Tuesday, January 23, 2007

Moms in control

I'm a mother and my two daughters are the joy of my life. But I've never thought that this gave me special powers or insights. But now being a mom is the new hotness in politics. From Nancy Pelosi to Hillary Clinton we're being told that being a mother is now a great advantage for politicians. Maura Reynolds writes today, for example, in the Los Angeles Times about this new politics.
In recent days, female politicians have risen to new power and prominence. And they did so — deliberately — surrounded by reminders of their motherhood.

Whether being a woman is an asset or liability in national politics may be an open question, but being a mother — or a grandmother — appears to be a sure winner.

Strategists say that talking about motherhood is reassuring to voters, some of whom are still uncomfortable with women in powerful jobs. It also helps create a narrative for their lives that connects them to mainstream and traditionalist voters.

"Raising children is certainly something both have in common with millions of Americans, and parents everywhere worry about their kids' future, so why not talk about it?" said Democratic strategist Stephanie Cutter. "It's really no different than talking about a military record or experience in running a business — it gives voters a sense of who you are."
I guess there must be some people out there whose hearts melt at the thought of mothers running for public office and relate to women talking about what they learned from raising their children. I'm just not one of them. I think this is all code for saying that these women are more likely to want to spend government money for the children. That's why Democratic mothers seem more notable than Republican mothers to the media.

And what does all this fuss say about men? That they don't love and care about their children and grandchildren? George H.W. Bush, for example, is a man who clearly deeply loves his children and grandchildren. Was that a political plus for him? Who cared? We weren't electing him as Dad-in-Chief. Would these same journalists who were so wowed by the sight of Nancy Pelosi's grandchildren have felt the same way if Barbara Bush had run for office surrounded by her grandchildren? I doubt it.

It seems that the message now is that, for all the hoopla about gender equality, we're really saying that moms have it all over dads.

So is the next step going to be for male candidates to start emoting as they talk about their children and campaign alongside them? John Edwards has already been using his young son as a talking point in his crusade against Wal-Mart. Does anyone doubt that we won't be seeing a lot of the cute Edwards younger children as he campaigns this time? I have a feeling that we're going to be seeing a whole lot of children and mommy and daddy stories this time around.

I prefer the candidates who draw a line of privacy between their families and their political aspirations. And now when we're at war, I'm more interested in how these candidates propose to keep us safe than I am with how they juggled motherhood and a political career.