The triumph of political games: 7 reasons to reject ‘Rosengate’

Matt K. Lewis Senior Contributor
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The flap over Hillary Rosen’s comments disparaging stay-at-home-moms like Ann Romney has gotten a lot of play. I’ve been on the record (okay, on Twitter) mocking the feigned Republican outrage. Something about it just didn’t sit well with me.

This, of course, puts me at odds with the Republican “team” who sees this as a huge win (it is) for their side. It may be smart politics, but it’s still damned depressing. It took me a while to figure out my visceral disgust at this issue. It turns out, there are a lot of things to hate.

Here goes:

1. It’s a victim mentality. People who are easily offended are not confident people — they are sensitive people. And hyper-sensitivity is not a traditional conservative attribute. Rugged individualists don’t bitch. Whining because some irrelevant political pundit (I don’t care how many times she visited the White House!) said something you disagree with, is whining just the same. I don’t like it when the left does it, and it’s certainly not becoming of conservatives.

Maybe this fits into the rubric of “don’t hate the player, hate the game”? Maybe Republicans have to complain? Maybe it’s like “working the refs” (players who complain get better calls in the future)? I get that. Really, I do. But it doesn’t mean I have to like it. It doesn’t mean we should tolerate the game. The last time I noticed this unfortunate trend on the right was during the Christine O’Donnell campaign of 2010. It bothered me then, too.

2. It’s identity politics. Let’s be honest, this is about driving wedges between people and securing blocs of voters. So now, I guess stay-at-home-moms get put into the Republican category? Yippee!

3. Media “surrogates” aren’t necessarily representative of anything. It was bogus when the media pretended Rush Limbaugh’s comments about Sandra Fluke had larger implications. Still, the left pretended that Rush Limbaugh somehow represented the sentiments of all Republicans or conservatives. Now, it’s the right’s turn to blow Rosen’s comments out of proportion. From the right’s perspective, what’s sauce for the goose is sauce for the gander. Still, we are granting these surrogates credit for being more powerful than they are. Sandra Fluke does not deserve to be elevated. Hillary Rosen is not worthy of being a household name.

4. It’s pandering. Pandering works. People like to be pandered to. As James Carville and Paul Begalla have noted, nobody ever says (paraphrasing here), “That guy kissed my ass — and I don’t like it.” This was the ultimate pander. God help you if you say anything bad about moms. Moms must be venerated. All moms are terrific. Being a mom is the most important job in the world. (Also, all policemen and firefighters are heroes.) Team Romney knows this, and they are exploiting it to the hilt. For example, a recent Romney campaign email begins thusly: “If you’re a stay-at-home mom, the Democrats have a message for you: you’ve never worked a day in your life.”

In all seriousness, this is amazingly good for Romney. In one fell swoop, out-of-touch Mitt Romney has conservative women — many of whom probably saw him as a rich, moderate a week ago — leaping to his wife’s defense.

5. It’s the triumph of partisanship games. This is tribalism at its best (or worst.) I can’t tell you how many people on Twitter confessed to me that they agree this issue is bogus — it’s just that Republicans have to play this game if they are to win. The sad part is that they are probably right. Mitt Romney faces an 18-point gender gap, which was largely the creation of bogus liberal demagoguery.

How does he fix that? Well, he has to fight fire with fire. “They bring a knife, you bring a gun.” And considering Ann Romney is considerably more likable and sympathetic than Mitt, Republicans shrewdly seized on this gaffe. It’s smart politics. Experts agree! “The Romney campaign has handled this brilliantly and kudos to them,” said Nicolle Wallace.

If you’re on the Republican team, the thing to do is to jump on this and blow it out of proportion (a week ago, of course, the thing to do was to downplay Limbaugh’s comments.) I’m not on a team. So I think I’m a bit more consistent in saying that both “wars” were bogus.

6. It’s phony, feigned outrage. Phoniness is, perhaps, the least admirable quality one can possess. But we’ve seen a lot of phoniness of late. This is silly season, after all. There is no Republican war on women. There is no Democratic war on moms. The truth is that the people pulling the strings who seem angered by this are actually feigning outrage. And the people who are truly outraged are being manipulated by them. It’s truly sad. (Meanwhile, Hollywood and Madison Avenue continue to portray dads as dolts. Maybe dads are the real victims, err, heroes? Where’s our lobby?)

7. This obscures real issues. While we were talking about Hillary Rosen and stay-at-home-moms, North Korea was launching a rocket, and our entitlement system was crumbling.


Update: An earlier version of this post indicated that Rosen and Michele Bachmann would appear on “Meet the Press” this weekend (as was reported). But Rosen has since tweeted that she will not be appearing on the show, after all.

Matt K. Lewis