Ann Romney's poignant desperation
Potential first lady Ann Romney did her best to convince the Republican National Convention that she and her husband were down with America's women. At a time when the GOP was flailing over "legitimate rape" comments, she reached out to female voters.
"I love you, women!!!!" Mrs. Romney even yelled at one point — yes, it sounded like that many exclamation points — before emitting a laugh of poignant desperation.
If something seemed a little off about her speech, it was partly because her praise for the ladies was zeroed in on women within the traditional, long-suffering "mom" role.
An an excerpt of her speech:
It's the moms of this nation — single, married, widowed — who really hold this country together. We're the mothers, we're the wives, we're the grandmothers, we're the big sisters, we're the little sisters, we're the daughters.
You know it's true, don't you? You're the ones who always have to do a little more.
So if you happen to be an unmarried, childless, careerist lesbian lawyer, does any of that still apply?
You can be the generation that holds your leaders accountable for open, honest government at every level, government that stamps out corruption and protects the rights of every citizen to speak freely, to worship openly, to love whomever they choose. You can be the generation to ensure that women are no longer second-class citizens.
As Billie Holiday sang it, "You gotta show me just how much you care. You gotta show me your love's really there." The trouble with Mrs. Romney is that she's all talk, and no walk.
Where are the answers to women's questions?
Romney's speech glorified the tired female trope of dignified suffering, of grace under a uniquely feminine pressure, the scope of which only a woman can truly fathom (and the scope of which no woman can ever, apparently, avoid).
"I don't think there's a woman in America who really expects her life to be easy," she said. "And that's fine. We don't want easy. But these last few years have been harder than they needed to be."
"We're too smart to know there aren't easy answers, but we're not dumb enough to accept that there aren't better answers."
As a listener, you might have expected Mrs. Romney to identify what these "better answers" to the American woman's problems might be. However — tellingly — that is precisely when she began talking about her husband.
"His name is Mitt Romney and you really should get to know him," she grinned, as if inviting voters to imagine he were their husband too. (Insert cheap Mormon/polygamy wisecrack here.) And she continued to employ this highly personal, emotional brand of rhetoric until it became downright condescending.
"This is the man America needs," she pleaded, as if writing an online dating profile of her husband for all the nation's lonely ladies.
"This man will lift up America! I said tonight I wanted to talk to you about love — look into your hearts. You can trust Mitt. He loves America. He will take us to a better place, just as he took me home safely from that dance."
What Mrs. Romney's romantic speech didn't seem to consider is that women don't use their hearts to decide who to elect president. They use their minds, too.
Women don't particularly care what Mitt Romney says his feelings for them and their nation might be. After all, no presidential nominee in history has ever professed less than deep love for his country. Female voters care what Mitt Romney's thoughts are — on reproductive rights, the economy, equal pay, education, childcare, and all the other issues that affect them.
It's the kind of thing that seems to escape people like Romney and GOP senate candidate Tom Smith, who assumed that women were "talking about shoes" at a Paul Ryan campaign event.
What the Romneys really think about women
If Ann and Mitt Romney cared about American women as much as they insist they do, they would in the first place not be representatives of the Republican party, whose policies and philosophies (as evidenced in the video above) breed an ignorance, disdain, and even hatred of women and women's issues.
Mrs. Romney's husband wants to "get rid of" Planned Parenthood. He thinks that the state should have the right to ban contraception entirely. He called Roe v. Wade "one of the darkest moments in Supreme Court history". As Governor, he vetoed a law that would require Massachusetts hospitals to provide emergency contraception to rape victims. He believes the state should define life as beginning at conception.
His campaign won't say whether Mitt would have signed the Lilly Ledbetter Fair Pay Act, which makes it easier for women to file pay discrimination lawsuits. He called VP nominee Paul Ryan's infamous budget — the budget that would have denied Medicaid to between 14 and 27 million people, about two thirds of them women — "marvelous".
The list goes on and on.
"You are the best of America. You are the hope of America. There would not be an America without you," Mrs. Romney told female voters . "Tonight, we salute you and sing your praises."
I'm sure American women are grateful for the GOP's salutations and for Mrs. Romney's love. But what they need most right now is respect: respect for their right to equality as United States citizens, and as human beings.
Hey, Governor Chris Christie might have been on to something after all.