Women Are the Key to the Presidential Debate and Election
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For this debate, then, the goal of Paul Ryan was to pretend that he never embraced such draconian proposals against working families and the poor. That’s what Mitt Romney did during the first debate and, unfortunately, President Obama failed to stop him.
Biden’s role therefore was to come out swinging, convincing the audience that the Romney and Ryan campaign have run for 18 months saying one thing and now are lying at the national debates. This he did. Biden was far more aggressive than Ryan and refused to allow lies to pass as truth.
Given Biden’s well-known (somewhat exaggerated) working class background, it was inevitable that Joseph Biden would attack Paul Ryan for his indifference to the welfare of ordinary Americans. Since he has now become the weak link in the Republican campaign, Paul Ryan should have been on the ropes. Despite his good looks, youth, and buff appearance, however, the best Ryan could do was to deny his record and to attack the contemporary economic fragility of the economy, without acknowledging that it was Republican policies that created it in the first place.
On the stage were two different visions of the American Dream. For Biden, the government exists to create opportunities for its citizens, to assist the vulnerable and the disabled, and to prevent a depression, even if it means bailing out banks. For Biden, the American Dream was built on hard work, not on investments, and on people who have helped others to build better futures for their children.
For Ryan, a disciple of Ayn Rand, government is the problem, never part of the solution. In his view, individualism is what created American prosperity. His vision is clear: it is a society in which you go it alone. (Of course, you might have wealthy parents or powerful connections, but that doesn’t count.)
Ryan conveniently forgot that the government subsidized the creation of the computer, built an interstate road system that crisscrosses the country, designed missiles that landed men on the moon, subsidized universities that are the envy of the rest of the world, and preserved some of the most gorgeous national parks on the globe.
Taxes allowed the federal government to do these miraculous things. Some things just can’t be done by an individual. That’s why there are police officers and fire fighters. If you listened to Paul Ryan tonight, however, you heard the rant of an individualist who has yet to realize that together we rise or fall.
Finally, Paul Ryan had been a serious liability for recruiting women voters. His record against abortion included no exemptions at all and was formally inserted into the Republican 2012 platform. Tonight he repudiated the Republican Party Platorm and said he supported exceptions. Yet he also conceded that a Romney/Ryan presidency would also be opposed to abortion. Ryan has also supported “personhood,” the belief that a fertilized egg is a human being, which would criminalize many forms of birth control. Although Romney’s more moderate stance of allowing abortion in the case of rape, incest or the health of the mother is supposed to dominate the campaign’s positions, hopefully women realized that Ryan had conveniently changed his mind. When the platform and the vice-presidential candidate speak so fiercely against women’s right to make their own reproductive choices, they see President Obama’s consistent support of women’s rights as symbolic of his entire attitude toward women. Even though these issues remained invisible throughout the first debate, Ryan’s views, one hopes, will once again strengthen women’s support for the president. But when will these politicians remember that women also care about wage equity, Social Security, the education of their children, Medicare, and health insurance?