UK’s Prime Minister hopeful, Andrea Leadsom, withdrew from race for misusing the “mommy card.”
Theresa May, the UK’s former hard-charging home affairs secretary, was sworn last Wednesday to Britain’s top job when the woman who was to spend the summer campaigning against her, energy minister Andrea Leadsom, suddenly withdrew her candidacy to succeed David Cameron as Prime Minister.
Leadsom, 53 and mother of three, used the “mommy card” in an interview with the London Times, and it backfired royally. Aiming to draw a distinction between her and her main rival – who doesn’t have children and who has admitted that this has been very difficult for her and her husband—Leadsom said that she had more of a stake in the future of the country because she is a mother.
“I am sure Theresa will be really sad she doesn’t have children so I don’t want to this to be ‘Andrea has children, Theresa hasn’t because I think that would be really horrible, but genuinely I feel that being a mum means you have a very real stake in the future of our country, a tangible stake. She possibly has nieces, nephews, lots of people, but I have children who are going to have children who will directly be a part of what happens next.”
Her comments released a tide of public backlash.
Spokespeople now face a new reality. Age-old tactics aimed at connecting with your audience: “speak from the heart,” “make it personal,” “use your own anecdotes,” aren’t foolproof any more. Particularly because what used to be regular conversation topics are now politically or sensitivity-loaded themes: Motherhood, prayer, the police, politics, your background or dreams.
Add to that a hyper-connected world in constant flux where actions and reactions are required immediately, and you have a minefield. In this new reality, off-the-cuff remarks and hasty responses flood the airwaves. But beware, because appearing insensitive, indecisive or above-the-fray – even if your message is –and is perceived as—authentic, can kill a career, political aspirations and many relationships.
Unless you’re The Donald, of course, who seems to be immune to this new reality. Just ask Supreme Court Justice Ruth Ginsburg, who expressed regret for her recent remarks about Trump’s candidacy, saying they were “ill-advised.”
Her apology came after she called Trump “a faker” who “really has an ego” and “says whatever comes into his head at the moment.” In her statement, she added: “Judges should avoid commenting on a candidate for public office. In the future I will be more circumspect.”
Whether you like his vies or not, @realDonaldTrump has gotten this far because he not only thinks what he says and says what he thinks - with total disregard to the feelings and needs of others—but he’s also a New Media master.
Trump’s timing, be it luck or otherwise, is on-the-dot and strikes all the right cords. In response, voters who are tired of “politically correct” speeches and empty promises, have found Trump’s “honest ignorance” almost intoxicating.
Let’s see if the feeling continues unchanged through election day. In the meantime, my advice is “don’t try this at home.” Get trained on how to handle the new media landscape because not everyone is as lucky –or as shrewd—as The Donald.