Friday, April 13, 2012

Talking Points

I have found myself increasingly irritated with the rhetoric and distractions of politics. I know it is very difficult for politicians (and the media) to sit down and simply have a discussion about issues and answer each others' arguments with rational arguments of their own, because that's not what people think wins elections.

The most recent one I can think of is the media firestorm concerning the words of Hilary Rosen about Ann Romney.

Now, I agree that Hilary Rosen's words were ill-chosen. It is incredibly insulting to say that someone who stays at home and raises children has "never worked a day in her life" (or his?). But why, on God's green earth, must we dwell on that small phrase, out of context, and ignore the point that Rosen was trying to make. If one listens to the whole segment, it is easy to see that, in context, even the statement itself was not supposed to be a jab at Ann Romney's choice to stay at home and raise children: Rosen wasn't calling her lazy, and she wasn't suggesting that all women should join the workforce. She was clearly saying that Mitt Romney has no business seeking counsel about women's economic issues from his wife, since Ann Romney has no idea what it's like to struggle economically. She didn't have to worry about how to feed her children or about scrounging up the money for a baby-sitter or about paying the rent, all while raising a family. Many women do this on their own! Many stay-at-home moms have these same concerns for their families, but Ann Romney never has.

The only person I heard try to address these concerns, if only for a moment, was Ann Romney herself. She claims that she has been on the campaign trail, that she's been listening to the concerns of women. The real question is, does Mitt Romney's economic policies address these same concerns? Does Obama's? That is what the conversation should be about.

Personally, I agree that it is not enough for Romney to consult his wife about these issues. He needs people around him who are actively involved in working out solutions to women's issues if he wants any claim at all to working on those. He can't cite his wife as an expert, because she's not one, despite all of her good qualities. That doesn't mean her opinions don't matter, nor is it proof that she's wrong on any of the issues.

Of course, of course, of course, this is not the only issue where people are missing the real conversation, and Democrats do it as often as Republicans. We need some way of actually talking about these issues that gets past talking points and distracting rhetoric. Rhetoric is, in my opinion, the opposite of reasonable dialogue. It is trying to get someone to agree with you by being clever with words and knowing how to shift focus. It is not a way of winning an argument, nor is it in any way helpful in finding helpful solutions or appropriate answers.