Tuesday, September 23, 2008

Time Says 'Maxed-Out Moms' Key to Election Success

Move over "hockey moms." Apparently, according to Time Magazine, "maxed-out moms" are the new end-all, be-all voting bloc that John McCain or Barack Obama need to secure in order to win a four-year trip to 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue, room and board included.

What the heck are "maxed-out moms?" Time Magazine defines them thusly:

"Meet the woman of the year: White, high school-educated and probably on the north side of age 50, she is getting the worst of the bad economy. She's worrying about whether her daughter will be able to afford college and her father his medicine. Her husband can barely afford the gasoline it takes to get back and forth from a job he's in danger of losing--and with it, their health insurance. She's getting her hair cut less often and sometimes has to put her utility bill on her Visa. She's the woman doing the laundry at 11 p.m. because it's the first chance she's had all day to do it."

These women are called "pragmatic," as opposed to partisan, and are considered by pundits to be "the ultimate swing voters and the ultimate late deciders."

Oy. I don't like this tendency to label of certain groups with the assumption that all or most of the folks who fit the above description would vote similarly. (I recently blogged on the Picket Fence Post about my distaste for focusing on a "[FILL IN THE BLANK] Mom" vote.)

I understand that the presidential campaigns internally have to figure out which voters are most likely to be persuaded to move into their column, mostly by where these undecided voters live and how their home state figures into the Electoral College equation. (Remember, national polls are meaningless, regardless of how many times and with how much fanfare the news networks rush to announce their fresh poll numbers. It's the polls in the so-called "swing states" -- those states where it's uncertain whether the majority of voters will go Democrat or Republican -- and how those states factor into the Electoral College numbers that matter in the end.) It's simply lazy on the part of the media to use gimmicky shortcuts in an attempt to try to make sense out of this election.

Do all women whose kids play soccer -- assigned the moniker "soccer moms" (a group to which I'd belong simply because my daughter plays soccer) -- vote similarly and hold the same views on public policies? No. Do all dads who follow NASCAR vote in the same fashion? Nope. So please, political media gurus, let's stop with the oversimplification. It's patronizing. Instead of trying to carve up the electorate into tidy little groups, why not spend time explaining, in plain language and with snazzy charts, what the heck this proposed $700 billion federal bailout actually means to the average American and how it would play into the presidential candidates' plans for either tax cuts or healthcare?

Image credit: Time Magazine/Brooks Craft/Corbis.

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