Last night marked the last of the debates between President Barack Obama and Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney and with just two weeks to go before I head over to a local Atlanta church, my daughters in tow, to cast my vote in the 2012 presidential election, I could not be any more clear about who will get my support: Barack Obama is my guy.
Before you go dismissing my decision as nothing more than the black lady voting for the black dude, let me be very clear: I’m not looking at melanin; I’m looking at policy. Does his skin color matter to me? Of course it does. I’m proud of this intelligent, thoughtful, strong black man, husband and father of daughters, whose family and life (before the White House) mirrors my own. Still, my connection with Barack Obama lies not in the color of his skin, but the content of his character—the part of him that appeals to me as a woman, a mother, a provider, a small business owner and an American with a brain and a conscience.
See, President Obama had me at Lilly Ledbetter, the landmark legislation he signed that makes it possible for women to sue—and actually win—lawsuits against employers who pay women less for the same work as men. That was the first bill he signed into law—in his first week as president. President Obama had me at Obamacare, the landmark legislation that provides affordable, reasonable healthcare to families. He had me at his support of Pell Grants, his understanding of how student loans work and his promise to help more of our children attain meaningful higher education—not just so that they can make it in this world, but so that America can make it globally. He had me at reasonable tax cuts for the middle class and tax hikes on the 5% who control 95% of this country’s wealth—the very people who can afford to play their part in helping America back to its feet rather than leaning on unfair, outdated, stacked-against-us-regular-folk tax code to escape paying their share. He had me at support for gay marriage—and a person’s right to love who they choose to love, no matter what’s between that person’s legs. President Obama had me, too, with his support for Planned Parenthood, a woman’s (legal!) right to abortion and our ability to choose when and where we enter into motherhood.
There is no shame to my game: I am looking at every single one of these issues through the lens of an American woman. I do so with the deep understanding that even as Republicans dismiss them as “women’s issues,” healthcare, fair wages and reproductive rights are economic issues—the kind that could very well change the tide for this country. Gloria Steinem made it plain yesterday when she argued on The Chris Matthews Show that simply paying women the same wage as men would add about $147 per week to the paychecks of white women and an additional $250 to the paychecks of women of color—a boost that would translate into $200 billion to the American economy. That is real money—money that would actually be spent right here on our shores (not hidden in off-shore accounts, not invested in businesses in China—ahem) to support the families of 51 percent of our population. Women. Single mothers. And, increasingly, the heads of our collective households—the breadwinners.
Similarly, making it easier for a woman to choose when she’ll have a baby—whether by making her access to birth control easier or upholding her right to an abortion—gives her the ability to get and keep a job, to be educated, to stay healthy and to plan when she’s ready to have a baby, rather than lurching her into a precarious life of lower-wages, grim childcare options and a much greater chance that she and her babies will end up in poverty. I’m not mad, either, at policies President Obama put into place to support mothers in the workplace, particularly his implementation of policies that make it easier for breastfeeding mothers to actually feed their babies and work—sans barbaric conditions and repercussions set by unsympathetic employers.
These are issues that are important to me. And I trust that Barack Obama understands this intimately, not just because he has a smart, beautiful wife or because he’s co-parenting two daughters or because he knows intimately how unfair pay and glass ceilings limited his grandmother’s ability to rise through the ranks of her company, but because he simply seems like a man who cares about women. Who cares about children. Who cares about people. Who understands us because he is us. And knows that if you help women, you help America.
I’ve made no bones about my disdain for Romney. I think he’s an arrogant, out-of-touch, silver spooned bully who used his daddy’s money and his white, male privilege to line his pockets—and that he doesn’t give a rat’s patootie about the least of us (which also happens to be 95% of the wage earners in this country). His comments about the 47% certainly made it abundantly clear that my assessment of him is dead on. And his insistence that he would turn to his wife, Ann Romney, for advice on women’s issues—she who has worked quite hard in the home, I’m sure, but who has never in her entire life had to figure out how to make a dollar out of a dime and a nickel so that she and her family would have a roof over their heads and three hot meals on the table—quite frankly, is pretty effing frightening.
Don’t be scared. Be smart. We women make up 51% of this population. There is absolutely no reason on this planet that we should be so politically inept that we would vote against our interests in the upcoming election.
Vote Barack Obama to a second presidential term.