Can We Talk? 51% of the Voters Are Women (Live Blogged From the New Yorker Festival)

October 6, 2012, 1:02 pm

Sorry I haz 2 miss this TR u know wut 2 do

Having complained relentlessly about the lack of discussion about women in the first presidential debate Tenured Radial was invited to attend a New Yorker Festival event, “The Fifty-One Percent: Winning the Female Vote,” and will live blog it starting at 1:00 PM. Members of the panel are Kellyanne Conway, Margaret Hoover, Melissa Harris-Perry, and Cecile Richards. The panel will be moderated by Dorothy Wickenden. Biographies of all participants are available by clicking the above link. A full schedule of events for the festival, which continues through tomorrow, is available here.

Here we are at the School of Visual Arts theater on 23rd street in Manhattan: yours truly has a seat up front with a birds eye view.  The lights just went down. (FYI: Jill Lepore is doing an event next door.)


1:00 — Dorothy Wickendon is promising us a livelier debate than we saw earlier in the week which got a sincere laugh.

1:01 — Is it sexist to note that there is a fantastic array of shoes upfront, the most stunning of which are Cecile Richards’ classy black strappy sandals with four inch heels?

1:05 — We are beginning with Cecelia Richards responding to a film clip of John Boehner insisting that family planning and women’s health are not a real issue. Richards reminds us that Boehner offered to pass a budget in exchange for striking Planned Parenthood from the budget “and Obama said no.”

1:10 — Kellyanne Conway, a Republican pollster, says women’s health has been politicized and that this is simply not a top issue for women: Melissa Harris-Perry, political scientist, says true, but “at last the Democrats have managed to brand something.” Also points out that there has been a concerted policy effort by the far right and Tea Partiers to restrict reproductive rights.

1:16 — Harris-Perry finds Conway’s desire to split women’s concerns about reproduction from economic issues: controlling fertility links the two. Points out that Roe is important, but less important for states that have defunded abortion or made it otherwise impossible for women to access birth control and abortion.

1:28 — Hoover points out that the GOP is not monolithic on the question of abortion, and that a large number of Republican women are pro-choice and vote on that basis. Points out that there are fundamental differences between Obamacare and Romneycare, the latter of which was far more bi-partisan. Argues that Obama has no historic bipartisan achievements (TR wonders: how is this possible when the GOP saw it as it’s only goal to sink Obama’s presidency?)

1:30 — Richards agrees with Hoover that reproductive rights have historically crossed party lines. Points out that a federal structure for health care means giving women’s health over to states like Texas (Harris-Perry made this point about Louisiana, above) that have the worst health care, and worst record on women, in the nation.  Points out that health care issues are basic economic issues, and that the Dems have not made this link as well as they could. Getting insurance, for example, is not a “social issue.”

1:33 — Conway is claiming last week’s debate really moved women towards Romney, and that as the debate is “digested” this will be reflected in the polls. “I have heard no one with a straight face say that President Obama will get 64% of the women’s vote.” Proposes that Obama was actually playing to the men’s vote last week, and that’s why women were left out. (TR: this strikes me as plausible and I suspected it at the time.) Points out that the poverty rate among women is incredibly high (TR: But hasn’t it always been? Women have always been far more likely to fall into poverty, especially middle class women.) Says “women don’t just want to be talked to from the waist down.”

1:40 — Harris Perry pointing out that women of color are going to put the voting percentage of women way over the top. Also notes that transforming pro-Obama polling numbers in some states into votes is going to be challenging, even with holds put on enforcing those laws. Women are particularly vulnerable to this because their names change, and women are often using more than one name.

1:43 — Margaret Hoover points to claims on the left and the right that voting is corrupt and argues that the issue is real. Cecile Richards responds that these are issues that can be dealt with without making voter suppression an “art form” as it is in Texas. “Women are going to determine who the next president is,” Richard says; and Obama is on the right side of a “very healthy gender gap.”

1:51 — Richards: “Birth control isn’t a social issue unless you’ve never taken it.”

1:46 — Conway keeps claiming that Roe is simply not an issue, and why aren’t we talking about “men’s issues”? Richards: “Men’s issues are women’s issues!”

1:49 — We’ve moved on to Ann and Michelle, and Wickenden asks the question: why do these women always have to speak about themselves as moms? Richards says that Ann Romney made the case that Mitt cares about her; Michelle made the case that Barack cares about us.

1:55 — (Dorothy Wickenden, would you please interrupt Kellyanne Conway who is stealing the stage with a lot of idiotic assertions about how we are all culturally and physically mobile, which is all derived from the horse shit Republican insistence that we are all middle class and free?)

1:57 — Harris-Perry points out that the relationship of first ladies to the presidency is through their husbands. How do they express the human reality of being a woman married to this man and, at the same time, their lives are so different from everyone else’s. Why talk about your kids as your great accomplishments? “I probably shouldn’t even say this, but Martin Luther King’s greatest accomplishment was not his kids.” (Laughter.) Predicts that this candidacy may be a turning point as GOP candidates of color begin to move up the party in anticipation of 2016.

2:06 — Margaret Hoover on Paul Ryan: “deeply thoughtful, intellectually honest, and earnest” effort to address fiscal issues.  A bold choice for Romney, and this is what Hoover wants the next generation of Republicans to look like. Willing to address the economy we live in, not the economy we grew up in.

2:09 — Wickenden: Are we likely to see a woman as a candidate in 2016? Richards says yes, women will run, but does not know whether a woman will ultimately headline the ticket. Women tend to be financially outgunned, but it may make as much difference to have more women in the Senate. Hoover points out that more women are running for the Senate and the House than ever, 2-1 Dems. Richards says Hilary Clinton, but Harris-Perry worries about taking a step back to an older generation. Bench for women Dems isn’t deep; Conway chimes in that GOP bench is deeper, particularly among Governors (Nikki Haley, Susannah Martinez.)

2:25 — Tenured Radical just got up and asked a question about lesbians, and whether calling something a “social issue” is just a way of obscuring structural and economic discrimination. Harris-Perry picked it up and said yes — and, if you look at civil rights, people were willing to pay a lot of money to keep segregation in place. You would have liked it.

2:31 — Questioner says that she will grant that women don’t want to be discussed from the waist down, but when they are it is so offensive that they need to begin by addressing that. Hoover ends by saying she doesn’t hink under Romney that Roe will be overturned. (Great laughter as panel ends.)

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