The Great Awakening of the Mommy Patriots

It doesn’t matter what Sarah Palin does. Or even whether Michele Bachmann runs. What matters is that thousands of conservative women are connecting with their female candidates—and each other—with unexpected passion. This new segment of politically active women has found its voice, and its members don’t plan on shutting up or sitting down in 2012

Christina Bellantoni
Photograph: IIllustrated by Yuko Shimizu

O’Donnell starts pulling up examples of women who haven’t had it easy. “You think about Hillary. You know she had to come out there very tough. I don’t know her personally—is there a softer side, who knows?” she says. “But then you see someone like Sarah Palin, who comes up carrying her baby on her hip, giving speeches with her family there. She’s not hiding her maternal side. She’s not hiding her Mama Grizzly side, and is the country ready for that?” O’Donnell’s point: Hillary Clinton ran as a woman, but Palin ran as a mom—and that role is what conservative women relate to so strongly. “Can the country see that a mother is very much a leader?” she asks. “The fact that you’re a good mother almost in and of itself qualifies you . . . There is something very profound in that observation—that there’s a difference between female candidates and mother candidates.”

After our talk, I ask if we can snap a picture together. She frets that she’s not wearing any makeup because it was hard to wake up early that morning. Shedding the coat briefly, she exclaims, “It is cold!” and shrugs it back on, but poses anyway.

For the women who supported her, O’Donnell’s candidacy meant more than a seat in the Senate. At O’Donnell’s final rally in October 2010, before she lost the election by 16 points, I met Brenda Brown, a Walmart manager from Laurel, Delaware, and mother of four. Clutching a U.S. flag, Brown acknowledged she knew that O’Donnell couldn’t win. “That’s not going to discourage me. I’m going to vote my conscience and my principles,” she said. “This is a chance for me to stand up and voice what I believe.”

I ask O’Donnell if we’ll see a woman in the White House in 2012. “The more we run, the more we help pave the way for the next woman,” she says, adding that her new political action committee is designed to help inexperienced candidates if they “feel the stir in their heart to run for office” in primaries against establishment Republicans. “[If] the local party won’t return their call because they don’t want these troublemakers in the trenches running for office,” she says, “I want my PAC to return their call.”

One woman who has paved the way for other female candidates is Sarah Palin. She’s a lot easier to track down than O’Donnell because Palin is signing her latest book, America by Heart: Reflections on Family, Faith and Flag, in 16 cities around the country. At this point in November, most of the national press corps is en route to Des Moines, a stop on the Palin book tour that stokes speculation about her intentions for 2012. But I choose to catch up with her in Nebraska because I figure there will be less competition for good material, and because my in-laws live nearby; there I can score my favorite Thanksgiving leftover—Mary Barker’s corn casserole.

I should feel out of place in Nebraska. After all, I grew up in California, graduated from UC Berkeley, live in D.C. now and have a full-time job in what Palin likes to call the “lamestream media.” But after traveling so much in 2007 and 2008 as the presidential campaign reporter for the Washington Times, I fell in love with the Midwest; I enjoy the starkness of its landscape and the genuineness of its people. I’ve long believed that my in-laws—both conservative—offer more insight into the national mood than any poll, so whenever I can, I ask them about current events to take their political temperature.

After the kind of heavy sleep that follows multiple helpings of Thanksgiving leftovers, I set out from my in-laws’ house when it is still dark, driving two hours to Norfolk, population 24,210, where a welcoming billboard reads JESUS, I TRUST IN YOU. The event officially starts at 11 AM, and I figure most people will get there by 8 or 9. I plan to arrive at 7, thinking that will give me plenty of alone time to caffeinate myself.

First Published May 10, 2011

What’s your reaction?

Comments

Allison Roelen05.28.2011

It's refreshing to finally see a magazine, especially a women's magazine recognize that not all women are ultra feminist progressives - One of the key future woman leaders in politics is not included from Ms. Bellatoni - and that is Jaime Radtke who is running for the VA Senate and a force to be reckoned with - she has what it takes, understands the real issues as well as realistic solutions and is a mother above all else - and is running and awaiting the Palinization attacks of the left because she cannot stand by and watch her children's future be destroyed by socialism which has destroyed so many economies and even worse - the gumption for people to be motivated to do their best & innovate - remember this - without a meritocracy there will only be mediocrity - and that is one of the key messages of true conservatives, or as I liken myself - True citizens who honor and revere the Constitution as our founding document - it doesn't need to be re-written it needs to be 're-read' as Herman Cain so aptly said - I hope that MORE and other magazines will be willing to actually participate as journalists - aka unbiased, both sides reporting as well as instead of the on-going nonsensical guilt trips put out to women that if they aren't working, having some fabulous career they're somehow less fulfilled or not even self-actualized - I have been a single working mother for many years and I can tell you that you can't have your cake and eat it too - no one expects men to do this - so why do women in particular slam other women for not 'having it all?' You can't something always has to give and trust me when I say - your family, children and their upbringing are the first priority - this is fundamental to what's breaking down our society.

05.26.2011

"The women are refusing to let me into their homes". The article "The Great Awakening of the Mommy Patriots" begins like a Gothic novel and I was intrigued. Rising at dawn for a 2 hour drive to meet with The Mommy Patriots at a (oh no!) public library to interview women loyal to the Tea Party Movement has annoyed the author, Christian Bellantoni, of the WASHINGTON TIMES. As the ladies munch on carrot sticks, the author compares the "unexpected passion" for conservatism to the adolescent hysterics of meeting a rock star.
So, like any good Gothic heroine, I did some sleuthing. Let's go to Bellantoni's article in the WASHINGTON TIMES dated 01/25/2009 titled "Obama Volunteers Aim To Stay Involved". A group of (10) Obama suppporters were INVITED to lunch at the beautiful Oceanaire Restaurant in Washington, D.C. as guests of, you guessed correctly, THE WASHINGTON TIMES. The praises of the newly elected administration rang out clear as a bell on an old Gothic church. I thought the re-election campaign had started. No wonder Ms. Bellantoni was put upon, no water glasses at the public library?
Unfortunately, no intelligent insight was forthcoming as to the mindset of women conservatives and that's a shame. MORE readers, and I've been subscribing for at least 10 years, deserve better. MORE would benefit by healthy discussions of conservatism by enlisting conservative writers (Ms. Bellantoni is a self-described Liberal). You can email me! Thanks.

05.20.2011

The most passionate conservative Mommy patriot I've met is Kimberly Fletcher (kimberlyfletcher.com). I'm not a Sarah Palin fan at all, but Kimberly's message of encouraging stay-at-home moms to become politically active -- and showing them how they can do it without sacrificing (as they see it) their families is thought-provoking.

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