On Monday, conservative commentator Meghan McCain rejoined her The View colleagues after giving birth to her daughter, Liberty, in September, 2020. In her post-birth debut, the daughter of late Senator John McCain gave viewers a candid insight into her postpartum experience: “When I gave birth I actually had postnatal preeclampsia, and I was in the hospital for a week after on a magnesium drip and it really, really kicked my butt. And I was planning on coming back on the show for the election in six weeks after I gave birth and I was physically unable to.” The conservative commentator went on to say that her husband and mother-in-law had to help her shower and eat, calling the entire experience “deeply humbling.”
“The whole time I was thinking what a privilege it is to have this kind of maternity leave,” she exclaimed.
McCain then said that in the aftermath of her experience, she grew angry. “As I thought about it, the more angry I got that there weren’t women in the rest of America that had the same kind of luxury that I had working here at The View.” McCain, who is married to Ben Domenech, co-founder and publisher of The Federalist (a site that has published such pieces as “How Paid Family Leave Restricts Parents’ Choices”) said she also grew even more angry with the Republican Party that she continues to subscribe to, despite the fact that the current leader of the party has continually attacked her now-deceased father.
“Conservatives, in particular, given that we’re the party of ‘family values’ and that everything about our ideology sort of stems from the nucleus of the family, that we are leaving women in this country without the capacity and ability — unless you have an employer that allows you to — to take care of your child and to heal physically, which is something that needs to happen,” she said.
She then regurgitated statistics that have long-been known to anyone who has ever paid attention to the plight of pregnant people in this country. The United States is the only developed nation in the country that does not mandate paid family leave. The absence of paid family leave actually plays into the rising maternal mortality and infant mortality crisis, especially for Black women who are three times more likely to die from pregnancy-related complications than white women (something McCain did not address).
McCain also briefly touched on the limited amount of time women have with their newborns postpartum — one in four moms return to work just two weeks after giving birth, a statistic that was published in 2015 that seemed to be “new information” for the former Senator’s daughter.
“There’s a lot of dangers that happen and I just can’t believe that we, as Americans, still have this kind of crisis,” McCain concluded.
In response to McCain’s “ah-ha” moment, her The View-host Whoopi Goldberg said, “That’s funny, we have been fighting for this for years: begging, screaming. And people keep saying, 'We can’t afford it, we can’t do this.' As far back as I can remember, people have said: ‘You know, women have babies, and you punish us.’”
And perhaps what Goldberg touched on is a symptom of a larger issue. Is McCain’s personal postpartum experience worthy of empathy? Of course. Is her sudden enlightenment as to the plights of pregnant and postpartum people worthy of praise? No. Instead, it’s indicative of a long-standing Republican tradition: a problem isn’t a problem unless it impacts me, personally. And a systemic solution isn't necessary unless it will help me, personally.
We don’t have to look far back into the country’s history to see a myriad of examples of this very same self-centered mindset in action. Take former Gov. Chris Christie (R-NJ), who urged Americans to wear a mask to prevent the spread of COVID-19 only after he contracted and was hospitalized for the virus himself. Or Nancy Reagan, who became an advocate for stem cell research only after her husband developed Alzheimer’s in 1999. And Sen. Rob Portman (R-OH), who reversed his stance on marriage equality after his son told him he was gay.
McCain is no different, now, in suggesting that paid family leave is suddenly important. Whether it’s the Republicans who now take issue with the outgoing president’s bully tactics — the ones that they’re suddenly on the receiving end of — or conservative commentators like McCain who have long ignored the cries of pregnant women, mothers, and families — especially Black and brown women and their families — the tradition of the Republican party carries on into 2021 and likely beyond, unless we resist the urge to congratulate someone like McCain for doing the bare minimum.