Yesterday the right was mostly in agreement that Hilary Rosen's comments needed to be highlighted as an example of the disdain Democrats seem to have with choices that are counter to their own. It's long been a complaint of conservative women that the feminist movement of the 1960's had become as intolerant as the alleged patriarchy they were supposed to be fighting. Being a stay at home mother was starting to be viewed as submissive and subordinate as well as being counter to liberation for women. This had the effect of alienating women that simply chose that life because they believed it was best for their children.
After decades of this mentality, guilt complexes started springing up in women that felt they needed to choose between being a mom or having a career. As my wife (a stay at home mom herself) has told me many times, "if you stay at home you feel like you're betraying women, if you go to work you feel like you're betraying your children. You can't win."
Underneath it all was the sense that "career women" thought stay-at-home-moms were sheltered & lazy, something the left has hinted at before but then covered their tracks quickly on.
So Hillary's comment the other night confirmed again for many of us that there is a disdain for women who choose to stay at home for their children. What I didn't expect however was the pushback from the right that this issue is "phony" and not worth our time and effort to push back on with so many other pressing issues on the table.
To put it mildly, I think that those people are completely missing the point.
For example, Matt Lewis has an article up at the Daily Caller called "7 reasons to reject Rosengate." In it he has a few points that I'd like to offer a critique of.
1. It’s a victim mentality. People who are easily offended are not confident people — they are sensitive people. And hyper-sensitivity is not a traditional conservative attribute. Rugged individualists don’t bitch. Whining because some irrelevant political pundit (I don’t care how many times she visited the White House!) said something you disagree with, is whining just the same. I don’t like it when the left does it, and it’s certainly not becoming of conservatives.
Maybe this fits into the rubric of “don’t hate the player, hate the game”? Maybe Republicans have to complain? Maybe it’s like “working the refs” (players who complain get better calls in the future)? I get that. Really, I do. But it doesn’t mean I have to like it. It doesn’t mean we should tolerate the game. The last time I noticed this unfortunate trend on the right was during the Christine O’Donnell campaign of 2010. It bothered me then, too.
This has been mentioned by more than a few conservatives and (more often) Libertarians on twitter in the last 36 hours and it is a point that sounds good but ultimately has nothing to do with what is happening.
In the first place, it's not whining to provide counter-opinion to someone else's position. If it were then Matt would have to view his own article as whining. But more importantly it's not victimhood. Victimhood is when someone holds the position that they are being prevented from achieving success because of someone else's interference. This is not at all what this debate has been about. Quite the contrary, the chief complaint from conservative women is that they work their butts off and don't need help from the left who seem to believe that stay at home moms are detached bubble-dwellers incapable of understanding the complicated nature of the economy. Far from being whining about victimhood, this has been punching people in the head and telling them to shut their stupid faces. It's similar to whining about victimhood in the same way that a MMA fighter is crying about a bully.
2. It’s identity politics. Let’s be honest, this is about driving wedges between people and securing blocs of voters. So now, I guess stay-at-home-moms get put into the Republican category? Yippee!
Not exactly. Identity politics are rejected by conservatives as a definition of political views. We don't reject that people have identities. We reject that those identities require a specific set of beliefs to go with them. The Democrats don't. So when the democrats then describe those identities in insulting ways, it's an opportunity to show people that may not know, what Democrats really think of them.
"He who lives by the sword shall die by the sword." If they're going to break us up into categories and then attempt to define us by those categories, then it is perfectly natural to remind them when they're completely misdefining that category. The point isn't that "conservative women are stay at home moms." The point is "Hey, stay at home moms. Just so you know, the Democrats have categorized and defined you. What do you think of the definition? Agree or disagree? (circle one)
3. Media “surrogates” aren’t necessarily representative of anything. It was bogus when the media pretended Rush Limbaugh’s comments about Sandra Fluke had larger implications. Still, the left pretended that Rush Limbaugh somehow represented the sentiments of all Republicans or conservatives. Now, it’s the right’s turn to blow Rosen’s comments out of proportion. From the right’s perspective, what’s sauce for the goose is sauce for the gander. Still, we are granting these surrogates credit for being more powerful than they are. Sandra Fluke does not deserve to be elevated. Hillary Rosen is not worthy of being a household name. (The fact that Rosen and Michele Bachmann will be appearing on “Meet the Press” this weekend, as a result of this, tells you all you need to know about why this is silly.)
I like you Matt but wow did you miss the point of the Rush Limbaugh kerfuffle. Rush Limbaugh absolutely does represent the views of many and/or most conservatives. The reason that the left was wrong in the Rush debate was not because they incorrectly gathered that Rush represents many of our views. It's because they (purposefully) miscategorized what he said.
Rush wasn't saying that women who want birth control are sluts. Rush was doing his classic "demonstrating absurdity by being absurd" and pointing out that the ridiculousness of Fluke's claims and cost estimates indicated that either (a) she had another agenda or (b) she's a slut. He knew of course that the answer was (a) but the left latched on to (b) instead.
In Rosengate, this wasn't a misinterpretation of her response. She wasn't being sarcastic. And this is what has been shown many times to be what the left actually believes. Take a cursory glance around twitter and see what lefties defending Rosen had to say about Ann Romney's choice to be a stay at home mom for examples. Or listen to Teresa Heinz a few years ago saying essentially the same thing. Or Gloria Steinem. Or Jane Fonda.
It's very simple: Rush's comments were taken seriously when they were not intended to be. Rosen's comments are not being taken seriously (by the left and some on the right) when they were intended to be.
4. It’s pandering. Pandering works. People like to be pandered to. As James Carville and Paul Begalla have noted, nobody ever says (paraphrasing here), “That guy kissed my ass — and I don’t like it.” This was the ultimate pander. God help you if you say anything bad about moms. Moms must be venerated. All moms are terrific. Being a mom is the most important job in the world. (Also, all policemen and firefighters are heroes.) Team Romney knows this, and they are exploiting it to the hilt. For example, a recent Romney campaign email begins thusly: “If you’re a stay-at-home mom, the Democrats have a message for you: you’ve never worked a day in your life.”
In all seriousness, this is amazingly good for Romney. In one fell swoop, out-of-touch Mitt Romney has conservative women — many of whom probably saw him as a rich, moderate a week ago — leaping to his wife’s defense.
My wife is a stay at home mom as I noted earlier. If this is merely pandering it worked really well since she was infuriated before anyone had a chance to push their opinion on her. Sometimes in politics there is a glorious moment where something that is true is also a great talking point. This is one of those times. To call it pandering would be equivalent to saying that it's pandering for a campaign to send out an email starting with "If you're pro-life, the Democrats have a message for you: you shouldn't be." That's not pandering, it's just summing up something that many believe to be true.
For this to merely be pandering would be to assume that no one actually believes the Democrats think these things. I can assure you that many, including me, believe this is exactly what the left believes.
5. It’s the triumph of partisanship games. This is tribalism at its best (or worst.) I can’t tell you how many people on Twitter confessed to me that they agree this issue is bogus — it’s just that Republicans have to play this game if they are to win. The sad part is that they are probably right. Mitt Romney faces an 18-point gender gap, which was largely the creation of bogus liberal demagoguery.
How does he fix that? Well, he has to fight fire with fire. “They bring a knife, you bring a gun.” And considering Ann Romney is considerably more likable and sympathetic than Mitt, Republicans shrewdly seized on this gaffe. It’s smart politics. Experts agree! “The Romney campaign has handled this brilliantly and kudos to them,” said Nicole Wallace.
If you’re on the Republican team, the thing to do is to jump on this and blow it out of proportion (a week ago, of course, the thing to do was to downplay Limbaugh’s comments.) I’m not on a team. So I think I’m a bit more consistent in saying that both “wars” were bogus.
Again, this line of thinking must assume that the outrage is manufactured and/or the people complaining must not actually believe that this is how the left views women who choose to stay at home to raise their kids. I'm not saying there is no branding around it (for instance the #WarOnMoms hashtag on twitter) but to say that the war is "bogus" is to say that the complaint or the offense by mom's around the country was phony.
6. It’s phony, feigned outrage. Phoniness is, perhaps, the least admirable quality one can possess. But we’ve seen a lot of phoniness of late. This is silly season, after all. There is no Republican war on women. There is no Democratic war on moms. The truth is that the people pulling the strings who seem angered by this are actually feigning outrage. And the people who are truly outraged are being manipulated by them. It’s truly sad. (Meanwhile, Hollywood and Madison Avenue continue to portray dads as dolts. Maybe dads are the real victims, err, heroes? Where’s our lobby?)
Again, really like you Matt. But, no. This isn't phony outrage. When Barack Obama was caught on a live microphone telling Russia that he could be more "flexible" with them after the election, it wasn't a "gaffe." It was a reveal. It was an insight. An insight into what he actually believes and what he actually intends to do. That is what has happened here. Rosen didn't "misspeak" or "word it poorly." Rosen revealed what she believes and I and many other believe that this is what the left stands for.
The fact that we are calling it a war is a matter of destroying narratives which is something that any Republican or even independent that will vote Republican, should understand. It's not good enough to simply call the left out for their messed up views. We need to also point out their rampant hypocrisy. The best way to do this is by tying it directly to their nonstop campaign the "War on Women." They created the meme, now let's bury them with it and feel completely justified in doing it.
7. This obscures real issues. While we were talking about Hillary Rosen and stay-at-home-moms, North Korea was launching a rocket, and our entitlement system was crumbling.
I hear this a lot. And often the rebuttal is "we can walk and chew gum at the same time." My brother Caleb has said to me "That's like saying the steering wheel is distracting you from watching the road."
The left has been working hard to distract the country away from the economy and away from issues that really matter to Americans. They do this by pretending that defunding planned parenthood is about a war on women as opposed to a war on spending which has the added bonus of being immoral spending.
They pretend that wanting a fair tax code is a war on the poor. They pretend that being against the President's economic agenda is racism.
When a Democrat says stay at home moms can't speak intelligently on the economy, defending the intelligence of those women isn't a distraction. It's actually quite the opposite. The issue is precisely the economy. These moms do understand what's happening. They are affected by current conditions. And they are not only incredibly insulted at the notion that they don't, but now will work twice as hard to make sure President Obama and his administration knows exactly how much they understand it.
There is a war on stay at home moms being waged by the Democrat party. A war that is making it harder for them to put gas in their car. Harder to buy groceries. Harder to make ends meet. They understand completely what the stakes are. The left has made clear that they believe these women don't get it and should let the "adults" take care of things.
These are narratives that we're dealing with. We don't win elections by ignoring them. We win by destroying them.