“Mitt Romney is coming to the Sullivan Center in Vernon Hills. Not sure how to feel about this.”
Lazing about on a Sunday afternoon, I came across the above on a friend’s Facebook status. And from now on, I can never say that Facebook is good for nothing but stalking crushes (not that anyone reading or writing this post does that). Cut to me sitting in a stiflingly-hot multi-purpose room with my fantastic queer friend who was “proud to be silently spreading the gay.”
Full disclosure on my personal take on the 2012 presidential race: I’ve hit the point in this election season where President Obama and Governor Romney are equally distasteful to me. While Romney’s social policies are morally repugnant, I can’t say that I’m not disappointed by the way Obama has handled the economic crisis. And regardless of my political preferences, what socially-conscious woman could pass up the chance to be less than fifty feet from a possible future president?
Cut to me sitting in a stiflingly-hot multi-purpose room with my prepared questions (just in case there was a Q&A . . . which there was, more on that later) culled from Jezebel.com research (of course). Listening to the looped playlist that included such nostalgic hits as “Stop! In the Name of Love,” “Where Did Our Love Go,” and “Dancing in the Street.” Songs recorded by artists considerably more diverse than the supporters placed in Romney’s VIP seating area – where, yes, there were actually a few token women but no persons of color. Songs that begged us town-hall-goers to associate a Romney presidency with the ‘gee whiz’ perfection of American family life in the ‘50s and ‘60s. A dangerous nostalgia embodied by the candidate’s family itself.
Before Romney could laud himself for Puerto Rico polling numbers, make veiled digs at Santorum, or open the floor for discussion, the awkwardness that is a candidate’s wife giving the ‘why you should vote for my husband’ speech commenced. Ann Romney, who apparently started going steady with Mitt after he saw her at a high-school party with another man and approached said man demanding to drive Ann home because he lived closer to her. Gee whiz, us ladies just love it when men piss all over us to mark their territory. Ann Romney, who thought she would never want her husband to run for president again after his 2008 campaign – “which is what Mitt says I say after every pregnancy, and I’m sure the ladies in the audience know what I’m talking about.” Gee whiz, us ladies just love it when our lack of reproductive agency elicits uncomfortable laughter.
And, of course, when it came time for questions, good ol’ Mitt only called on men. Now, it was probably just my own political proclivities, but the pink elephant of the so-called ‘soft power’ issues was roaring.
It seems that in the relative anonymity of local television interviews, Romney has no problem firing off idiotic sound-bytes such as his latest jab against Planned Parenthood in the context of his plan to balance the federal budget in an interview with KSDK in Missouri: “Planned Parenthood? We’re gonna get rid of that.”
Whether Romney really believes that he can eliminate an independent health care provider that relies on private funds, not public, to source 2/3rds of its operating budget or this is just another attempt on his part to pander to a fundamentalist Republican base (since, furthermore, eliminating federal funding to Planned Parenthood would result in only a 0.01% decrease in the overall budget) is of relative unimportance. Not all undecided voters are spending their mornings and lazy weekends hopping through the feminist blogosphere, so not all of them will catch Romney in all his moments of anti-feminist glory. However, the simple truth remains that single-women comprise the largest and fastest-growing voting segment with 55 million potential voters already banked and 1 million additional being added each year. All of these women – self-identified feminists or not – are living lives of economic independence. As President Obama’s lead among women voters widens, the savvy political analyst can hardly help but wonder if this is a result of the Republican over-emphasis on the nuclear family.
By no means are women voting as a monolithic bloc of vagina power – in fact, recent voting trends seem to suggest that some women are actively rebelling against being labeled as ‘identity politics’ voters and casting their ballots for candidates who would be considered by mainstream feminists as anti-woman in their policies. But it is absolutely irrefutable that women, especially single women, have a unique experience that breeds unique political policy concerns. To fail to address these for whatever reason (whether it be fear of being labeled the ‘women’s candidate’ or simply a lack of concern for women’s issues) could prove fatal to a campaign – as it arguably did with Hillary Clinton’s in 2008 (and yes, I’m reading the fantastic Big Girls Don’t Cry: The Election That Changed Everything For American Women; and yes, I would recommend it to you, my dear readers).
It’s not that I adamantly disagreed with any one thing that Governor Romney said in his brief speech or in his responses to public questions. I remain more disconcerted by what he didn’t say and the types of people he didn’t feel were important enough to include in the discourse. So, Mitt Romney came to the Sullivan Center in Vernon Hills and I went to see him and I’m still not sure how to feel about this.