The dust seems to have settled over last week's infighting about Mitt Romney's wife—whether she ever "worked a day in her life".
So it's time we took a look past the political games on both sides, and asked ourselves about the deeper values issue hidden in the subtext.
The first conversation, boiled down to its essence, went something like this:
Hilary Rosen: "Ann Romney has never worked a day in her life."
Barack Obama: "That's not fair. Being a stay-at-home mom is very hard work."
Mitt Romney: "How dare Obama claim that women are lazy?"
It's tempting at this point to explain how our political rhetoric became this silly, but that's another post. For exampe: the context of Hilary Rosen's remark. She was discussing Romney's use of his wife as an expert on the opinions of American women about the job market. She was not calling Ann Romney lazy, but pointing out that she had no experience in the job market.
The bottom line to take from this exchange is what both sides agree on: no matter how many au pairs, nannys, housekeepers, cooks, or maids you have to help you, being a stay at home mom is valuable, difficult, and dignified work—completely worthy of society's respect and support.
Which, of course, is why Mitt Romney, like most Republicans, has been such a strong advocate for all of those poor stay at home moms, who didn't happen to marry a millionaire, and have to do this tough job without a staff:
Romney: “I said, for instance, that even if you have a child 2 years of age, you need to go to work. And people said, ‘Well that’s heartless.’ And I said, ‘No, no, I’m willing to spend more giving day care to allow those parents to go back to work. It’ll cost the state more providing that day care, but I want the individuals to have the dignity of work.’”
In other words, if you are born into the upper class or marry a millionaire, then staying at home and devoting yourself to caring for your children is a noble occupation and a sign of good character.
But if you are not born with a silver spoon in your mouth, and don't manage to marry out of poverty, doing the exact same thing under even more difficult circumstances is undignified and represents a character flaw.
A poor woman, struggling day in and day out with few or no resources to provide care for her children is somehow irresponsible and undignified, while a woman sitting in the lap of luxury, with every resource and support system imaginiable, who manages to do the same exact thing is both responsible and praiseworthy—a model for us all.
There is something wrong with this equation.
Why isn't Romney advocating that his wife "go to work" so she can "have the dignity of work"?
The answer is that the class warfare being conducted by the 1% and their lackeys is not just a matter of economics, but a corruption of American values along class lines.
We are being taught to believe that the exact same set of motives and behavior is admirable in the case of a wealthy person and dispicable in the case of a poor person.
And working mothers are not the only example.
I'll leave the listing of other examples as an exercise for the reader.