Concern for America’s future has energized many an American man and woman to political activism lately. The women, in particular, are hard to miss. So much so, that conservative-minded women have become one of the leading stories of this campaign cycle. One of those women is Sonja Eddings Brown, a former TV anchor, who was tea party before it was cool, on Prop 8 in California, a tea-party issue that will never get that label — at least for now, despite the popularity of traditional marriage in California (!) when it was put to a vote. But judges know better.
Brown is now a founder of The Kitchen Cabinet, a political action committee seeking to get conservative women more involved in the political process. It’s very tea party in that sense. But also, knowing how the tea party isn’t necessarily about infrastructure, seeks to build one. Brown recently answered a few questions about what exactly she has in mind.
Q: How does what happens in November affect your family?
A: For me, everything I hold dear is on the ballot November 2nd. This is the only reason a newswoman and a mother turns activist. I am going to march to the polls and bring as many women as I can with me, because it is urgent that we draw a line in front of the futures of our families. Whether you protest in public or just in front of your TV set, I believe the majority of Americans feel like our Washington leaders have forgotten who they work for. It’s hard to say what makes mothers more angry — seeing family earnings drained by taxes today or watching the astronomical national debt multiply and rested on the backs of our children. Either way, in 2010 the nation’s weak economy has gotten very personal. If conservatives succeed in winning back the House, we still have a chance to reverse direction. If we fail, Democrats will lurch forward by raising taxes and the economic crisis will escalate. This is why I am committed to what I am calling the “Nancy Pelosi Farewell Tour,” a mission to elect as many House Republicans on November 2nd, as possible.
Q: Do you find increasingly people who aren’t politically engaged realize that?
A: It seems people are awakening to the realization that congressional Democrats can — and will — force through any kind of legislation they wish, even when the majority of Americans oppose it. It has really struck a chord. Everyone in America is feeling the pinch of the economy in one way or another. To feel it, is to want to change it.
Q: What exactly is Kitchen Cabinet? Who are you and who is your constituency? Do you have members?
A: The Kitchen Cabinet is a “Moveon.org” for economically conservative women. It was started in my kitchen a year ago with the hope of uniting conservative women for this important election. We are planning to slam the polls with conservative women voters on November 2nd who have had enough of the current crop of Washington spenders. The Kitchen Cabinet already has a million women in its outreach database and we are uniting the major conservative women’s groups in the country to join with us in getting out a record vote. We are going to use every 21st-century tool at our disposal to reach women this year and get them out to vote. Facebook, Twitter, e-mail, and we have created a Spanish mirror site of TheKitchenCabinet.us as well. Women have a big stake in this election, and The Kitchen Cabinet has been designed to engage, inform and mobilize conservative women in a year when women will be out-voting men 52 percent to 48 percent.
I have borrowed the name “The Kitchen Cabinet” from Presidents Kennedy, Reagan, and even Andrew Jackson. The term originally referred to close, personal advisers of the president, often meeting in the White House dining room or kitchen. In 2010, it finally means women advising leaders in Washington, statewide, and locally.
I believe that economically conservative women are the majority in America, but too often social issues divide us. The moral issue of 2010 is the economy, and women recognize with respect that they can disagree on some of the most personal issues of the day. At The Kitchen Cabinet we meet where we all can agree: to defend the economic futures of our families
Q: Is this a social media thing?
A: It’s time to start reaching women where they are! In the 21st century women are dominating social media, and networking and communicating there. Facebook is almost as important as a cell phone today. The most likely person to join Facebook today is a woman in her 50’s.
Q: What was the moment when you decided to do this?
A: I was speaking with Carly Fiorina, who called to tell me that she was running for the Senate in California. She had no hair, and was still finishing radiation treatment for breast cancer. I felt that if we were lucky enough to have women with her experience and talent willing to run for office, and sacrifice to do it, that it would be essential for conservative women to form a line behind her, Meg Whitman, and others. Women are stepping forward today because we have to. Not because there aren’t other pathways calling to us. We just realize that our service, our careers, our important work in the home are no longer enough to stabilize our communities. In this age, our leadership is required as well. Thus, The Kitchen Cabinet is forging a grassroots movement, and creating a national “Kitchen Cabinet” of tried and tested women leaders to hold Washington accountable to women after the November election.
Q: Do you consider yourselves part of the tea party?
A: I respect the tea-party movement, and I oppose any efforts to marginalize any of the Americans who have been so devoted to it. Tea partiers are middle Americans, veterans, parents of military, children who are taking care of their parents. They are taxpayers who have put Washington under a microscope this year. I thank them, because they pulled the fire alarm and just in the nick of time.
Q: Your website says that “Economically-conservative women must be united and informed, and provide leadership in this consequential time.” What do you mean by that?
A: Who better to help re-set the priorities of our country when it has gotten off track than those who are closest to the ground every day? Those who are in the classrooms of our public schools, in the doctor’s office, in the grocery store and balancing the checkbook. Women are starting more new businesses each year than men today, taking 60 percent of the graduate degrees and leading as managers in 50 percent of all jobs in America. We’re investing $23 trillion all on our own this year. We are a vital part of the economy, our communities, and our homes. We deserve to have more of a voice in the direction of the nation. I am not interested in bringing forward an angry mob. The glory of the talented, experienced, and wise generation of conservative women who are coming forward in 2010 is that they are not angry. They are prepared and able to be full partners in solving the dilemmas of our time. The Kitchen Cabinet is an electronic way for everyday women to have influence in America by uniting their votes behind the great leaders, men and women, who are ready to serve. This is a transformational time in history. Women have always been indispensable in America, and particularly in times of challenge and change.
Q: I suspect you’re not downplaying the social issues, though, when you highlight women like Michele Bachmann.
A: At the Kitchen Cabinet, we check the social issues at the door and concentrate on the economy as the moral issue of this time. We simply have to respect the differences women have. I think it is also often true that economically conservative women are also socially conservative. True or not, I don’t believe in this time we can afford to fracture over deeply personal and sometimes spiritual issues. Michele Bachmann is a brilliant woman, and I wouldn’t want her looking at my checkbook! She is a tax lawyer, and she has no patience for congressmen who don’t understand how to spend less than you have. Michele and I might not always put things in exactly the same way, but I appreciate her no nonsense approach, and you always know she is watching out for your paycheck.
Q: You were inspired, though, by Carly Fiorina, who doesn’t exactly “check the social issues at the door”? Nor does Barbara Boxer, with her extremism, I might add! Is your point that we should focus on what we agree on and get working there? On that point I might add that there is a bipartisan bill the House Republicans are pushing to make the Hyde Amendment permanent and universal — prohibiting taxpayer funding of abortion. Do you agree that you don’t have to be Congresswoman Bachmann to be enthusiastic about that?
A: I think many economically conservative women are also socially conservative. I am one of them. In 2010, I think all parties need to recognize they don’t “own” the women’s vote, and pollsters are likely to see a new demographic of American woman coming to the polls on November 2nd. Women will always have deeply personal convictions on social issues, but in this election year, in this desperate time, we realize that the economy is the moral issue of our time. It’s very hard to fight for any cause if you don’t have a roof over your head. I think conservative, independent, and even women who traditionally identify as Democrats, will be taking a hard look at women with skills, character and leadership in this election year — women like Carly Fiorina. Women always have personal and sensitive reasons why they disagree on social issues. That doesn’t mean we don’t respect each other when we take a stands or defend them. This year, economically conservative women from all corners of America can’t afford to fracture on social issues because our leadership, our votes, and our ability to hold Washington leaders accountable on both sides of the aisle are essential.
Q: To what degree are these midterm elections about Nancy Pelosi?
A: Nancy Pelosi doesn’t represent me. Barbara Boxer doesn’t represent me. For that matter, Hillary Clinton does not represent me either. These are the women in politics who have defined women on the national stage for decades, but their time has passed. Times have changed, and in my mind, their ambitions to put forward giant social legislation and “promise now pay later” agendas, are out of style. Women who work inside and outside of the home can barely keep a roof over their heads and their families. They believe the federal government should live within its means and not keep using a national charge card without the permission of the taxpayer. So in that way, this election couldn’t be more about Nancy Pelosi and what she stands for, how she does business, or how she has betrayed the voters by bullying through a health-care bill she admitted she hadn’t even read, and spreading around stimulus dollars like favors.
Q: A Washington Post piece recently wondered if women can save the Democrats this November. Would you put good money on that?
A: I don’t know about you, but my friends who are Democrats are trying to fade into the shadows these days when the subject of President Obama comes up! I don’t overhear women at Starbucks happily chatting about how much good President Obama has done for the country! I think many women who voted for the “idea” of Obama, are rattled by the actual cost of “hope” and “change.” I agree with those who believe that President Obama’s team is actually more committed to re-shaping America, than changing Washington. I like the old America much better, the one John Adams talked about when he said, “The only promise of America, is opportunity.” I think many, many women who identify as Democrats are just as conservative about their pocketbooks as Independents and Republicans. I think the Los Angeles Times, the Washington Post, and the New York Times should throw open the windows and listen to the sound of conservative women marching to the polls to protect their pocketbooks from Democrat incumbents.
Q: How are “Women speaking to Washington” different than men speaking to Washington?
A: I think we are on the precipice of a new age, where the pedigree of women coming to Washington is equal to the preparation of some of the finest men ever elected. Carly Fiorina and Meg Whitman for instance, are as qualified as any of the outstanding, well-educated men in the country. There is an old boys club in Washington. This year however, it might be necessary to install a few more mirrors in the cloakroom of the Capitol. It is simply this: Washington has been dominated by men for hundreds of years. With thanks to all of the ground-breakers, the pioneers, the historic contributions of women who have paved the way, it is time for a new generation of American women to make history. Our times are urgent. Defining. It is critical that women have a voice in re-shaping education for this century, creating health care that works, and watching out for the best interests of the next generation, shoulder to shoulder with the great men of our time. The Kitchen Cabinet will endeavor to make a path for everyday women to speak with more influence in Washington by uniting their voices and increasing their influence.
Q: One might get the impression you are pushing women politicians. And yet you interviewed Marco Rubio. How did you make that decision?
A: The Kitchen Cabinet is about leadership. We seek great leaders wherever we may find them, women and men. Marco Rubio is one of the great young leaders in America. In this year, we need to bring forward candidates with skills and character. Rubio is definitely such a man.
Q: Why do you have items like “How to talk to your friends about politics”? Don’t you talk to your friends about politics like you would anything else?
A: Politics and religion. These are the two subjects never to bring up in social settings. In 2008, 36 million women in America were registered to vote and they didn’t go to the polls. One of the key reasons women don’t vote is that they don’t feel confident about whom to vote for. It is important that women talk to one another about politics, and feel comfortable doing so. We need to hear each other’s thoughts, test our feelings and our arguments, learn and understand one another, and become informed.
The Kitchen Cabinet embraces this challenge, and is trying to offer an accessible way for everyday women to keep up to date on elections, candidates, politics, and economic issues. We want to build bridges to the Latino community and reach out to all American citizens and help them to treasure their right to vote. Politics and the future of our country needs to continue to become part of the daily chatter of America’s women, and it is. Instead of talking about what we’re going to do about it, more and more, I believe you’ll hear women in America talking about what they’ve done about it.
Q: You compare yourselves to Moveon, but Moveon was a well-funded, part of a well-coordinated, well, vast-left-wing-conspiracy, as a friend called it. How can you possibly pretend to or hope to match that?
A: Moveon.org began by driving believers to its website, and then mobilizing them on the issues. After being in Washington this week, it seems that galvanizing women to do grassroots work for this election will be crucial. There is a lot of attention being paid to the big ticket items in campaigning, but the person-to-person work on the ground will need extra support this year, and impassioned, conservative women will be perfect for that work. The Kitchen Cabinet is gearing up to play a large role in Getting Out The Vote. The Kitchen Cabinet, in a way, is an idea that is long overdue for conservative women. America is actually a giant quilt of conservative women’s organizations, clubs, Facebook pages, and lunch groups. It is the service of these great clubs, and organizations, and their deep patriotism that often fuels causes and does the work of the world every day. Because conservative women in particular are always so busy serving, we have not always been so good at expressing our majority. I believe that economically conservative women are the majority in America, incidentally.
In these dire times, conservative women’s leaders and our superstars of public and political service simply realize that we need to unite. By doing so, and by uniting our votes, we will be able to play an important role in resetting the country’s priorities in Washington. That is the mission of The Kitchen Cabinet. We are already a million strong in a year when liberal women’s groups which have held the national stage for a long time, are waning. That’s because the messages that resonate today are conservative, practical, and address our todays and take responsibility for our tomorrows. The Kitchen Cabinet is becoming the Moveon.org for conservative women, out of necessity.