Is Obama Pandering to Women Voters?

BlogHer Original Post

For the record, I don’t mind being pandered to one bit. It certainly beats the alternative, which has been for women to be dismissed, marginalized, or ignored. So when Obama mentioned the Lilly Ledbetter Equal Pay Act and the profound influence of women in his life, from his single mom to his grandmother to Michelle and the girls -- to, yes, even Hillary Clinton! -- I couldn’t have been happier.

Unlike many male politicians I could name, Obama actually likes women. When he strode on stage at Barnard in his pale blue cap and gown, just days after his historic gay-marriage announcement, the crowd of young women went wild, hooting and cheering.

Set against a backdrop of "Red, White, and View," the president also charmed the five female co-hosts of The View (well, perhaps not Elisabeth Hasselbeck, who made the unfortunate mistake of saying that Obama's views on gay marriage weren't that different from Mitt Romney's, a point he gently corrected her on).

When Obama was asked if could name the controversial sex book that’s on millions of women's nightstands, he didn't roll his eyes, as in, God, I can’t believe Joy Behar just asked me that, and I am president of the United States! He grinned and said, "I don’t know that. But I’ll ask Michelle when I get home."

Yet, according to TV critic Ken Tucker of Entertainment Weekly, Obama's appearance on the daytime talk show was practically a national disgrace:

As it was, today’s View appearance was pretty anodyne, neither illuminating nor amusing, and, well, pointless. If Obama wanted to press the flesh with potential voters, he could have done it on the rope line with the View’s studio audience. Why subject himself to the softballs and piffle of daytime TV hosts (or nighttime ones, for that matter)? I know the obvious answer -- that doing these shows offers a huge-audience opportunity to “humanize” a candidate. And here I will include the presumptive Republican nominee, Mitt Romney, in this, who will doubtless start making the entertainment-TV rounds at some point.

I happen to like The View, but it is not, as Tucker seems to think, the place where women go to hear the president give detailed policy explanations on national security or the deficit. For that we have the endlessly tedious presidential debates, thank you very much, and the Sunday morning news shows like Meet the Press.

Most women watch The View for the same reason I occasionally do: because it’s like sitting around with a group of smart, funny, and opinionated women friends where the conversation meanders seamlessly from parenting to politics to sex. My women friends would ask the president the same questions Whoopi, Barbara, Elisabeth, Sherri, and Joy would ask if they got the chance. But critics like Ken Tucker prefer their own condescending, insulting view of women’s talk shows: that they’re politically worthless.

As even Tucker noted, Obama originally planned to make his gay-marriage announcement on The View, but then he felt he couldn’t wait, so ABC’s Robin Roberts got the landmark scoop instead.

For that matter, the co-hosts did press Obama on serious topics like the stunning $2 billion loss by JP Morgan. I do wish Whoopi had pressed Obama harder by asking, "Should CEO Jamie Dimon be fired?" Instead, she accepted Obama’s excuse that these setbacks happen to even the smartest of bankers, and that the answer is financial reform. She let the president off way too easy.

Barbara asked Obama about the Defense of Marriage Act. Now that he’d come out in support of gay marriage, was the president going to press Congress hard for DOMA’s repeal? Other than saying that Congress knew his opposition to the law, Obama was disappointingly vague.

But even that tidbit was useful, I’d argue. Now that Romney is finally the presumed Republican nominee, the race is going to be a fight to the end. And it’s clear that women are going to be a central part of it. And anyone who thinks that the women’s vote is wrapped up should go talk to Hillary Clinton about 2008.

A new CBS poll shows Romney now leading Obama among women; this contrasts with an ABC News poll barely a month ago that had Obama winning registered women voters by at nearly 20 points.

So if Obama and Romney want to pander to women, want to address the issues we care most about, whether it’s contraception or education or the economy, I say by all means, go for it.

Pander away. But don't assume we'll smile nicely and swallow everything you say, either.


Credit Image: © UPPA/


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