Kristin Rowe-Finkbeiner: Donald Trump kicked a mother and her crying baby out of a campaign event
In this election, and in any election, candidates throw moms out at their peril, she says
Editor’s Note: Kristin Rowe-Finkbeiner is an author, radio host of “Breaking Through,” and executive director and co-founder of MomsRising.org, a nonprofit national organization that supports policies to improve family economic security. The opinions expressed in this commentary are solely those of the author.
You heard that Donald Trump threw a baby out of a Virginia rally on Tuesday. A baby. It’s been all over the news.
Less noted is that Trump threw the baby’s mother out, too. First he told her he loved babies, then a few moments later: “Actually, I was only kidding, you can get the baby out of here.” Laughing, he mocked the mom to the audience, “I think she really believed me that I love having a baby crying while I’m speaking.”
Deriding a mother — one who came to hear him speak — as she struggled with her crying baby is not going to fly with female voters in America, particularly mothers. Note to Trump: In this election, and in any election, candidates throw moms out at their peril.
This is because mothers are a powerful, often overlooked force. Indeed, some 81% of women in the United States become moms by the time they’re 44 years old; three-quarters of mothers are in the labor force, 40% as primary breadwinners. What’s more, the vast majority of consumer decisions are made by women, a huge percentage of them mothers.
But perhaps most pertinent at the moment: Women are more than half the electorate, they vote more than men, and they tend to vote Democratic more than men.
This is why Donald Trump’s mistake was profound: In the few seconds that it took for him to dismiss this mother and her inconveniently fussy baby from his presence, the real estate magnate uncannily channeled and reinforced (among other things) an old-school workplace culture too familiar to any woman watching. For mothers, it has long been a troubling norm of employment: a baby means an unfair bump off the management track.
You may be aware that, on average, women earn 79 cents to a man’s dollar. But mothers earn only 73 cents. And according to the National Women’s Law Center (with numbers drawn from the U.S. Census Bureau): “Compared to white, non-Hispanic men, mothers of color fare even worse: African-American mothers make 53 cents and Latina mothers 47 cents compared to white, non-Hispanic fathers.”
In the face of this everyday discrimination (perhaps because of it), moms are wielding their political, consumer and economic power in unprecedented ways this year as the first woman, mom and grandmother, Hillary Clinton, tops the Democratic presidential ticket. And while being the first female nominee of a major party breaks a historic glass ceiling, being the first mother is revolutionary.
Clinton’s success helps hit back at the bias against mothers.
Moms are, in fact, rising. Polls show that economic security policies affecting families – like fair pay, child care availability, and paid family medical leave – are priorities for women (and many men) this election cycle, and just in time.
For years our nation has lagged: More than 177 countries offer guaranteed paid family leave, but not the United States; one study a few years ago found that child care costs more than college; and pay inequity puts families in poverty.
It doesn’t have to be this way. A candidate for President could offer solutions that lift our national economy, our businesses and the nation’s moms, dads and families. For example, according to findings by social policy researchers Heidi Hartmann, Jeffrey Hayes and Jennifer Clark, pay parity would send the GDP up by 3% and women and family poverty would be cut in half.
But Trump seems oblivious to all of this — not realizing that when he throws a baby out, the metaphorical bathwater can’t be ignored. It represents millions of mothers, voters who prioritize the very policies he doesn’t talk about. In fact, Trump outright dismissed a child care policy question at a campaign event, saying, “It’s a big subject, darling.”
Even before he threw one out of his campaign event, he showed his disregard for women with children. He once told a breastfeeding mom: “You’re disgusting.” Really? More recently he lashed out at the Muslim-American mother, Ghazala Khan, of Army Capt. Humayun Khan, who died while serving in Iraq. He was apparently insensible to her pain as he criticized her silence during her husband’s speech at the Democratic convention.
This kind of easy derision may have worked for him in a long career that began nearly 50 years ago, but Trump has a lot to learn about mothers in 2016.
One other thing: Mothers know a thing or two about dealing with a bully. And about children who act out.