I am glad that the 2008 election has raised the issue of working families. This has been a "sleeper" issue, but no more! After the nomination of Sarah Palin, working families are responding in such high numbers that they are jamming the airwaves, filling up blogs, even crashing websites as they make their varying opinions heard!
But so far, what people are saying is mainly personal -- can Sarah Palin manage her large family and be Vice President? How did Joe Biden care for his two young sons alone and continue to be an effective Senator? And on and on.
It is not surprising that we focus on the personal. In the media leading up to the presidential nominations and at the conventions, the introductions to the candidates have included how they manage their own personal and political lives. We are left with images of Barack Obama talking to his daughters by Webcam at night, of John McCain asking his wife where the child she brought home from Bangladesh was going to live, of Joe Biden taking the train home to Wilmington after his days in the Senate, and of Sarah Palin with her children in her office.
Yet not once -- not in any debate to date -- has a candidate been asked about his or her stand on policies pertaining to work and family life beyond health care and economic security. They do in fact have positions -- they are posted on their websites. But until Families and Work Institute hosted conference calls with top policy advisers from Senators McCain's and Obama's campaigns for business leaders, these positions remained simply as rhetoric on their websites. Now we have insight into what the candidates think, what they value, and most importantly, what they would do if elected.
The public cares very much about work and family life, especially in our current economic crisis. Let us continue to ask the candidates about their views -- in town forums, by the media and in the debates. If we don't continue to ask, we will be losing a crucial opportunity to move beyond the personal to the political.
Palin, McCain, Biden and Obama may have found ways to manage their work and family lives, but many Americans would welcome knowing how the candidates stand on this fundamental challenge of modern American life.
A Peaceful Revolution is a blog about innovative ideas to strengthen America's families through public policies, business practices, and cultural change. Done in collaboration with MomsRising.org, read a new post here each week.
Ellen Galinsky, President of Families and Work Institute, is a nationally and internationally recognized researcher, author and speaker who examines the intersection of work, family and community; trends in the American workforce and workplace; child development; early learning; youth attitudes; women's leadership; multi-generational workforces and elder issues. She is the author of over 35 books and reports, including the groundbreaking book, Ask the Children, selected by The Wall Street Journal as one of the best work-life books of 1999. At the Institute, Ms. Galinsky co-directs The National Study of the Changing Workforce, the most comprehensive nationally representative study of the U.S. workforce, dating back to 1977, and The National Study of Employers, a nationally representative study that has tracked trends in employment benefits, policies, and practices since 1998.