You are not logged in. LOG IN NOW >

The New Family Values on the Blogs

BY Morra Aarons-Mele | Thursday, August 30 2007

Parents’ blogs are buzzing with conversations stemming from the recent New York Times article on kids on the 2008 Election Trail. I thought the Edwards’s attitude to their children on the trail was creepy, even though I think Mrs. Edwards is a heroine. This article brought on a discussion among women bloggers that is a particular to 2008, when we have several young candidates with young children (and some not so young candidates with young children—sorry, Senator Dodd).

On a side note, one can only imagine if blogging had been around during Bill Clinton’s presidencies. I saw the War Room the other night. When Gennifer Flowers made her allegations against Bill Clinton, she only had the National Enquirer to back her up. Today, that would never happen. Something would break on a blog, and boom, it would be in the New York Times. Online conversations have put the conversations we have about our candidates, our celebrities, or even our neighbors online. And this is a new challenge for campaigns.

Elizabeth and John Edwards have done more than any candidate to break down barriers between themselves and the voting public, and now they are paying the price. Elizabeth is a well-known blogger and one of the most amazing things about her is her willingness to participate in online conversations. But the thing is, if you participate online, you cannot expect to maintain polite barriers. And when your parenting is in question, you’d better be prepared for a grilling.

As Rebecca Eisenberg writes “public figures make public choices, and ask us to approve or disapprove.” It started when, on the influential Silicon Valley Moms blog, Rebecca addressed Mrs. Edwards:

“TAKE YOUR KIDS HOME. Get off the freakin' campaign trail. Your husband is NOT going to be the candidate, and he is NOT going to be president. He is NOT ahead in the polls. He is NOT going to make it. We need a Democratic in office desperately, and you are harming that chance by going around saying negative things about the TOP candidates and splitting the vote. Worst of all, you are being a terrible mother, forcing your young children, who should be in SCHOOL, to ride in buses and talk to the press when they obviously don't want to. This election is NOT ABOUT THEM. They deserve some peace, not time with nannies and campaign-trail daycare providers, since, as the Times article describes, you don't have time to see them when you are busy campaigning too.

The comments that follow are by and large, supportive of Mrs. Edwards. I like Liz from Mom101’s response:

“…one thing no one has mentioned is that this is not some Hollywood star dragging his kid on a shoot. Or even me - a mom who often travels for work and has indeed taken my daughter along, even if it meant I could only see her an hour each morning. (Tool that I am.)

This is a family who, I believe, genuinely feels compelled to serve.

I've never felt a higher calling to service to this degree and I can't quite put myself in the Edwards' shoes. But thank God there are people like this in our country--overall decent people still willing to run for office to try to effect positive change, in spite of the the vitriol, the intense scrutiny, the brutal personal attacks they have to endure to get there.”

And as Emily writes on BeenThere, Elizabeth commented right back:

“With all due respect, what you would choose to do is relevant only once: when you choose how to spend your remaining days. I made my choice; because of our lives it was a public choice, but the choice doesn't belong to the public, it belongs to me. And with all due respect, you have no idea what the quality or amount of the time I spend with my children is. I am reasonably confident your information is wrong because a reporter from the New York Times who was with us for less than one hour is your source. A reporter, by the way, who asked for time with our children and who, because our children are in fact children, saw good behavior and bad and who reported our wonderful advantures together as if the children and I were ships passing in the night, which is simply not true.”

So yes, discussion of family values and the candidates—Democrat and Republican-- is alive and well online. Blogs are going to be a rich source of family values discussion in 2007-2008, and not just from the usual suspects (eg, moral majority types). Family values is about more than abortion and gay marriage this cycle, and thank God for that.

Last week Michelle Obama infamously said, “If you can’t run your own house, you can’t run the White House.” In this comment, she was targeting many assumed she was targeting Hillary Clinton. But perhaps the larger goal behind the Obama campaign’s use of Mrs. Obama (she is, after all, the major spokesperson for "Women for Obama") is to present an ideal of the modern mom: smart, sassy, high earning and able to have a baby on one hip, a blackberry in hand, and a stream of cutely chiding comments for your husband.

I really liked this post from Rikyrah on Jack and Jill politics,

“And, that's where Michelle Obama comes in, and that has been her major task: To show the common universality of the 'American Experience', and point out that we're not all so different. Using herself as an example, not only within the context of how SHE, was skeptical about Barack Obama in the beginning, not knowing what to make of this 'Skinny Black Guy with a funny name who grew up in Hawaii', thus relating herself to the general audience - both BLACK and WHITE - but, also by bringing up her OWN background.

Another important part of the challenge of the Obama campaign, in its quest to reach out to the General American populace, is that they have had to try and reshape the very IMAGE of the BLACK FAMILY.”

That’s a big task.

On the Republican side, Mitt Romney’s wife Ann’s online presence takes a different tack. Top Google result for Ann Romney?

“Ann Romney places primary importance on her role as a wife, a mother and a grandmother.”

On his website , Mitt writes of his wife, “she has an extraordinary capability to communicate and to provide advice and counsel. I've tried to figure out where that comes from. She's smart, but it's not like either one of us is Einstein.”

I don’t expect any diatribes against Ann’s parenting on blogs. But Judi Giuliani…well, the discussion is off and running. And it ain’t pretty. Same for Geri Thompson.

It’s often said that we elect candidates because of their personal appeal to us. This includes their partners and families (let's not forget Mr. Clinton). They enter our lives, and we feel free to dissect their choices. In 2008, bloggers will lead these discussions, fan flames, and offer support.