by: Claire Snyder-Hall on August 30th, 2012 | 8 Comments »
Watching Ann Romney’s speech to the Republican National Convention was an exercise in cognitive dissonance. First she sounded like she was making an argument for a progressive agenda, and then she defended a position that completely contradicted everything she said in the first part of the speech. Why does anyone think it was a success?
Mrs. Romney began her speech by invoking the concept of “love” as what “holds us all together.” She then empathetically depicted the struggles ordinary Americans face, laying in bed side-by-side trying to figure out how to pay the bills, reeling at the price of gas and groceries, working long hours so their kids can get new clothes or to pay for them to participate in sports, which “used to be free” but now are not – none of which she has actually experienced firsthand, of course. That doesn’t mean she can’t be empathetic about the struggles of the less advantaged – who today are not just the poor but also the working and middles classes – but the knowledge that her party cares not a whit about the struggles of ordinary people made her seem disingenuous, despite her heartfelt delivery.
If she really cares about the plight of those of us who, unlike herself, are part of the 99%, why does she support a party that seeks to crush unions, lower wages, ship jobs overseas to increase profits, prevent 45 million Americans from getting health insurance, defund programs for the poor, the sick, and the unemployed, and destroy Medicare? Where is the love in those policies? If she really cares about what people are going through, her political position makes no sense.
Next, in an obvious attempt to appeal to women – who have recently found out that GOP leaders support cutting off funding for women’s health organizations like Planned Parenthood, oppose access to contraception, advocate vaginal probes of women who seek to exercise their constitutional right to choose, and deny the reality that rape can result in pregnancy, as well as oppose equal pay for equal work – Mrs. Romney emphasized the important role women play in the family, as the primary caretakers of children and the elderly, and recognized women’s struggles at work and their second shift.
Personally, I found that pitch compelling. It wouldn’t call her a feminist – even though her daughter-in-law Laurie reportedly considers her “‘real, modern feminist’ because she taught them to cook, ‘shop for heels,” and be the kind of wife who … remembers ‘not to weigh him down with all the little hard things that happen during the day.’” That description describes a submissive wife as much as anything, so “modern feminist” is a stretch. Yet, Mrs. Romney did show recognition and respect for the vitally important role women play in family life, which is refreshing in era of Republican misogyny.
However, after going on and on about how much women do to support their husbands and children, she then asserted that when men succeed in business, they do it all by themselves! For example, her own father came to America from Wales and “started a business, one he built by himself, by the way.” Right. He built it all by himself with no help from his wife or his employees. Just like Mitt. “As his partner on this amazing journey, I can tell you, Mitt Romney was not handed success. He built it!” Right. He built it with no help from “his partner,” Ann. And the fact that his father was Governor of Michigan, and put him through private school and (probably) college, and that Mitt then married a woman who would keep house and raise their five children, and that they were able to live off investments during the early years of marriage (even if they were eating tuna off an ironing board), contributed nothing to his success. He did it all by himself.
I am sure Ann Romney is a great wife and mother. She is certainly attractive and personable – at least when she is not sneering at “you people.” Nevertheless, her speech made no sense. I guess she thinks women will be hoodwinked by the romanticism and sentimentality of her words and give no thought to how her political agenda actually affects ordinary people – or else she is speaking to women in her own party, who just don’t care, as long as they get theirs.
And the fact that she is a religious person makes her views all the more shocking and disappointing.