Sarah Palin said last week that the “mama grizzlies,” -- those women who are rising up and becoming advocates for their country -- would take back this nation. There is indeed a new breed of women activists in America today. Indeed, roughly 45% of Tea Party activists are women. However, they aren't like the women who came of age in the 60s and 70s who were shrugging off the "bondage" of children and families and rallying around a newfound independence. No, today's women activists have taken to the streets and the voting booths for just the opposite reason. These women are rising up in defense of their children, their grandchildren and their way of life.
The majority of women believe the stimulus has failed to create jobs and have rejected both bailouts and so-called health care reform. For the first time since Gallup has tracked the issue, the federal budget deficit – now over a trillion dollars – has replaced the economy, the environment and Social Security as the issue that worries Americans the most when they think about how America will look 25 years from now.
Why doesn't Washington get it? The nation's economic and fiscal health directly impacts women. They comprise a majority of the workforce partly because the recession has disproportionately affected men and has left women shouldering the burden of employment and kitchen table economics. They are the ones making the majority of financial decisions for their families, including health care decisions, yet it is women who will be paying the high price.
Only one-quarter of women say their economic situation will “definitely improve” over the next few years, a shockingly dour number for Americans who generally project optimism on financial outlook.
Therefore, it’s no surprise that all kinds of women, from young mothers pushing strollers all the way up to grandmas in their wheelchairs, have been making their voices heard in political rallies all across the country. Women, and their kids, were also out in full force outside the U.S. Capitol on the day of the vote on the health care law loudly shouting, “kill the bill." That energy will continue. Women make up a majority of voters in this year’s elections. The Tea Party, and politically engaged women generally, have flexed their electoral muscles in just a few states so far, including Virginia, Massachusetts, New Jersey, and in Rand Paul's win last night in Kentucky. A majority of the electorate in each state was female and fiscal conservatives won all three elections.
But in addition to seeking out and voting for fiscal conservatives, women want members of Congress who make good on their promises. There is no room for hypocrisy. The political maneuvering of Arlen Specter screams of insincerity and was not lost on women.
Although in past elections women could be counted to support liberals (Obama carried them by 11 points in 2008), to put it lightly, women are now suffering from buyer’s remorse. Nancy Pelosi, the first female Speaker of the House has negative approval ratings and women see the corruption and lack of traditional values that Congress has allowed to run rampant – and they don't like it. Candidates offering voters both social and fiscal conservatism are winning elections. And even though it was a Democrat who won the late John Murtha's seat, Mark Critz ran as a pro-life, pro-gun and anti-tax conservative who said he opposed Obamacare, even though Murtha did not.
The economy already has driven women, and Tea Partiers, to the polls and will continue to do so come November. Voters are fed up with Washington arrogance, corruption and runaway spending. But it’s not just Republican women. A majority of all women, regardless of political affiliation, oppose using tax dollars to pay for abortions, which was included in the health care bill. And according to a recent poll from the Pew Research Center, majorities of Republican, Democratic and independent women all said that “frustrated” best describes how they feel about the federal government.
It is this frustration that is so evident at the polls. This year is most certainly the year of the woman activist. “Girl Talk 2010” is mostly about economic issues. Women, who are paying the bills, are also paying attention.
Kellyanne Conway is president of the polling company, inc./WomanTrend and Penny Nance is the CEO of Concerned Women for America, the nation’s largest public policy woman’s group.
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