On Thursday, from both inside and outside the Republican National Convention, Republicans simultaneously tried to woo women voters while opposing essential women’s rights.
The RNC largely ignored social issues, but socially conservative organizations held many events outside of the RNC security perimeter. On Thursday afternoon, two such groups that are composed solely of women—Concerned Women for America and the Susan B. Anthony List—honored anti–abortion rights female politicians in a restaurant upstairs from the Hooters just past the RNC security gate.
The common theme of the various politicians’ remarks was that the truly feminist position is to oppose reproductive freedom. Representative Michele Bachmann (R-MN) called President Obama, “the most anti-woman, anti-life president in history.” In essence, the argument is that women are mothers and fetuses are babies, so legalized abortion leads to widespread infanticide, and that is disrespectful to women.
But those were just some of the provocative statements. Senator Kelly Ayotte (R-NH) claimed that, “the president is doing everything in his power to radically expand abortions in this country.”
Another persistent theme was that society must protect the defenseless. But the interest in doing so only lasts until they exit the womb. “How we treat the most vulnerable among us is a reflection of who we are,” said Ayotte. She did not mean that we should feed the hungry or house the homeless, only that we should not allow abortions. Florida Attorney General Pam Bondi said that her newborn niece’s Down Syndrome has reified her commitment to opposing abortion. “It breaks my heart to think how many people would not have chosen to keep that precious angel,” said Bondi.
Bondi gave a speech with Georgia Attorney General Sam Olens at the RNC on the evils of healthcare reform that was widely panned for its awkward, flat delivery. After the event on Thursday, I buttonholed Bondi and asked her how she responds to disability rights groups that all support healthcare reform. If she does not believe in preventing insurers from excluding people with prior conditions and expanding Medicaid, I wondered, how does she propose to provide healthcare for disabled people who may be less fortunate than her niece? The answer? She doesn’t. “Our insurance system isn’t perfect,” conceded Bondi. “But my niece has incredible insurance. I haven’t experienced [inadequate coverage] at all.” That, of course, is no answer at all.
In his acceptance speech on Thursday night, Romney followed up on the RNC’s week-long theme of appealing to women through tokenism and condescending rhetoric. Here is what he had to say about his mother and how her foray into electoral politics shaped his own behavior: