“Stop it! Stop it, RIGHT NOW!”
What parent hasn’t had that moment of “I’m at the end of my rope” frustration with a tired or petulant child? You know you shouldn’t yell. You know you’re supposed to remember all the good parenting stuff you’ve been taught — talk in a calm voice, get down to your child’s eye level, let your mini-whirling dervish know that even though he or she is spinning wildly, you are the steady presence of control who can and will calm them. And that, as the parent, you will ultimately get your way.
But sometimes there comes a moment when you know that nothing is going to change the situation unless you shock your child into stopping for a second or two. So you shift into uber-authority mode with a good, loud command to get their attention, hoping they’ll be so shocked at what you just did that they’ll fall in line.
That’s the kind of moment Ann Romney had this week when she was asked about Republican critics of her husband’s recent “inelegant” remarks about the hungry and the sick. Ann dropped that calm parent/political surrogate demeanor and went for the tried and true mom smack down:
“Stop it. This is hard. You want to try it? Get in the ring. This is hard and, you know, it’s an important thing that we’re doing right now and it’s an important election and it is time for all Americans to realize how significant this election is and how lucky we are to have someone with Mitt’s qualifications and experience and know-how to be able to have the opportunity to run this country.”
That’s right. She gave us the political equivalent of her I-can’t-take-it-anymore mom voice to get the attention of squabbling right-wing pundits and GOP doubters after her husband was caught on tape telling a room full of wealthy supporters that almost half of Americans are just whiny mooching victims who ought to be grateful to all his rich friend job creators. I also sensed there was a little frustration with our collective impertinence over whether Romney is worthy of Republicans’ support. Her tone made me think she was going to end with, “You’re going to be sorry when your father gets home!”
As Ann Romney seems to be channeling her mom persona in her recent political remarks, it occurred to me that with only about six weeks to go until Election Day, it might be time for the Republicans to turn from traditional campaign advice and consider how their race for the White House could have been different if they’d listened to a few other gems of wisdom we often hear from parenting experts:
1. Attachment – Attachment is the key to any healthy parent/child relationship, and the Republicans aren’t attached to Mitt Romney. That’s been clear since the never-ending GOP debates and long list of short-lived frontrunners like Herman Cain and Rick Santorum. The Republicans pretty much operated on “anyone but Romney” mode until it was clear he was going to be their only choice.
2. Respect – Children need to respect authority figures, and it’s clear that the hard core conservative right has no respect for Mitt Romney because he isn’t one of them. The extreme right is the arm of the party that’s in possession of the Super-PAC funding dollars earmarked to defeat President Obama. For those with the billions, it’s not about liking or respecting Mitt, it’s about hating Barack.
3. Communication – Your kids won’t listen to you unless you, as a parent, know the right way to talk with them. And for each kid, there’s a different way to get through to him or her. The Romneys have yet to find the right message to convince Republican power brokers and pundits that they’ve got their political backs.
Without these tools, parents can’t raise their children. And, similarly, political parties can’t help their candidate succeed.
Ann Romney had her chastising political bad mom moment in that radio interview, but I’m not sure it had the desired effect on her fellow Republicans or whether it will help to bring them in line through November. But I bet it stopped her grand-kids in their tracks.