My Twitter feed was on fire after an appearance last night on CNN's AC360, where I said that I thought it was wrong for Mitt Romney to be using his wife as his guide to women's economic struggles when she "had never worked a day in her life." Oh my, you should read the tweets and the hate mail I got after that. The accusations were flying. I don't know what it means to be a mom (I have 2 children). I obviously don't value the work that a mother does and how hard it is (the hardest job I have ever had); and I absolutely hate anyone who doesn't have the same views as I do (hate is a strong word).
Spare me the faux anger from the right who view the issue of women's rights and advancement as a way to score political points. When it comes to supporting policies that would actually help women, their silence has been deafening. I don't need lectures from the RNC on supporting women and fighting to increase opportunities for women; I've been doing it my whole career. If they want to attack me and distract the public's attention away from their nominee's woeful record, it just demonstrates how much they just don't get it.
My favorite tweet was from someone who said that Republicans like Ann Romney so much more than Mitt that by attacking her (which I didn't), I got people to defend him in a way they never would.
That last one I can actually understand.
Now let's be clear on one thing. I have no judgements about women who work outside the home vs. women who work in the home raising a family. I admire women who can stay home and raise their kids full-time. I even envy them sometimes. It is a wonderful luxury to have the choice. But let's stipulate that it is NOT a choice that most women have in America today.
Why does this even matter? It matters purely because Mitt Romney put the issue of his wife's views squarely on the table.
As Ruth Marcus noted in her column yesterday in the Washington Post, Romney, when asked last week about the gender gap, twice said he wished his wife could take the question.
"My wife has the occasion, as you know, to campaign on her own and also with me," Romney told newspaper editors, "and she reports to me regularly that the issue women care about most is the economy."
So it begs the question, is Ann Romney Mitt's touchstone for women who are struggling economically or not? Nothing in Ann Romney's history as we have heard it -- hardworking mom she may have been -- leads me to believe that Mitt has chosen the right expert to get feedback on this problem he professes to be so concerned about.
I have nothing against Ann Romney. She seems like a nice lady who has raised nice boys, struggled with illness, and handles its long-term effects with grace and dignity. I admire her grit in talking about her illness publicly.
What is more important to me and 57% of current women voters is her husband saying he supports women's economic issue because they are the only issues that matter to us and then he fails on even those.
Let's put aside for a moment his views on women's health issues -- such as his pledge to repeal funding for Planned Parenthood or repeal title X -- which provides important health services for poor women, and true anecdotes (such as when he was a Bishop in his church, he actually went to a congregant's hospital room and told a young single mother who had just given birth that she was shaming the church and should give her baby away). Let's put those issues of respect and health dignity away.
Let's just focus on his economic record on behalf of women. When Romney ran Bain Capital, less than 10% of the senior workforce were women. And he said in his 1994 Senate race that it was because he had trouble finding qualified women to be executives. Is there a woman alive who believes that? I personally believe that women hate the way our health issues were made a political football by the Republicans in the last several months. But I am pragmatic enough to believe that the economic issues do matter greatly to women and men alike. But the only way that Mitt Romney will succeed in closing the wide gender gap between him and President Obama is if he stops pretending that it doesn't exist.