It looks like CNN’s chief national affairs analyst will be spending the months leading up to the 2022 midterm elections (and possibly beyond) giving precious media attention to the white women who didn’t vote for Trump last year.
At least, that’s what Kasie Hunt said on Thursday in a tweet that promised (some might say threatened) coverage of how “suburban women who turned on the GOP over Trump are responding to Democratic governing in DC” if paid leave was left out of President Joe Biden’s Build Back Better legislative framework.
Spoiler alert: It was.
Hunt, who is fresh off of brain surgery to remove a benign tumor, accentuated her tweet by suggesting that the demographic (for which she used coded language for white women) was “especially” affected by a lack of provisions for paid time off “after the pandemic.”
But it turns out that Hunt’s tweet wasn’t the flex she may have expected for it to be as she was promptly called out across Twitter for suggesting that suburban white women would be the group most upset over paid leave being left out of Build Back Better.
Paid leave is likely very personal for Hunt, who is recovering from brain surgery. But while it may be true that suburban white women were among Trump’s Republican base that decided against voting for him, paid leave is decidedly a bipartisan issue supported by both Democratic and Republican voters.
But when you dig just a little bit deeper, experts have said that not only are paid family leave policies necessary to help workers and their families, but they also should prioritize workers of color who are earning low wages — also known as the antithesis of suburban anything, let alone white women.
The Center on Budget and Policy Priorities, a nonpartisan think tank that analyzes federal budgets, has said that most paid family leave policies currently in place are exclusive of many groups.
“Most workers are not eligible for any paid leave,” CBPP said in a report supporting a national paid leave policy before adding, “There are stark disparities by race and income in access to paid leave: white, non-Hispanic workers and those with high wages are more likely to have access than Black or Hispanic workers and those paid low wages.”
Notably missing from CBPP’s report in favor of enacting a national family leave policy are suburban women.
Hunt’s tweet was especially scrutinized by members of the media.
Jamil Smith, a senior correspondent from Vox, asked Hunt in earnest about her tweet: “how would that be any different than what we’ve seen from much of the political press for the last several years?”
Elie Mystal, the justice correspondent for the Nation, offered a tongue-in-cheek journalistic threat of his own: “If voter suppression bills are allowed to stand, I’m going to spend the midterms covering how white people in the media don’t give a shit about democracy.”
Others suggested that Hunt was ignoring how Republican Senators have filibustered every piece of legislation put forth by Democrats, forcing bills like Build Back Better to be drastically overhauled and force progressive policies like paid family leave to be cut in order for it to have a fighting chance of being enacted into law.
But pretty much everybody responding to Hunt’s tweet acknowledged that suburban white women weren’t exactly tops of the totem pole of priorities when it comes to paid family leave.
Meanwhile, Biden’s Build Back better framework is still a vast improvement along a number of policy fronts. It makes significant provisions for child care, an important aspect of the paid family leave debate since many parents were forced to stay home from work, or quit, in order to supervise young children learning remotely. In particular, Build Back Better promises free preschool for all 3- and 4-year-olds.
The Biden administration has been seeing support for its Build Back Better plan for months.
White House Senior Advisor for Public Engagement Trey Baker told NewsOne in August that his job is making sure Black people understand how Build Back Better can improve their lives, in particular. While few provisions are specifically targeted to support Black communities, Baker says the benefit is undeniable. Baker pointed to the Child Tax Credit as an example of a provision that proves a game-changer for Black families.
However, other policies championed by progressives, like student debt forgiveness — which disproportionately affects Black people — were left out of the Build Back Better framework.