April 12th, 2012
08:08 PM ET

Letters to the President #1179: 'The women's war'

Reporter's Note: The women’s vote, as always, is becoming a big issue in this presidential race.

Dear Mr. President,

Isn’t that how it always goes? Just when you get a big lead, when you’re piling up the points, when you’re pulling away from the pack, along comes something to mess it all up. Of course I’m talking about those comments by Democratic strategist Hilary Rosen who unfortunately slapped an untoward comment on the campaign table like a big stinky carp. To wit, she suggested that Mitt Romney should not be listening to his wife about how women are dealing with the economy because she “actually never worked a day in her life.”

The words were hardly out of her mouth before Republicans (and others) were howling about how she was insulting stay at home moms. Rosen denied that, of course; apologized, and clarified her comments. Still, like many words uttered in D.C., it is fair to say that a lot of context was lost in the nuclear blast of outrage that followed. And that obviously had you and all your Democratic pals scrambling to put distance between yourselves and Ms. Rosen (“Hilary who? No. No. Can’t say I’ve ever heard of her.”) and to reassert your commitment to the rights and well-being of women.

Still, it was not a good day for your team on the gender front. You have a commanding lead in the polls over Mitt Romney when it comes to women. (Or at least you did as of a few days ago. Who knows now?) You seemed to be pressing all the right buttons in suggesting that Republicans really didn’t understand women’s issues or, frankly, take them very seriously. And now…

I certainly would not say that you’ve lost the women’s vote. I suspect you would still be ahead in a poll if it were taken at this moment. But Ms. Rosen, I think, opened up one of those nagging little sore points….a small doubt that some women have about your party. In a phrase: Her comments can be seen as suggesting that Democrats look down on women who choose their families ahead of their careers; who opt for more traditional roles for their lives. So just as many of women wonder if the Republicans really respect them, I think some women also wonder if Democrats have a problem with certain types of women; women who, for example, want to follow more traditional, conservative paths…who want to stay home and raise kids, who oppose abortion rights, who want to limit the size of government, or who don’t like the idea of gay marriage.

I’m not saying that perception is correct, because certainly it is far too broad to apply to your whole party, just as it is far too broad of a generalization to suggest that all Republicans do not respect women or stand up for their rights.

Sadly, I suspect there are people in both parties who see women fundamentally as opinions to be manipulated and votes to be divided, and they don’t have much use for women who won’t fall in line as they wish. That’s the tragedy of it. Because true equality should mean women are free to make up their minds precisely the same way men do; choosing to stay at home or go to work, get married or stay single, be conservative, liberal, or somewhere in between as they see fit. And they shouldn’t have to suffer cheap shots from anyone just because they do that.


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