On MSNBC’s “Morning Joe” this morning, the table’s consensus was that the Hilary Rosen remarks broke through and defined the presidential race in a way few other issues had in recent weeks.
Permit a theory: Ninety-some percent of the mothers in this country feel under-appreciated and sense that someone, somewhere is judging that the choices they’ve made in their life are the wrong ones. They resent the heck out of that judgment, and they have finely tuned antennae for those subtle slights and comments. Even in the year 2012, mothers of every variety can feel this sense of judgment — sometimes explicit, sometimes implicit — from a wide variety of sources: their parents, neighbors, friends, siblings, the news media, sometimes their husbands, and sometimes their children themselves. Sometimes they hear the criticism directly and out loud; sometimes they merely feel the disapproving glances or awkward pauses in conversation when they say they stay at home, or that their children are in after-school care, etc.
Working mothers suspect that others believe that they’re neglecting their children, or putting their personal ambitions ahead of their children’s best interests. Stay-at-home moms suspect that women who work outside the home look down upon them, dismiss their choice as selling themselves short or throwing away their education and everything they put into their careers earlier in life. All of this subtle acrimony occurs in a culture and economy where few, if any, mothers think there are enough hours in the day to do everything they need — a sense that has only worsened since the economy tanked in late 2008.
Many Democrats are insisting Rosen only meant that Ann Romney had never worked outside the home “a day in her life” — not really accurate, considering Mrs. Romney’s work with charities — and that it was merely clumsy verbiage. But I suspect that many women heard a Freudian slip. (Note the incredulity in Rosen’s voice as she says: “Mitt Romney says, ‘Well, you know, my wife tells me what women really care about economic issues. When I listen to my wife, that’s what I’m hearing.’ Guess what? His wife has actually never worked a day in her life!” Rosen seemed flabbergasted that the candidate would have the audacity to cite his wife on this matter.) Of course Hilary Rosen would insist that she understands and sympathizes with the hard work of a stay-at-home mom; one of the reasons she left the Recording Industry Association of America was because she wished to spend more time with her children.
Democrats will insist that President Obama and their party’s image should not be tainted by the suggestion from Rosen that stay at home moms “don’t work.” But it’s likely that every stay-at-home mom heard Rosen’s words and recognized a familiar dismissive tone of arrogance and condescension. (If you think the reaction was overblown, imagine if a man had said a stay-at-home mom had “never worked a day in her life!”)
But there is an extraordinary opportunity here for Romney, if he can cite the insensitivity of Rosen’s remarks to show how the administration and its allies are insensitive to the consequences of their bad policy choices, choices that hurt mothers who work outside and within the home. The stance of Obama defender Rosen is that the administration’s policies are working just fine and just need, if anything, more time to succeed.
Mitt Romney, the allegedly out-of-touch rich guy, needs to emphasize that unlike the administration and its defenders, he understands that the stagnant economy of the past four years hurt millions of Americans who don’t show up in the unemployment statistics.
Moms are most of the ones driving the minivans and doing without when gas passes $4/gallon. Moms notice the surging food prices:
Ground beef up 6.8 percent month over month, and 11.1 pct year over year. Butter, up 3.2 percent monthly and a stunning 27 percent over the past year. Coffee, up 6.5 percent and 16 percent. Potatoes, up 3.6 percent and 7.1 percent. Lettuce actually fell 5 percent monthly after a spike higher in December, but is up 5 percent over the past year. Bread up 1 percent and 3 percent.
What’s more, mothers notice that the stress of daily life has only increased in recent years. American families don’t just face monetary pressures from this lousy economy; they face time pressures. In a lousy economy, workers hesitate to ask for fewer hours or a more flexible schedule. There are fewer opportunities to find another job that will offer better work-life balance. A housing market that has remained stagnant at best leaves American families stuck in houses they can’t afford to sell.
The whole point of the Rosen attack was to suggest the Romneys are out of touch with the economic woes of the average American. But Rosen is asking Americans to to respond to those economic woes by endorsing the status quo. That’s an easy slam dunk for the Romneys.