by Abby Margolis Newman
A recent Newsweek cover pictured Sarah Palin, Christine O'Donnell, Michele Bachmann and Nikki Haley - four GOP "Tea Party" members and past or present political candidates - in matching Republican-red jackets. The article, entitled "The Bear Truth: Will the 'Mama Grizzlies' Really Protect America's Kids?" asked a legitimate question: do these women really stand for and fight for policies benefiting women and children?
The answer, sadly but not surprisingly, is no.
Let's remember who these women are: Palin served one-half term as Alaska's governor, quitting in the middle of her term after helping John McCain lose the 2008 presidential election. She now makes millions a year through speaking fees and her salary as a Fox News contributor. Bachmann is the loony and paranoid Minnesota congresswoman who suggested during the 2008 election that Democratic members of Congress be investigated "to find out if they are pro-America or anti-America."
And Christine O'Donnell, whose TV commercials tell us she is "not a witch" and who, when not perpetually running for office over the past several years, has been busy taking to the airwaves to condemn homosexuality, premarital sex and masturbation.
OK, so these women are clearly on the right-wing fringe of politics. But what about the policies they support - are they good for families?
The Newsweek article says that Palin describes a "Mama Grizzly" as "a conservative woman with 'common sense'. . . someone who 'rises up' to protect her children when she sees them endangered by bad policies in Washington." But what "bad policies," exactly, is she talking about? Is she referring to Obama's tax cuts, which affected 98% of American households (those making less than $250, 000 per year)? To the end of predatory lending practices and giant interest-rate hikes on the part of credit-card companies? To the health care reforms which now prevent insurance companies from denying coverage to those with "pre-existing conditions" or which allow parents to keep their children on their plans until they are 26? These kinds of policies that endanger children?
In the meantime, the policies that are being promoted by so-called "pro-life" Tea Party Republican women are getting more and more extreme. Sharron Angle, a Palin-endorsed candidate who is running for Senate in Nevada, says that abortion should never be legal - even in the case of rape and incest. O'Donnell and Palin are also staunchly anti-abortion, and Bachmann goes so far as to advocate equal protection under the 14th Amendment for the "preborn."
Although Angle is not the only GOP candidate to take a radical stance on abortion, she has deservedly received attention for expressing it the most radically: when an interviewer asked her what she would advise a young girl who found herself pregnant as a result of being raped by her father, Angle blithely answered, "Two wrongs don't make a right," then continued by saying the girl should be forced to have the baby and "turn a lemon situation into lemonade." This is not pro-life or pro-family in any way. It is horrifying. It is simply insane.
While the Tea Party Republican women are busy protecting the "preborn," they are shockingly callous toward the children who are already born and in need of help from our government. As the Newsweek article puts it, "With few exceptions, the grizzlies have been disinterested in the issues and policies that their political opponents say are good for children - despite new numbers from the census showing that rising numbers of America's children are poor."
Their indifference to America's actual children - as opposed to zygotes or fetuses - hasn't stopped these so-called "Mama Grizzlies" from using children as a tool to manipulate voters. O'Donnell, who is unmarried and has never had children, nonetheless refers to "our grandchildren" in speeches, pledging to protect them. Again, protect them from what? The dangerous implication put forward by Tea Party activists is that government in general, and the Obama administration in particular, is something we need to be "protected" from; they speak often of "taking our country back," but again, from what? And "take it back" where? To a time when women were in their rightful place in the kitchen, when blacks couldn't vote or intermarry, when gays were firmly in the closet, when abortions were illegal?
But even more importantly, can these Tea Party Republican women explain how making the rich even richer (by extending the Bush tax cuts for the wealthiest 2 percent, as the GOP is demanding) is good for the average family? Wealthy families have always done just fine, thank you - they have done extraordinarily well under Republican administrations - and have never worried about how to pay for prenatal care, health insurance, or education for their own children.
Yet those "Mama Grizzlies" who would use motherhood as a political club seem to care little about supporting policies promoting equal pay, parental leave, day care subsidies, early childhood education, or children's health insurance programs. The philosophy of the Tea Party Republicans - of cutting taxes for the wealthiest Americans, slashing social programs and dismantling our government's safety net for those who need help, and depriving our fellow citizens of quality healthcare - represents an America I do not recognize.
The Newsweek article notes, "In the wild, real mama grizzlies are known to be aggressive, irrational and mean." That about sums it up, doesn't it?