Making propaganda of Hilary Rosen’s clumsy remark about Ann Romney – that the wife of megamillionaire Mitt “never worked a day in her life” – was easy enough for Republicans worried by the growing alienation of women from their party. With no ill will toward her, it is fair to observe that a matron whose Cadillacs have their own elevator may not fully comprehend the travails of working mothers.
The subsequent wave of “War On Moms” Twitter blasts, coupled with attacks on Rosen for being a lesbian mother, revealed nothing but the insincerity of the GOP counter-campaign. Soon all the pseudo-outrage will dissipate.
What matters more to women than fake fury over insults to moms is Republican hostility to every measure designed to defend their rights. Consider the Lilly Ledbetter Fair Pay Act. Stymied for years by the Bush administration and Republicans in Congress, it was the first bill signed by President Obama in 2009. Congressional Republicans would still repeal the Ledbetter bill if they could — which must be why Mitt Romney’s campaign ostentatiously hesitated to endorse it.
Asked by Huffington Post reporter Sam Stein whether the presumptive Republican nominee supports the Ledbetter equal pay legislation, Romney’s spokesperson had no ready answer: “We’ll have to get back to you that.” That choking response, impossible to imagine for any candidate with a pro-woman record, provoked a cascade of disdainful commentary from Democrats. Embarrassed and scared, the Romney campaign later said that he supports equal pay for equal work, “of course.” Had Rosen’s remark hadn’t served as a convenient distraction, Romney would still be explaining.
At virtually the same moment on Thursday, however, Rep. Pete Hoekstra (R-MI), running against incumbent Democratic Senator Debbie Stabenow, uttered out loud what most of his right-wing colleagues actually think about the law. “I voted against it,” he said at a campaign stop. “Will repealing it be a priority?…My guess is there are other things that we can do that have a higher priority in terms of what I, what I believe might need to be done….[But] that thing is a nuisance. It shouldn’t be the law.”
For decades, the increasingly dominant right within the Republican Party has considered women’s rights to be a nuisance — or a menace. The religious right advocates the submission of women. The most popular Republican radio personality, once portrayed on the cover of National Review as the party’s true leader, casually refers to women’s advocates as sluts and feminazis. And Romney himself has seized the chance to attack the right to insurance coverage of contraception, hoping he can ingratiate himself with the hard right.
So when Romney says he supports pay equity — or any other feminist legislation — that just might be true at the moment. Yet if women distrust his commitment, as polls indicate, they have many reasons to suspect he’s faking it. After all, both Mitt and Ann were once avid friends of Planned Parenthood, too, but now he blusters about “getting rid” of that vital organization. The enduring Republican resistance to gender equality was expressed much more honestly by Hoekstra — and most women voters know it.