Alec MacGillis is a writer for The New Republic.
For those of you who were doing something more valuable with your Wednesday night than monitoring Twitter — like, say, clipping your toenails or watching the Home Shopping Network — let me report that the explosion over Democratic talking head Hilary Rosen's comments about Ann Romney on CNN was quite something to behold. I'm not sure where exactly in Shenzhen the faux outrage is manufactured these days — I imagine Foxconn's got the contract — but you could all but hear the factory whistles ordering in the workers for a double-shift of umbrage production.
The Democrats are crying foul — Rosen's connection to Obama is being wildly overstated, for one thing. And for another thing, her offending comment — that Ann "hasn't worked a day in her life" — was, let's face it, an attempt (however poorly phrased) to tap into the Democrats' class argument against Romney, rather than a straight attack on stay at home moms. What offends liberals like Rosen is not that Mitt Romney is invoking a stay-at-home mom as his source of wisdom on women's economic concerns, but that he is turning to a stay-at-home mom who, while presiding over the zoo that a five-boy household surely was, was also not facing, from early in her home-making role (long before she obtained her two Cadillacs and a stable-full of horses) a whole swath of the pressures and anxieties faced by most women, employed outside of the home or not.
But my defense of the Democrats on this score goes only so far, because they have not exactly been earning goodwill in the manufactured outrage department. It was just last week that party minions, Emily's List and the Obama campaign pounced on Republican National Committee chief Reince Priebus's analogy suggesting that Democrats' assertions of a GOP war on women were as ludicrous as would be claims of a "war on caterpillars." Here's what Obama campaign honcho Stephanie Cutter had to say about that one, which I called out at the time : "Does [Romney] stand with Reince Priebus — the leader of the Republican Party — when he compares the debate over vital health care services to a war on insects?"
Apparently, we're supposed to shrug at all this, roll with it. Deny or complain about the reality of the modern news cycle, and you're a nostalgic prude. But I'm willing to suffer that label. This stuff is ridiculous, and I've been through enough of these campaigns to know that it's getting worse. When the possible future First Lady, a woman who by most reports is as dignified as they come, is dragooned into setting up a Twitter account late on a weekday night so she can tweet her outrage over a line spoken on a news network no one watches, and her grown sons then chime in with their own go-mom tweets, and the rest of us get breathless ("game on!") — well, it's time to pause for at least a millisecond and recognize that while this is how it is, it doesn't have to be this way. We do still have personal agency. We can shut it off, put it down, and get the nail clipper.