The Mama Grizzlies Are Coming – But Will They Eat Their Young?



-Grr. Swat. Intimidating pose.

A new political animal may be coming to a town and statehouse near you: mama grizzlies. They combine a protective maternal instinct with the power of a large angry animal.

This could be excellent news for kids who have suffered greatly in the recession. Their college funds have been decimated, their homes foreclosed and taken away, their families impoverished from extended periods of under- or unemployment. The innocence of these citizens does not earn them the power to vote, so champions for their wellbeing (beyond their mothers) are more than welcome.

Throughout history Moms have symbolized compassion and self-sacrifice, from renaissance images of the Madonna to the life and works of Mother Teresa. Through their collective efforts to help the world’s children, mothers represent a bridge from a present replete with potential (and problems) to a bright future.

So, Moms log millions of unpaid hours volunteering in schools. Despite incredible hardship, impoverished mothers choose daily to prioritize the health and education of their children and receive a helping hand from microfinance organizations and charities. Neighborhood moms organize drives for disaster victims. Personally and collectively, mothers are a driving force in transforming their communities and the world at large.

This emergence of a potentially powerful and committed ursine species should bode well for kids struggling from the effects of this recession. Republican and Tea Party Senate candidates Carly Fiorina (California), Sharron Angle (Nevada), and Christine O’Donnell (Delaware), as well as South Carolina gubernatorial candidate Nikki Haley – and all of the others anointed “Mama Grizzlies” by Sarah Palin and her followers – claim they will fight for children in their states.

But these “mama grizzlies” seem more like their cousins the black bears, a species known to sometimes abandon their cubs.

“Mama grizzlies” aren’t making children’s health a priority. Many advocate repealing a deficit-neutral
health care reform package that specifically targets benefits for the nation’s youth. The new law prevents insurance companies from excluding preexisting conditions for children and adults alike, extends the period youths can stay on parents’ insurance, and funds state programs for poor children. Advocates of repeal fail to say how they will replace the many provisions that promise to keep kids healthy.

“Mama grizzlies” also support businesses that have been responsible for recent recalls of poisoned
peanuts, spinach, and eggs, as well gross negligence in allowing toxic chemicals into toys. And beyond even these deplorable business practices, our children’s future employment is imperiled by the exodus of manufacturing jobs overseas (one-third alone left during the Bush presidency). But generally these mamas are avidly pro-business. Haley has described placing private sector executives into state regulatory agencies as “a beautiful thing” and suggests wiping out the corporate income tax. These candidates have fallen short in describing how the candidates would build the next generation of jobs and ensure kids eat and play with only what’s safe.

These mamas do not seem particularly concerned about childhood’ education. America has dropped from first to twelfth in college attainment and ranks in achievement close to the bottom of Western nations in math, science and reading. Senate hopeful Sharron Angle once called for abolishing the Department of Education. Others call for performance-based pay and more private schools – piecemeal and ineffective approaches to our children’s education crisis.

These same “mama grizzlies” rarely discuss environmental and public health considerations, despite the asthma and obesity epidemics. One telling example is that Angle dismissed the escrow account for BP’s spill, a monumental disaster that has wreaked havoc on children’s mental health, breathing, and bodies, as a “slush fund”.

The approaching election offers a prime opportunity for moms with a grizzly bear’s strength of will to rise up and whack the oversized bullies that have left our children less healthy and poorer. This is an opportunity to do what Mothers should do: set up strict rules and punishing consequences for those who prey on their brood.

But insurance corporations, Big Oil, and too-large-to-fail banks seem to have co-opted the protective instincts of these potentially influential politicians. These “mama grizzlies” rise up. They grab a microphone to speak to the public, but they have little to say on the issues affecting our children. More than anything their message is, in effect, “Hey! Hands off the big guy.”

Voters have the duty to campaign for and elect candidates who put our kids first, who demonstrate
that they will fight to ensure a better future for the children of the country. While the roar of the mother grizzly is deafening, be sure not to mistake its tenor with the lesser snarl of the black bear.

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