, it will be interesting to see.