Most people have little trouble identifying or relating with a culture, socioeconomic group or religion because of shared experiences and beliefs that are endemic to the group. It is amusing to witness a wealthy politician make an effort to relate to a blue-collar construction worker when everyone knows the closest the politician probably ever came to construction work was phoning a contractor to solicit bids to build their mansion’s gymnasium, or car elevator. Throughout the long Republican presidential primary, Willard Romney has attempted to identify himself as a regular guy who understands the working class, but regardless taking his tie off and donning denim pants, there is the iconic photo of him sitting next to a private jet while he receives private security screening and avoids an average Americans’ wait to go through airport security. Romney’s problem identifying with any group other than the ultra-elite of the top 1% of income earners must run in the family because his spouse, Anne, displays the same failing in attempting to identify with the majority of women in America.
The faux outrage over Democratic National Committee advisor Hilary Rosen’s out-of-context statement that Mrs. Romney “has actually never worked a day in her life” is typical electoral pandering by the Romney camp, and is probably an attempt to make up for some of the damage Willard’s positions have caused to his support among women. Admittedly, taken in and of itself, that phrase may be offensive to women who are fortunate enough to stay home and raise children. However, Rosen’s comment was not an indictment or criticism of women who are stay-at-home moms, but it does indict Mrs. Romney’s assertion that she can relate to average American women. She, like her elitist husband, has no idea of the struggles the average American experiences every day and she is a pandering elitist just like her husband, and Hilary Rosen called it correctly.
“What you have is Mitt Romney running around the country, saying, ‘Well, you know, my wife tells me that what women really care about are economic issues, and 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. She’s never really dealt with the kinds of economic issues that a majority of the women in this country are facing, in terms of how do we feed our kids, how do we send them to school, and why do we worry about their future.”
Rosen was not demeaning women who stay at home, and she was not reviving the working versus stay-at-home mom controversy that is itself ridiculous. There are few people who think staying home spending every waking (and often sleeping) minute caring for, cleaning up after, and raising children is anything but a grueling, but rewarding, experience. However, Mrs. Romney’s stay-at-home experience is nothing like the average American woman, and although she may worry about her 5 sons’ futures, her concern is how they avoid paying taxes on the multi-million dollar inheritances after their parents die.
There are tens-of-millions of women in America who would love to be in Mrs. Romney’s position whether they stay at home or work. For most women, though, staying home is an economic as well as physical and mental struggle to make ends meet from paycheck to paycheck if she,her husband, or both are fortunate enough to have a decent-paying job. With most families requiring two-incomes to survive, the choice of staying home is not a choice at all. Mrs. Romney cannot possibly comprehend a woman with young children having to take on a part-time job to buy groceries, clothing, and if they’re really fortunate, an occasional visit to the dentist for their children. The other day Willard was unaware cameras were rolling and said his wife was taking a couple of days to ride her horse as a break from the campaign. The average woman with children at home may take a couple of hours’ break to shop for groceries at the local Wall Mart, and if they saved their tip money from their waitress job, maybe buy clothes for the baby.
The Romney’s will never relate to the average American’s economic struggles and regardless how often they talk about it or talk to average Americans about it, their world is as far removed from working-class America as the Earth is from Saturn. They are not even in the same universe as the working poor or poverty level Americans. Most Americans live from paycheck to paycheck, and for women, whether they stay at home or work, the struggle to make ends meet before the next payday is as stressful as caring for young children. The challenge for many women who stay home but want to supplement the family income is earning enough from a part or full-time job to cover child-care, and how to coordinate a work schedule with a school-age child’s schedule. The true economic struggle for millions of women is her children’s day-to-day survival, not her children’s trust fund.
Millions of women would love to stay home and maybe take a few days’ off for horseback-riding therapy, but they are not in the position to ever make that choice and they never will be. Mrs. Romney certainly has worked one day in her life, probably hundreds, but making cookies for the kids or scolding the maid for mixing colors with whites in the laundry is not the same as stretching last week’s groceries to make it to next week’s payday. Hilary Rosen simply highlighted that Mrs. Willard is unaware of the financial hardships women face as their family income falls, they lose a job, or struggle to pay for her children’s yearly medical checkup, and that is the point. How can out-of-touch Mrs. Romney counsel out-of-touch Willard on women’s economic problems if neither of them knows what an economic problem is? They cannot and that was Ms. Rosen’s point.
Mrs. Romney may have been insulted by Rosen’s remark, but the insult to most American women is she has the temerity to think her definition of “work” is remotely like an average woman struggling to feed her children on a limited income. Rosen made a good point and if her critics had taken the time to read her entire comment, they may have withheld criticism in spite of the Romney campaign’s phony outrage, and it certainly is phony. If any American thinks Mrs. Romney really believes she understands what it means to be an average American woman, they are deluded as much as the Romneys.
Instead of condemning Hilary Rosen, Democrats should commend her for bringing an important point to the issue of whether or not Willard understands women’s economic concerns. Just because Romney’s wife tells him that “what women really care about are economic issues,” it does not mean that either of the wealthy elitists understands women’s economic issues any more than a fish understands the theory of relativity. What Willard and Ann Romney understand is how to conceal their enormous wealth to avoid paying taxes, horses, and car elevators that must be hard work to operate.