Family Pictures in Political Rallies

By Kollengode S. Venkataraman

In this raucous primary season for the presidential elections, for a change, Republicans, known for their sedate intramural debates, are entertaining us with their mean-spirited name callings. After the elections in primaries, even those who come third and fourth deliver “victory” speeches, often with their families as backdrops. US politicians, unlike their counterparts in other democracies, surround themselves with their spouses and progeny in campaigns to reassure voters that they are hon­orable family men, which most of them are most of the time — and not scoundrels, which some of them are, some of the time for sure.

Sen. Rick Santorum, father of seven children, and Gov. Mitt Romney, father of five sons, touted their family backgrounds using their wives and children as “optically“ effective props. Being seasoned pols, they contrast­ed themselves from their leading Republican threat at one point, Speaker Newt Gingrich, subliminally taunting him for his far from flawless conjugal life — three marriages, divorcing his first two wives under circumstances far from acceptable in candidates seeking the US presidency.

The air-brushed photos of these candidates with large families stand in sharp contrast to married couples in the US having fewer and fewer children. Besides, college-educated married couples, irrespective of their religious affiliation and ethnicity, often have fewer children, some­times, no children. Paradoxically, families from this slice of the population are the well-informed, having all the resources for raising kids.

So, Romney (a Mormon) and Santorum (a Catholic), having large fami­lies are exceptions because both are well educated and wealthy. So, Rom­ney and Santorum are to be admired for having large families. Demographi­cally that is exactly what we need. Our aging so­ciety is primed by service industry jobs. If we cannot get youngsters from our own population pool for these jobs — either because of the harsh working conditions or low pay (usually both) — there is no way we can avoid getting them from poorer nations, legally or ille­gally. This is a global trend. Even in populous nations such as India, China, Mexico, and Brazil, there is huge influx of less-educated poor people from rural parts to urban centers, and from their neighboring countries.

But all the family-value campaign rhetoric notwithstanding, US is not family-friendly for people to wanting have large families. The 6-week maternity leave for working mothers with newborn babies in the US is a scandal. In industrialized countries in Europe and Asia, and even in our neighboring Canada, maternity leave is for several months, with the mothers getting almost 80% of the salary. See here for getting a comparison:

Further, in urban centers across the nation, quality new-born and early childcare is prohibitively expensive (over %2500/month) for median-income working families. College education too is expensive.

After repeatedly seeing pictures of the Santorum and Romney families in campaign rallies, I wonder how the Family-Value conservatives and Teapartiers would react if they see pictures of large families of working class Blacks, Latinos or brown South Asians in the US in newspaper stories?

Or if they see minority working-class families with five or six kids in tow walking in shopping malls?

Or God forbid, if the Family-Value conservatives see legal minority parents with four kids in tow in grocery stores paying in Food Stamps at the checkout counters?

Also, ummmm… … one wonders if the current occupier of the White House would have even dared to seek the office if he and his wife had five or six children, a la Santorum and Romney?

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