While watching last night's presidential debate it became woefully clear that Republican values -- values instilled in the party platform and trickle-down to each and every candidate running with an 'R' behind his or her name -- these values are misdated and misguided.
We're not just talking about philosophical differences here or Mitt Romney's gaffes, though we all chuckled at his claim that he had 'binders full of women.' What we're talking about is a deeper disconnect between a talking point like 'I believe in freedom,' and actually ensuring that each of us has freedom and autonomy over our own lives and decisions that impact our lives. The easiest way to understand this point is to take look at how women's issues were discussed during last night's debate and how Republicans running for Congress continue to perpetuate these misguided values.
Last night in a room full of undecided women and men, Mitt Romney said that he believes that the government is not in the position to tell women whether or not they can access contraceptives. Earlier this year, in front of a different room with a different more conservative audience, Mitt Romney stated that he'd be 'delighted' to sign a federal bill banning all abortions. For me -- this goes beyond trust. It goes to that feeling you get in your gut, time and time again on issues that are important to the American public, where Mitt Romney says whatever he wants, regardless of the consequences, to get elected.
Women have a lot to lose if Mitt Romney is elected but you'd never know it by listening to him talk to undecided voters. American women across the country deserve to have real answers on women's issues. Women's issues aren't insular -- they don't only impact women -- they impact our economic prosperity, our communities, and our future.
We must stop pretending that women's issues don't have a daily impact on our lives. This is about the ability to raise a family on one wager-earner's paycheck, and how women are disproportionately discriminated against when it comes to upward mobility in the workforce. That's why President Obama signed the Lilly Ledbetter Act into law. Mitt Romney's advisers, when asked about the specific piece of legislation didn't even have an answer whether or not Mitt Romney supported women making equal pay. This isn't about binders full of women, or making sure for every one man promoted that the next person promoted is a women. It's about the value Republicans have of women and their place in society. Romney's answer last night when it came to equal pay proved that he only values women by how they make his cabinet look:
"And I said, 'well, gosh, can't we - can't we find someone - some women that are also qualified?"
And -- and so we -- we took a concerted effort to go out and find women who had backgrounds that could be qualified to become members of our cabinet. I went to a number of women's groups and said, 'Can you help us find folks,' and they brought us whole binders full of women."
Wait a second. Let's put that bizarre 'binder' comment aside for a minute (I know, I know, but just for a minute). Back when Romney was Managing Partner at Bain Capital, his record points out this glaring issue far more clearly. Yesterday the Boston Globe reported that Romney "did not have a history of appointing women to high-level positions in the private sector. Romney did not have any women partners as CEOs of Bain Capital in the 1980s and 1990s."
But when Mitt Romney became governor, he realized, suddenly, that he needed women. He wasn't taken aback by the fact that his cabinet was impossibly homogenous. He was taken aback by the appearance of an all-male cabinet. He was only interested in making his cabinet apparently diverse. He doesn't actually value a diverse workforce where women receive an equal voice or an equal footing.
And while Mitt will not repeal the Lilly Ledbetter Act as campaign adviser Ed Gillespie said last night, he was, opposed to the legislation. The president is supposed to lead the party, not be lead by those squabbling below him. President of Planned Parenthood Cecile Richards said it best when she said, "If he was president, we wouldn't have equal pay."
As with the vice presidential debate, you can more clearly see where Mitt Romney and the Republicans stand by taking a look at the people they're running with.
I think the two Congressional races in New Hampshire bring this to light more than most places. New Hampshire is known for being a fairly moderate ideologically. There is practically bipartisan consensus on the issues of small government and personal liberty. This is a place where Republicans do well to be moderate or even strong on women's issues.
But that's not today's Republican Party, not even in New Hampshire. You can see it at the top of the ticket with Mitt Romney, and even more clearly at the congressional level. Let's take a look at the contrast in both districts.
First, we have Frank Guinta, the Republican candidate running for New Hampshire's First Congressional District against progressive hero Carol Shea-Porter. Guinta voted twice to block Planned Parenthood from receiving any federal funds, voted for H.R. 3, a bill co-sponsored by Vice Presidential Candidate Paul Ryan and Tea Party Rep. Todd Akin. You may wonder -- what is H.R. 3 -- it's the 'forcible' rape bill that makes permanent restrictions that block women from accessing abortions.
Women in New Hampshire's First Congressional District should be voting for a courageous champion of women issues -- Carol Shea-Porter. Right next door, there's Charlie Bass in New Hampshire's Second Congressional District who is running against Ann McLane Kuster, who is also a Dean Dozen candidate. Bass is what NARAL calls 'mixed choice' earning a 57% rating from the National Right to Life Committee and is not a strong advocate for women's rights. Bass also voted for H.R. 3, the 'forcible' rape bill, and voted to allow hospitals to refuse to provide emergency room abortion care to women who could die without it -- he is anti-women and anti-family. Ann, on the other hand is a strong advocate for women's rights -- she's a longtime political activist who spent her early years working on her mother's campaign because we needed more women represented in Congress. In New Hampshire, Ann provided legal counsel to young women and has won awards for her tireless efforts to expand opportunities for women. Based on her background and determination to protect and defend women's health and rights, women across the country can count on Ann. If it wasn't already, this debate made clear how Republicans up and down the ballot see women. To be sure women's issues remain safe and the future of our country remains strong we must elect candidates who believe and value women at their core, not just for the appearance of diversity.
Gender based wage discrimination in this country has been illegal since the Equal Pay Act of 1963 was signed in law yet the pay disparity between women and men that still persists today highlights the need to take a look at our wage discrimination laws. This disparity, by the way, is estimated to cost a working woman between 400,000 dollars and 2 million dollars in her lifetime.