This has been an historical election season; busting down barriers thought impossible only a few years ago. From Hillary Clinton’s ovaries (yes, Hillary haters, she is a woman), Barack Obama’s bi-racial DNA and Mitt Romney’s Mormon faith to Mike Huckabee’s funny name, this has been perhaps the most colorful and inclusive American presidential campaign season ever. So much so that the rest of the world – at least the modern, Western, Starbucks gulping world – has taken notice and been in awe of the progressive state of our political system. But one thing has been gnawing at me. It’s the mommy issue.
John Edwards, Barack Obama and even Fred Thompson, the aging TV star, turned blip on the presidential scene, each have really young children. Aside from seeing gorgeous photos of the genetically perfect Romneys, or the cute Edwards children, Thompson’s toddlers, and the precocious Obama girls, the kid thing has been absent in the campaign. Forget that Thompson is old enough to be his children’s grandfather and Giuliani’s kids loathe him – but you get the point. Presidential hopefuls toting their offspring along on the campaign bus make for a sweet visual. End of story.
But let’s swap the pants for the pantsuits and imagine if the candidates were moms, not dads of young children grinding it out in Iowa and Michigan and Florida for votes? What if it were Elizabeth Edwards or Michelle Obama at the top of the ticket? How then would the media and America react?
If we think the media skewer strong, independent women like Hillary Clinton and Michelle Obama for being well, strong and independent, I can only imagine the fun they would have with the “mommy candidate.” Instead of Michelle sporting a machine gun and an afro on the cover of “The New Yorker” as the magazine did this week in a distasteful attempt at satire, it could show her carrying a breast pump dangling from her briefcase, as she’s about to fumble the “football” of nuclear strike codes.
So I don’t think it would only be Rush Limbaugh and his dittoheads attacking the mommy candidate. I bet everyone from the Granola Mom to the grandmother in Middle America would take issue with a woman leaving her children to take the job as leader of the free world.
It isn’t fair. But in our society we scrutinize moms. Dads get credit for showing up. Moms get chastised if they don’t show up all of the time. We know that Michelle is a “good mom,” because she swears she won’t spend more than one night away from her girls even amidst the throes of an exhausting and rigorous campaign trail.
While Americans question whether Obama is experienced enough to be president and examine his policy positions, no one seems to be questioning his ability to parent while in the White House. It’s understood that Michelle will take care of that.
I don’t know if it is society or biology or a combination of both that makes us feel that mommies need to be around more than the daddies do, but that’s simply the way it works. With Hillary out, many doubt we’ll be electing a female president anytime soon. But a menopausal woman in the Oval Office seems much more likely than the mom with the breast pump, unless Jenna Bush now gets pregnant and pays her dad a visit sometime soon.