Federal Politics


America's big decision hangs on little things

There are weeks when there's nothing to write about. Weeks when the most exciting thing I've come across is a blog about tea cosies; when the most exciting thing I've done is get a streak of green lights down Northbourne Avenue on the school run. I know I should be more up to date on current affairs, on world issues, on the things that are affecting Canberra. We all should be.

Which is why, in an act of desperation if I'm honest, I turned to social media to find out the issues that concerned my friends this week. My friends are a varied lot. Male, female, working, students, parents, single. I like that the things I do expose me to a lot of different people. Life would be pretty boring if all your friends were from the same mould.

You would think the issues that concerned them would be very different, and they were, but there was an underlying theme. None of it was too consequential.

For all that is going on in the world, people are still concerned about the stress of moving house, about whether they'll shape up at a forthcoming school reunion, whether their children are OK at school, about what's going to happen to the miniature railway when it moves from Kingston, why, all of a sudden, Australia seems to be celebrating Halloween. People are concerned about the little things.

Sure, a couple of friends suggested I should write about meatier issues: the American election, under-age drinking, misogyny, breastfeeding, sexual harassment in the workplace.

So I will. You're all sick of hearing me waffle on about the little things.


Here's a couple of thoughts.

Having just come back from a fabulous holiday to the US, I feel somewhat informed about the state of the nation. We watched a couple of the presidential debates between Barack Obama and Mitt Romney and I read two very interesting articles in Oprah Winfrey's magazine, where the woman herself interviewed Michelle Obama and Ann Romney. I also talked to numerous cab drivers. That makes me informed doesn't it? The friend who sent me down the US election road wanted me to talk about the role of women in the election, how the women's vote would shape the outcome. It makes for some very interesting reading. Writing in The Guardian Jessica Valenti, an American, lets her opinion known: ''The difference between President Barack Obama and governor Mitt Romney on issues of gender can be measured in decades, the latter candidate barely masking his desire to take women back to the 1950s.'' She's worried about his stance on abortion, on funding for Planned Parenthood, on pay equity and workplace rights.

In an interview with news website The Huffington Post, former secretary of state Madeleine Albright, a very admirable woman, said: ''I'm not sure I'm going to state this exactly right … but I think there are some who believe they are actually protecting women, you know, and that it is better for women to be taken care of. I think women want to take care of themselves, and I think having a voice in how that is done is very important. And frankly, I don't understand - I mean, I'm obviously a card-carrying Democrat - but I can't understand why any woman would want to vote for Mitt Romney, except maybe Mrs Romney.''

Romney, and the politics of his party, scare me silly. While part of me hankers for the 1950s, when women didn't feel the pressure of having to do every bloody thing, where we were ''taken care'' of, how can you have any respect, let alone a vote, for a party that carries the shadow of the words ''legitimate rape'' or wants to block a woman's right to make decisions about her own body. Sure, I don't know enough about how badly Obama has screwed up the economy, I don't even know enough about our economy, so maybe this will cost the Democrats the election, who knows.

There were two women I met while travelling who represented the real America to me. One was a waitress at the Irma Hotel in Cody, Wyoming, a woman of a similar age, flat out bussing tables full of tourists. The other was also a middle-aged woman, working in a Subway sandwich shop in Torrington, Wyoming, a town that, on this mild Sunday afternoon, looked as though it had been hit hard by the deficiencies in the economy. Shop windows were boarded up, streets were grey and empty, the air full of despair. It was a horrible place for a rest stop. There was nothing restful about it.

I went back to these women, once I started thinking about the women's vote. Who would they vote for? Would they even vote? (There's democracy in action). The waitress, despite being rushed off her feet, had a genuine smile and topped every other sentence with a cheerful ''okey dokey''; the sandwich hand got a laugh out of the kids ordering capsicum, not green pepper, on their salad rolls.

What was important to them? These are the women's votes that Obama and Romney are after. The most valuable vote has to be the one of the woman whose life is overrun by little details like moving house, what she'll wear to a school reunion, about making a living bussing tables and making sandwiches … If politicians can make women stop and pay attention then they're doing their job properly. And that's the politician who'd get my vote.

The other topic idea which got me thinking was the one from a friend whose eldest son is in year 10. His formal is coming up and it's raised the whole issue of after-parties and under-age drinking. I'm assuming here, and it's not too much of a leap, that said parties are at the homes of students, homes where parents will supervise parties and monitor the drinking. Still, the children are only 16 at most, and my friend, herself quite partial to a good party, is concerned. Should they be drinking at all? Legally, no. But don't be a wowser. What liability do parents face if they allow this to happen in their home and something goes wrong? Even if it doesn't go wrong, is supervised drinking better than the alternative? And, for me, what have we taught our children if they don't think there is an alternative. My friend is a sensible woman, I'm sure she'll come to the right decision for her and her son.

Let's hope the female voters on Tuesday do the same.

Twitter: @karenhardyCT