David Frum

10.17.12

Only Mitt Romney Could Make Liberals Bash Affirmative Action

You might recall Mitt Romney's passing mention last evening of his efforts to incorporate more women in his cabinet while serving as Governor of Massachusetts.

Video screenshot

Unsurprisingly, the derp crew has come out to play, with Tumblrs, Twitters, and a Facebook page devoted to "Binders full of women." The meme heavily focuses on Romney viewing women as sexual objects, which is super funny because we all know how much he loves to cheat on his wife. (And we hate sexist pigs who'd cheat on women. But we love you, Slick Willie!)

Fortunately, Ann Friedman eviscerates the meme.

Watching Romney tout his appointment record at the town-hall debate last night, I couldn’t help but feel a little bit proud of him. Seriously! With the binders anecdote, he was essentially describing affirmative action: He realized he needed more diversity in his cabinet, and so he sought out qualified women he may not have otherwise considered. This is laudable. Shocking, even! Especially when you consider that, also in the first year of his governorship, Romney tried to quietly roll back the state’s affirmative action laws.

Honestly, it was a pretty minor clunk in my eyes, given that we all talk about identity politics this way — it's the way we talk about cabinet members, Supreme Court justices, and our own workplaces, too. Hell, even the newsrooms that are currently making fun of that quote are in a perpetual game of "how to get and keep women and minorities."

So I’m laughing along with everyone else who’s scrolling through images of Ryan Gosling promising, “Hey girl, I won’t put you in a binder.” The thing is, I want to be put in a binder. (And, cough, not just by Ryan Gosling.) I want the top-level men in my profession to be thinking about recruiting people who don’t look like them and share their background. Making concrete lists of qualified applicants who haven’t rubbed elbows with the boss at a cocktail party is a great way to seek out qualified, diverse recruits for top-level jobs in a variety of industries. That is, if the recruiters are interested.

I'm still trying to wrap my head around last night's sequence of events. A Republican (the nominee of the party that opposes affirmative action) stood up and described his conscious efforts to identify and hire talented women. He spoke of challenges they face in being recognized and moving up in the workplace -- and he talked of how important it is for women to have a shot.

And then the crowd that would wildly cheer if President Obama were to say such a thing proceeded to make fun of Mitt Romney for endorsing a policy beloved by progressives around this nation.

Hell, the creator of the "Binders full of women" Tumblr actually wrote this:

I would say he hired those women to fill a quota. Politicians are all about status (especially if they’re running for president) so a Cabinet full of women looks good for him.

That would be perfectly expected on Breitbart.com. It isn't something you'd think a progressive would put in writing.

I can only conclude that we're in a parallel universe where the left and right sides of the political aisle have flipped for 24 hours.