S.C. Moms Discuss Health Care, '08 Elections

Continuing its political coverage from South Carolina, the program checks in with the local chapter of Mocha Moms in Columbia. Michelle Duggar, Aisha McNary Brown and Andrena Myers Davis talk local politics, the voting strength of black women and how the candidates can win their vote.

Copyright © 2008 NPR. For personal, noncommercial use only. See Terms of Use. For other uses, prior permission required.

MICHEL MARTIN, host:

I'm Michel Martin, and this is TELL ME MORE from NPR News.

Coming up: We'll take you back on the streets of Columbia, South Carolina, so you can hear how people observed the Martin Luther King, Jr. holiday here.

But first, they say it takes a village to raise a child, but maybe you just need a few Mocha Moms. We visit with members of this mother support group each week for their common sense and savvy parenting advice.

Today, as part of our continuing coverage from South Carolina, we knew we just had to visit with some of the Columbia Mocha Moms. We wanted to ask these moms their thoughts about the presidential election. So we're delighted to be joined by Michelle Duggar, Aisha McNary Brown and Andrena Myers Davis.

Hello, ladies, moms.

Ms. ANDRENA MYERS DAVIS: Thank you.

Ms. MICHELLE DUGGAR: Thank you.

Ms. AISHA McNARY BROWN: Thank you for having us.

MARTIN: So are the moms talking about the campaign at their meetings, Aisha?

Ms. McNARY BROWN: Oh, absolutely. We don't really talk about politics, you know, per se, that much. But, you know, things do come up, such as, you know, the toy issue - the toys being from China. Do they have lead in them? And I was talking with a mom who's actually going back to California. She's been here for a while, and she's really health conscious. And we talked about them cloning the food now, and the FDA allowing that not labeling the meat. And so we don't know where - what food we're going to be eating. And so, just things like that - and gas prices, of course, always comes up because, you know, most of us drive minivans. I drive an SUV myself, and it's expensive.

MARTIN: Michelle, what about you?

Ms. DUGGAR: I think it has come up. And as time goes by, the reality of what's happening and how, hey, we might actually have an African-American or woman, just a minority in general, someone who looks like us or relates to us. And the reality of it is growing as the campaign goes on. So I think slowly, people - the momentum is growing, excitement and such - and that now it's becoming more personal with the candidates coming to our state, et cetera. So where it may have been in the background, it's getting more in the forefront of people's minds.

MARTIN: Andrena, I know that you are kind of interested in politics. Of the three ladies here, you're kind of, perhaps, maybe - would it be fair to say a little bit more involved in the politics than the other two ladies? Would that be about right?

Ms. MYERS DAVIS: Well, I would think so. And one of the reasons, at this point, probably, is also because I'm older.

MARTIN: And your kids are older, too.

Ms. MYERS DAVIS: And my kids are older.

MARTIN: Yeah.

Ms. MYERS DAVIS: Yes. So, you know, of course…

MARTIN: You've got a nice age range going on.

Ms. MYERS DAVIS: Exactly. So…

(Soundbite of laughter)

MARTIN: Your oldest is - what - 38? I understand that your youngest…

Ms. MYERS DAVIS: Yes.

MARTIN: …is 15?

Ms. MYERS DAVIS: Yes.

Ms. McNARY BROWN: You go, girl. That's all I can say. You go, girl.

MARTIN: So when you were deciding whom to support or where - which way you were thinking you were leaning, what were you thinking about?

Ms. MYERS DAVIS: Well, of course, all of the issues that every mom is concerned with. You know, education was foremost on my mind at the time, economics, health care. But when the actual candidates decided that they would run and we had a choice based on gender or race or even ownership, as far as Edwards being a South Carolinian, because we usually even try and do that in our state -promote those whom we call our own.

It made us want to pay more attention to what the candidates were saying, what they stood for, investigate their backgrounds more. So at first, it was sort of difficult to choose which candidate we would support. But ultimately, I felt it was necessary that, you know, we sort of…

MARTIN: Don't tell me.

Ms. MYERS DAVIS: Yeah.

(Soundbite of laughter)

Ms. MYERS DAVIS: Don't tell you.

MARTIN: Ultimately you - you would.

(Soundbite of laughter)

Ms. MYERS DAVIS: Yes.

MARTIN: Because it's not, you know - you're not wearing a button, so I…

Ms. MYERS DAVIS: Right.

MARTIN: Ultimately, you went for Obama.

Ms. MYERS DAVIS: Yes.

MARTIN: Because?

Ms. MYERS DAVIS: I have three sons. And we've always told them that they could grow up and be anything that they want to be. And I feel - I think that to not support Obama would be to say to my sons that perhaps you're not permitted to dream - perhaps you're not permitted to strive for the ultimate.

So, basically, at first, that was my reason for supporting Obama. But as I have watched his campaign and, again, learned more of him, the audacity to try really impressed me - that he, you know, he's head of the Harvard Review, graduated from an Ivy League school, did all the right things in America. And America says that when you do the right things, then you have the right - or you should strive to move forward and to be the very best and to go to the top and to be a leader. And he's done this.

MARTIN: I'm Michel Martin.

If you're just joining us, you're listening to a special Mocha Moms. I'm visiting with members of the Columbia, South Carolina, chapter - Michelle Duggar, Aisha McNary Brown, and Andrena Myers Davis.

Aisha, what about you? And I'm curious about this, because the issues of identity have come to the fore in this campaign.

Ms. McNARY BROWN: Mm-hmm.

MARTIN: When you're deciding whom to vote for, do you have a sense of what's most important, being a mom, being African-American, being a woman?

Ms. McNARY BROWN: Oh, absolutely. At first, to be honest…

MARTIN: Or none of those things? I should just have to say, for some people being a businessperson is foremost…

Ms. McNARY BROWN: Right.

MARTIN: …as part of their identity, you know? I don't know mean to box you in on that, but I'm just saying those are some of the issues that will come up. So…

Ms. McNARY BROWN: Mm-mm. Well, definitely, you know, the family issues are one of the things that I looked at when I was, you know, looking for a candidate. And I'm glad that health care was in the forefront this year. That's something that the Democrats have been talking about.

For me, myself, my family, my husband's self-employed, and he's been that way for almost 10 years now. And health insurance for us - for a family - we have a family of four, and we're paying close to $700 a month premium. And I pray to God - I mean, God forbid that nothing - you know, we don't have a catastrophe or fatal illness, because, you know, then it we'll be - it'll be definitely bankrupt us with hospitalization fees and the deductibles. And so…

MARTIN: And your kids are still at the age where they have to go to the doctor…

Ms. McNARY BROWN: They go to the doctor all the time.

MARTIN: …for immunizations. You got a 2-year-old and a 4-year-old, right?

Ms. McNARY BROWN: Mm-hmm. Right, right. And they're boys, and they're rough, you know? Anything could happen with them. And so health care was definitely something that I was looking at. With the economy, I think Barack Obama said it best, he says that when America gets a cold, black America, you know, gets pneumonia. And so it's definitely something that's on my mind, too, you know, because the economy is definitely deteriorating. I mean, we talked about gas prices, but it's something that, you know, something that we feel, and especially, being self-employed, too, you know? Something that we definitely pay attention to.

MARTIN: Are you leaning one way or the other? Have you gotten candidate you think you're interested in?

Ms. McNARY BROWN: Definitely. I am going with Barack Obama, only because for me, he just inspires me. He - it's really incredible for me to see somebody who's able to bring, I guess, my generation into it. And I think that's hard to do, and that's what really impressed me about him.

MARTIN: But I understand that you were leaning Hillary Clinton at first. And that's interesting, because when, you know, ETV and Winthrop University polled in South Carolina in September…

Ms. McNARY BROWN: Mm-hmm.

MARTIN: …there was a slight edge among women - African-American women, anyway…

Ms. BROWN: Mm-hmm.

MARTIN: …for Hillary Clinton, and that seems to have changed. And since you're part of that, I wanted to ask why. Why, initially, you were kind of leaning toward Hillary Clinton and then moved?

Ms. BROWN: Well, I - mm-hmm. Well, basically, I was a Hillary Clinton supporter at first because, you know, I thought that she was electable and I thought that well, maybe, you know, she can get the job done. Her experience and - but after I started hearing Barack Obama's message and his vision, and it just excited me and I just, you know, believed that he can, you know, bring the parties together. He can walk across the aisles and make things happen.

Just that - I guess that feeling of hope and inspiration that he gives to people. And he's proved that by bringing the young people into it, and that's what - it motivates me, and another that's really, really hard for - it seems that it's hard for candidates to do, to bring young people into it. And I think if he has that kind of power, then maybe he can bring that to the White House as well.

MARTIN: Michelle, what are you thinking about? When you think about who you want to support? What do you think about?

Ms. DUGGAR: Well, some of the things I consider is the economy, health care. And for the two candidates were to me, considering Hillary and Obama, I saw them as being very similar to one another. And at first, as Aisha has mentioned, I was leaning more towards Hillary, considering things like if she's electable, and also her track record was a bit longer.

But as the campaign has gone by, and I - with the things that I consider, again, the economy, health care, things I think most middle America thinks about, I didn't see it a clear difference. But now it's more of the intangibles, like personality. And what I think is going to also sway me one way or the other is leadership. And I'm seeing more that from Obama in terms of being able to lead the people and who can lead the government and bipartisan groups and make it happen. So I consider my personal issues, and then I consider also America, in terms of, will they elect a black man?

(Soundbite of music)

Ms. DUGGAR: Is America ready for a woman president? And before this election, I would have said no. And now I'm seeing it happen, and it's helping me to dream bigger, which I tell my children. And as a businessperson, you try to think big, and now shifting that to the state of America. So this election process, regardless of who wins, I think it's going to help bring the people together to think big.

MARTIN: Michelle, you have a small business.

Ms. DUGGAR: I do.

MARTIN: Right? You have a - what is it?

Ms. DUGGAR: (unintelligible) Baby. We produce gift items inspired by children of color.

MARTIN: Right, and I'm just wondering, as a small businessperson, do any of the Republicans appeal to you? Because that's kind of what consider to be their core constituency. They consider themselves to be the more business-oriented party - Mitt Romney, for example, as a person who touts his business experience. John McCain considers himself a fiscal conservative. Mike Huckabee considers - as a governor, he says, you know, he's learned how to kind of work with all constituencies.

Ms. DUGGAR: Well, I think I kind of played into stereotypes of Republicans in that they may be business-oriented, but I think - my impression is big business. And so where it may be big business, I don't see some of their policies or their ideals stereotypically trickling down to the small business or the man on the streets.

MARTIN: Speaking of much younger people, I wanted to ask each of you if you're bringing you children into the conversation in any way. And if so, how? Aisha?

Ms. McNARY BROWN: Well, my 4-year-old knows - he can't really pronounce his name, but he knows on the television. Because, you know, it's like - it's very exciting. It's like watching a football game in the fourth quarter when the, you know, the score is tied, it might be going into overtime. And so, you know, we watched the scene in the basement. We watched when the results come in. And so my 4-year-old kind of knows, you know - I won't say he knows everything that's going on, but he does recognize, I guess, the players of the game. And so, he does know - he calls him Arack Abuma(ph).

(Soundbite of laughter)

Ms. DUGGAR: But he does know. And so - and I will take him to vote with me. I took him four years ago, and - when we, you know, vote in our state elections, city elections. But I do take him, and he, you know, hopefully he'll start understanding more as time goes by.

MARTIN: Andrena Myers Davis. Your 18-year-old is for Hillary.

Ms. DAVIS: Yes, he is. He's a first-time voter, and he's a freshman in college, and he's really pulling for Hillary Clinton.

MARTIN: Because?

Ms. DAVIS: But I think he's pulling for her because of the legacy of her husband, Bill Clinton. Because, you know, he was brought up, of course, under that regime, that administration, and I think that's why.

MARTIN: Michelle, what about you?

Ms. DUGGAR: Well, we've always involved our children in the political process, whether it's voting for who's going to be on student council or a local bill. So they know where the precinct is that we go to vote. They vote themselves.

We haven't had a lot of discussion about the candidates, though they are aware that there is a woman and a black man running. And through young children's eyes, I guess sometimes they're like, what's the big deal? Like say for my 7-year-old, where I could president if I want to. So, the fact that a woman is running is, to her, not that big deal. But my - and I think that's great, is that, that young and enthusiasm or if they're not, I should say have a bias where the world - the reality of the world prejudice et cetera is beating on them. And my oldest son made a comment about Obama running for president, because my husband has said this is historic. And my oldest son said something like, there's a black president on "24," which is the sitcom.

(Soundbite of laughter)

Ms. DUGGAR: And I realized that that's great, that they feel is no big deal in the sense that they are expecting something like that. And I want them to keep that enthusiasm and high expectations, whether it's in their personal life or just seeing the world around them, dreaming big and not becoming a pessimist.

MARTIN: The Columbia, South Carolina, Mocha Moms: Aisha McNary Brown, Michelle Duggar, Andrena Myers Davis.

Thank you so much for joining us. You can find links to the Mocha Moms, including blogs written by our local Mochas, at our Web site, npr.org/tellmemore.

Ladies, moms, thank you all so much.

Ms. DAVIS: Thank you for having us.

Ms. DUGGAR: Thank you for having us.

Ms. BROWN: Thank you for having us.

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