That's a fact that's been proven by a variety of studies. Yet, political parties and candidates often don't want to engage with women in any meaningful way. And when it comes to women voters who happen to be moms, well, it's just been easier for so-called political masterminds to put mothers in a corner. You know the ones -- they call us soccer moms and security moms, Wal-Mart moms and recession moms. For some reason, they're willing to chat all day with cable news talking heads and the big money donors about the array of views they have, but when it comes to truly wooing the women's vote, candidates usually fall short because they believe they have our votes in the bag if they just talk about gas prices and groceries.
And that gets a little annoying. I know that many of the contributors and interviewees for my book Mothers of Intention: How Women and Social Media are Revolutionizing Politics in America expressed that, and were pretty tired of campaigns doing the 'we feel your stressed out mom pain, so give us your vote' dance.
So will it change for the 2012 election? Can it change? Guess what, all you suburban moms -- the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee has announced that you're the ones that they want! The bad news is that they're still calling us soccer moms.
"... [T]he unaffiliated 'soccer mom' in 'independent, fairly affluent' suburban districts is the 'unique subset of voters that I obsess on, absolutely obsess on., " said Rep. Steve Israel (D-NY), who is heading up the DCCC this campaign season. Maybe I should be flattered. No man has really been obsessed with me since my husband was doing the courting (I guess I can't really count Joe Jonas as being obsessed, although he did touch my back in a photo-op recently!).
Israel told a think tank crowd that the DCCC strategy is to target independent-minded women who are supremely ticked off over the whole issue of the GOP trying every way possible to limit access to contraception. And that's a good way to engage, especially for families who know they're just squeaking by economically and need to make sure they don't end up with more mouths to feed.
But here's the thing I'd tell the Congressman if he asked me (not that he has, but I would happy to swing by his office anytime) -- women voters want to be treated like individuals, not like some monolith (or for mothers, a "momolith"). If the Democratic party really wants the support of a country full of suburban moms (the ones who haven't taken up with the tea party), I'd suggest reading my book and spending a little time with the women online who are serious influencers -- not the traditional political writers they usually talk to, but the real women influencers. I just came back from a conference full of women and while I certainly didn't talk to each and every attendee, the ones I did talk to, of all political persuasions, were hopping mad about anyone in the government trying to take away their birth control.
That's a serious vote-getting opportunity if it's done the right way.
Congressman Israel, you're on the right path, but your strategy needs some tweaking. I'm happy to send a copy of my book your way and have a confab session if you think it would help. But even if you don't, just don't make the mistake of lumping all the moms you're wooing into a single basket. We don't want to be branded as "birth control moms" any more than we wanted to be labeled all those other things. It might take a little extra time to reach out to us, but trust me -- it will be worth it in the long run.
And if the GOP is smart, they'll take a page from this "suburban mom" playbook, too. Women decide elections and there's nothing wrong with some serious political wooing. We don't need flowers and chocolates, but we do need some eye contact.
Joanne Bamberger is the author of the Amazon.com bestseller, Mothers of intention: How Women and Social Media are Revolutionizing Politics in America (Bright Sky Press, 2011). Joanne, a Washington, D.C.-based writer and political/media analyst, is the founder of the political blog, PunditMom, and is the 2012 Election Editor/Contributor for iVillage.