By Ruth Conniff on October 10, 2012

Among the most striking aspects of the post-debate polls that show Mitt Romney erasing President Obama's lead is the sudden closing of the gender gap.

The PEW Research Center Likely Voter Survey finds women evenly split between Obama and Romney, at 47 percent each. Last month, the same survey showed Obama with an 18-point advantage among women.

What happened?

On policy, the Republican candidate has not changed a bit. His party's platform still backs a human life amendment to the Constitution with no exceptions for rape or incest (although Romney now soft-pedals that position, as well as his promise to "end" Planned Parenthood--saying abortion legislation is not a priority for him).

Romney's running mate, Paul Ryan, is still pushing a budget plan that disproportionately affects women by turning Medicare into a voucher program and undermining Social Security.

(Romney's biggest advantage in the polls is among women ages 18 to 49--not those approaching retirement age.)

Romney still wants to repeal ObamaCare, which recently expanded preventive health care coverage for millions of women.

And, let's face it, women still make up a disproportionate share of the 47 percent Romney so contemptuously dismissed. We still earn less than men, and are more likely to depend on Social Security, Medicare, and other government-funded programs--not to mention legislative protection like the Lilly Ledbetter Fair Pay Act.

You could say that women, as a group, have a bigger stake in a community-oriented view of society--one that supports Head Start, family leave, public schools, college aid, government-run health care, and other social programs and protections for the disadvantaged--as opposed to the macho, go-it-alone ethic and economic policies of the Republican ticket.

So why are women suddenly more pro-Romney?

For one thing, there are more women swing voters. When swing voters as a group change their minds, it generally means a whole bunch of women have shifted.

Over the last week, they changed their minds after a debate that focused not at all on social issues.

The moderate-sounding Mitt eclipsed the Todd Akin, rape-can't-get-you pregnant, let's-use-vaginal-probes-to-shame-women-seeking-abortions wing of the party.

And Obama took a pass on mentioning the Republican Party's extremism on women's issues.

In other policy areas, Romney sounded downright reasonable: claiming to support health care coverage for people with preexisting conditions (which, nonsensically, he claimed the free market would take care of), denying that he would undermine Medicare, and even giving a shout-out to public-school teachers.

And, according to Bloomberg, the same white, married women who, despite their overall pro-choice views, faded away from Democrats in 2010 because of concerns about the economy (and voted in the most anti-woman House of Representatives in a generation) still see the Republicans as the party of economic growth.

In the debate, Obama failed to draw a sharp difference with his opponent on issues that matter to women.

At the vice presidential debate, Joe Biden will have a chance to make up some ground--against an opponent who has long been embraced by the most extreme no-exceptions anti-choice crowd, and who is the author of policies that would do the most economic damage to women.

If Biden and Obama can't get the job done, someone at the national Democratic Party should call back Sandra Fluke and Lilly Ledbetter.

It just can't be that hard to make the case that the Romney/Ryan ticket is, as NOW puts it, "a disaster for women."

If you liked this article by Ruth Conniff, the political editor of The Progressive, check out her story "Tommy/Tammy Senate Debate in Wisconsin."

Follow Ruth Conniff @rconniff on Twitter

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By Wendell Berry

Manifesto: The Mad Farmer Liberation Front

Love the quick profit, the annual raise,
vacation with pay. Want more 
of everything ready made. Be afraid 
to know your neighbors and to die.
And you will have a window in your head.
Not even your future will be a mystery 
any more. Your mind will be punched in a card 
and shut away in a little drawer.
When they want you to buy something 
they will call you. When they want you
to die for profit they will let you know. 
So, friends, every day do something
that won’t compute. Love the Lord. 
Love the world. Work for nothing. 
Take all that you have and be poor.
Love someone who does not deserve it. 
Denounce the government and embrace 
the flag. Hope to live in that free 
republic for which it stands. 
Give your approval to all you cannot
understand. Praise ignorance, for what man 
has not encountered he has not destroyed.
Ask the questions that have no answers. 
Invest in the millennium. Plant sequoias.
Say that your main crop is the forest
that you did not plant,
that you will not live to harvest.


Say that the leaves are harvested 
when they have rotted into the mold.
Call that profit. Prophesy such returns.
Put your faith in the two inches of humus 
that will build under the trees
every thousand years.
Listen to carrion—put your ear
close, and hear the faint chattering
of the songs that are to come. 
Expect the end of the world. Laugh. 
Laughter is immeasurable. Be joyful
though you have considered all the facts. 
So long as women do not go cheap 
for power, please women more than men.
Ask yourself: Will this satisfy 
a woman satisfied to bear a child?
Will this disturb the sleep 
of a woman near to giving birth? 
Go with your love to the fields.
Lie easy in the shade. Rest your head 
in her lap. Swear allegiance 
to what is nighest your thoughts.
As soon as the generals and the politicos 
can predict the motions of your mind, 
lose it. Leave it as a sign 
to mark the false trail, the way 
you didn’t go. Be like the fox 
who makes more tracks than necessary, 
some in the wrong direction.
Practice resurrection.

Wendell Berry is a poet, farmer, and environmentalist in Kentucky. This poem, first published in 1973, is reprinted by permission of the author and appears in his “New Collected Poems” (Counterpoint).

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