Author and New America Foundation program director Liza Mundy penned a piece for Politico Magazine that reads like something out of the pages of the NOW playbook. The headline in and of itself summarizes it all:
Spinsanity: ”Wendy Davis did make a mistake. She thought that we were ready for a single mother.”
If the headline wasn’t bad – and faulty – enough, there were paragraphs like this one (bolded emphasis added by me):
Given that winning political office requires help, it was probably a mistake for Wendy Davis, the Texas state senator who is now running for governor, to insist quite so ardently that she got where she did through her own pluck and determination. Davis, a Democrat who rose to national prominence during a dramatic filibuster of a restrictive abortion bill in the Texas legislature last year, is now campaigning for her state’s highest office on a life story that has her rising from humble beginnings through “hard work and optimism,” as she told NBC, then pursuing higher education, as her campaign website says, with “the help of academic scholarships, student loans, and state and federal grants.” Now that she is in a high-profile and hotly partisan race, it has come out that she also benefited from the moral and financial support of her second (now ex) husband, Jeff Davis. In the process, though, behavior we would expect and hardly notice in a man is being portrayed as freakish and problematic in a woman.
This is so far from the truth and reality that it almost defies logic. And unfortunately, this interpretation is making the rounds among some writers I respect, like Democrat Kirsten Powers. Let’s clear up any misunderstanding/spin that exists out there over why conservatives and Republicans have jumped on this story: it’s because she made her life story her campaign story and .. well, she lied about it - as I wrote earlier this week:
Quite frankly, I could have done without knowing the details of Wendy Davis’ relationship and eventual divorce from her ex-husband, and seeing as I don’t know them and wasn’t in the situation, I’m not going to make a judgement call on whether or not it was the right thing to do for her to leave her children with her ex-husband after the divorce so she could ‘find herself.’ What bothers me about these details is that they are in direct conflict with the “going it alone, running against the wind, paid my way through college while single-handedly raising a family” compelling story she tells when she tours the media and campaign circuit. In contrast to the narrative she and the MSM have enabled, she had plenty of financial support – especially while at Harvard – and had someone who could take care of the kids while she found her way in the world. Not a lot of women can make that same claim. In fact, I suspect many of the people – men and women – who attended Harvard at the same time Wendy Davis did are STILL paying off their student loans because they had to work, possibly more than one job, and still come home and tend to family. Her then-husband took out a loan to pay for her Harvard education and took care of the kids while she was away, and did so even after they were divorced. This is not what Wendy Davis has told people on the trail.
When I think of a single mother overcoming the odds I think of one who really does struggle – and there are many out there whose story matched the initial “going it alone” one Wendy Davis told but which don’t match the actual “she had a lot of help” version, the one she barely ever talked about even in the abstract. Wendy Davis tried to gain traction with female voters – in particular ones who really did have to go it alone in life with their children for whatever reason – by insinuating she can relate to those who had to put themselves through school without any help from anyone. She had help. A lot of it. A husband with a six figure salary and a nice 401k to draw from. And who took care of her children when she left for Harvard. Nothing wrong with that – except for the fact that she wasn’t up front with voters about it.
Not only that, but worse – she’s used her “single motherhood” story to advance her belief that abortion is ok. Some women get pregnant by accident, you see, and it would be awfully tough financially to raise that child – especially if she already has other mouths to feed – so abortion should be an option, according to Wendy Davis, to “take care of” that inconvenient “issue.”
There are so many layers to why what she’s said and done on the campaign trail about her life story was so wrong, and it has nothing – zip, zilch, nada – about the fact that people weren’t and aren’t willing to “accept a single mother” in public office. Wendy Davis painted herself as a long struggling single mother before we knew the full story, and many of us – including me, and even TX Governor Perry – picked up on that story of struggling single motherhood as one of inspiration, noting that, in contrast as to how she was using it to advance the pro-choice narratives about single women and abortion, that she could use it to inspire women thinking about terminating their unborn child’s life to instead make the choice to have the baby – that the odds could be overcome with hard work and the determination to succeed. Many of us – people who supported her and people like me who don’t – went with what she said and took her at face value, and didn’t once think the single mother issue was even an issue at all.
With that in mind, it’s fascinating that the defenders of Ms. Davis over the Dallas Morning News story are doing so on the basis that the right “can’t accept” a single mother in office – in spite of the fact that the story written about Ms. Davis didn’t really portray her as a single mother at all. What’s at issue here is that “the right” can’t accept a woman – single or not – using an embellished tale about struggling single motherhood in order to try and “relate” to and win over women who really have had a tough road raising their kids by themselves. And “the right” especially can’t accept a woman who uses that same embellished story to argue that it’s ok in those situations to have an abortion.
As to Kirsten Powers assertion that Davis is being held to a standard “no man” would “ever” be held to, she does remember how Barack Obama was elected to the US Senate, right?
No, Ms. Davis is not a “victim” of the “misogynist right.” Ms. Davis is a victim of her own contradictory words coming back to bite her thanks to – gasp – actual scrutiny, for a change, from a mainstream media journalist unwilling to accept at face value her narrative about her life story. If only we’d had more such journos back during the 2007-2008 Democrat presidential primary season …