I started writing a follow up to The Mommy Wars: Men’s Issues Edition about Ann Romney’s recent speeches and the Mommy Wars in the 2012 Presidential election. And a tangent about the bearing the Romneys’ wealth has on the election started to take on a life of its own so I was like, “Meh. I need to post more anyway. So I’ll make this it’s own post. BAM! Posting frequency quotient upped!”
So. Much has been made of the fact that the Romneys are wealthy. This hooks back into the whole “Mommy Wars: Oh Good. Now It’s Been Dumbed Down By Cable News” thing in that people have been inclined to dismiss Ann Romney as out of touch with the typical American woman’s experience. Whatever a “typical” American woman’s (or parent’s) experience might be. Because whatever it is, it doesn’t involve defining ‘financial hard times’ as that one time your husband had to sell portions of the stock portfolio he inherited. One in seven U.S. residents were on food stamps in 2011.
Ann Romney has worked hard, raised five children, and certainly encountered struggles in her life but none of her struggles were financial. Fair enough.
But here’s the thing: poor people don’t run for President. And if rich, fortunate people are by definition incapable of empathy then no one who actually runs for the presidency can understand what a “typical” American family’s experience is. Which may be a legitimate systemic problem in and of itself. But it’s certainly not unique to the Romneys.
The vast majority of potential Presidential candidates and their spouses are wealthy. Usually they’ve been well off for years before they decide to run (Kerry, McCain, Bush Sr., Bush Jr., Romney, Dukakis) but even if they’re not in private jet territory just yet they’re certainly not in a paycheck to paycheck, coupon clipping, no health care situation by the time they’ve amassed enough political clout to make a legitimate bid for office (Clinton, Obama). Yes, Romney is wealthy even by Presidential standards but none of these families are “just plain folks” you’d run into at the grocery store (unless there was a photo-op and you live in a swing state).
Potential President’s beginnings may have been humble and involved financial struggle but by the time they’re having families they’re all incredibly well connected attorneys and business people who will never have to worry about retirement or how they would afford to pay for treatment if a loved one became ill. People who worry that they’ll have to choose between paying for food or rent don’t rub elbows with people who donate hundreds of thousands of dollars to their SuperPACs.
And whether or not a Presidential candidate or his spouse is wealthy and privileged is neither here nor there in the same way that whether you’d like to have a beer with the candidate is neither here nor there. What do you think of their policies and their track record? When you peel back the rhetoric and look at the ideological thrust of their campaign what do you think? What do you think they’ll do when they’re in office?
I don’t mind that Ann Romney has lived a very financially privileged life and has never walked in my shoes. I do mind that everyone is spending a bunch of time talking about the number of Cadillacs she drives instead of focusing on how trotting her (or any political spouse) out as a way to show the candidate is “connected to women’s issues” and “values motherhood” is side stepping the point.
How is this “connection” and “value” going to be reflected in your potential presidency? And while you’re at it, knock it off with this Mommy Wars stuff. Because however the Mommy Wars go by definition women always lose.