"Do or Do not. There is no try."

“Ignorance, Contempt, And Puritan Morality”: Why Republicans Keep Calling Women Sluts

As you’ve heard, yesterday Mike Huckabee stepped up to the plate and smacked a stand-up double in the GOP’s ongoing effort to alienate every woman in America, when he said, “If the Democrats want to insult the women of America by making them believe that they are helpless without Uncle Sugar coming in and providing for them a prescription each month for birth control because they cannot control their libido or their reproductive system without the help of government then so be it! Let us take that discussion all across America because women are far more than the Democrats have played them to be.”

As expected, Huckabee quickly explained to his supporters who the real victim is here (“I am apparently the worst conservative ever or at least the most annoying one according to the left wingers in Washington today”), but the question is, why do they keep doing this? After all, every Republican knows by now that their party has a problem with women; Mitt Romney lost their votes by 11 points. The simple answer is that they can’t help themselves, but more specifically, it’s a combination of ignorance, contempt, and Puritan morality that inevitably leads to these eruptions. And it’s going to keep happening. Let’s look at the particulars:

Ignorance: These kinds of statements tend to come from older conservative men who have no idea how ladyparts work, and really don’t want to know. That extends to contraception, which as far as they’re concerned is something that is women’s responsibility and therefore there’s no need to understand it. That accounts for the bizarrely widespread belief that all forms of contraception work like condoms: a one-use kind of thing that is employed whenever sex is desired. Which is why Rush Limbaugh said that Sandra Fluke was obviously a “slut” if she wanted contraception to be covered by the insurance she was paying for, because “She’s having so much sex she can’t afford the contraception.” And Huckabee believes that you only need birth control every month if you have a rampaging libido, while if you were more chaste, it would be something that would sit at the back of the cabinet, seldom brought out but there if necessary, like that little container of tumeric you once bought for a particularly exotic recipe and might some day use again.

Since Mike Huckabee doesn’t have 18 kids, I’m guessing his wife has used contraception throughout their marriage. But a Baptist minister and his wife have a “don’t ask, don’t tell” arrangement when it comes to that sort of thing, just like millions of other couples, which enables him to continue believing that only a fallen woman would need to take a contraceptive pill every doggone day like she was some kind of insatiable sex machine who barely had time to cook his food and do his laundry in between all that rutting. Which brings us to…

Beliefs about sin: The morality clearly reflected in these statements is that sex is inherently sinful. It’s a tiny bit sinful for the man—the kind of thing you might feel a little guilty about, but you can get over quickly—but it’s hugely sinful for the woman. An unwanted pregnancy is the just punishment a woman receives for having sex, and a virtuous woman doesn’t have sex except for those rare occasions when her husband wants to impregnate her. That’s why Huckabee can say—sincerely, I’m sure—that it’s an insult for Democrats to say women should have access to contraception, because that’s the same as saying women lack virtue. Women who don’t need contraception “are far more than the Democrats have played them to be.”

The conception of sex as inherently sinful drives pretty much every conservative policy position that touches on sex, perhaps most notably the support for abstinence-only sex education. The fact that abstinence-only sex education has been shown over and over to fail is of only passing concern to them, because what they want out of sex education isn’t so much practical things like a reduction in teen pregnancy and the spread of STDs, but a moral statement: sex is bad. If you talk to kids about sex without telling them it’s bad, you’ve cooperated with immorality. Conservatives seem to be constitutionally unable to discuss anything that touches on sex without including some kind of moral condemnation in everything they say.

Tone-deafness: Huckabee’s position is that saying “Democrats are treating women like dirty sluts by saying they should have access to birth control!” is very, very different from just saying women are dirty sluts. He feels he’s been falsely accused of saying the latter, when he was really just saying the former. I’m sure that he thinks that if women just understood the full context of his statement, they’d realize he respects and honors them. What he doesn’t get is that women actually want and need contraception, and 99 percent of women who have had sex have used some form of contraception at some point in their lives. So when he tells them that contraception is for sluts, what they hear isn’t “Because I care for you, I don’t want you to become a slut,” what they hear is, “You’re a slut.”

This seems to come up again and again: Republicans think they’re talking to a nation of nuns, when in reality they’re talking to actual women whose lives and experiences are different from what Republicans imagine them to be. If you told them that, guess what, your wife uses contraception, and so does your sister, and so does your daughter, and not only that, so did your mom, they’d cry “Nuh-uh!” and stick their fingers in their ears.

Which is why this is going to keep happening. Maybe Republicans can be convinced to steer clear of saying appalling things about rape, but the subject of contraception is going to keep coming up because of the Affordable Care Act’s mandate that it be included in insurance plans. And every time it does, they’re going to keep pushing women away. They can’t help themselves.


By: Paul Waldman, Contributing Editor, The American Prospect, January 24, 2014

January 25, 2014 Posted by | Birth Control, Contraception, War On Women | , , , , , , | 1 Comment

“GOP’s Plot Against Democracy”: Why It Really Wants To Depress The Vote

The Presidential Commission on Election Administration has released its report and recommendations, and reasonable people everywhere rejoice. The bipartisan commission was formed by Barack Obama following the 2012 election, which was a bit of an embarrassment for a nation that considers itself something of a model democracy. Across the country (but mainly in urban areas and black and Latino neighborhoods), Election Day featured hours-long lines, broken voting machines, inaccurate voter rolls and confusing ballots.

“The Editors” of Bloomberg View declare the report “so resolutely practical that it’s hard to imagine its recommendations stirring much debate, much less controversy.” (They acknowledge that “not all politicians want to make it easier for Americans to vote,” but they fail to specify that that’s more or less part of the Republican Party platform.) Jeffrey Toobin calls it “an unexpectedly bold document.”

The commission’s key recommendations are eminently reasonable: Expand online voter registration, expand early voting, improve and modernize voting machines, and improve efficiency and alleviate wait times at polling places with better training and techniques that have been proven to work elsewhere. Everyone should be able to support all of this, and, best of all, the commission’s recommendations don’t require any federal action at all. They just need to be voluntarily implemented by state and local officials. And how hard could it be to convince state and local officials to make voting easier?

Here’s the first problem with the commission’s report: We already know what’s wrong with American elections and we already know how we should fix those problems. The last bipartisan commission on American elections released its report and recommendations less than a decade ago. That report followed up a major piece of federal election reform, the Help America Vote Act, which was the bipartisan response to the travesty that was the 2000 election. The Help America Vote Act created another bipartisan commission dedicated to making voting easier, the U.S. Election Assistance Commission. That commission is supposed to have two commissioners from each party. Republicans in Congress have effectively killed that commission by refusing to appoint or approve any commissioners at all.

Despite that obstruction, the problems with American elections, and potential solutions, were already well-known to voting rights experts. The No. 1 culprit is our absurdly decentralized system, which makes implementing good ballot and registration and access and voting machine standards effectively impossible. But we knew that making registration easier and allowing early voting and voting by mail would improve turnout and make voting easier for the elderly and disabled. We knew urban election districts were at a disadvantage due to population size and density, and insufficient funding. We knew ballot size and clarity was lousy all over the country because of archaic or poorly written laws. The problem has always been finding the resources and political will to fix any of this. Because unless we nationalize voter registration and federal elections, the fixes will have to come not just in 50 separate state legislatures but also at thousands of city halls and county governments.

Which brings us to the second, bigger problem with the report: The commission was tasked with making it easier for Americans to vote. One of the two dominant American political parties is adamantly opposed to that goal. Despite the bipartisan trappings of the commission, despite the fact that Mitt Romney’s campaign lawyer was the co-chair, it is still the case that making it easier to vote is a priority of the Democratic Party. The more honest right-wingers make the argument explicit, but implicit in every voter ID law and attempt to shut down voter registration drives and restriction of early voting is the core conservative belief that voting should be as hard as possible, so that only the right people vote. It is only occasionally said out loud but most conservatives believe in the old saw, usually incorrectly attributed to de Tocqueville or a founding father, about democracy dying when the looters begin to “vote themselves largess from the public treasury.” Throughout American history, conservatives have opposed extending the franchise.

In addition to their philosophical opposition to democracy, Republicans have a more pragmatic reason to making voting as difficult as possible: Recent national election results show an unmistakable correlation between turnout and Democratic Party success. As Dave Weigel points out, some of the commission’s recommendations will make it easier for traditionally Republican blocs like religious voters (and military voters! and the elderly!) to vote, but Republicans believe, with plenty of supporting evidence, that in America in 2014, bigger turnout means more Democratic voters. A bipartisan commission won’t convince Republicans to abandon their campaign to use every tool at their disposal to depress the vote.


By: Alex Pareene, Salon, January 24, 2014

January 25, 2014 Posted by | Democracy, Voting Rights | , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

“The Populist Imperative”: Like It Or Not, The Simple Fact Is That Americans “Get” Inequality

“The outstanding faults of the economic society in which we live are its failure to provide for full employment and its arbitrary and inequitable distribution of wealth and incomes.”

John Maynard Keynes wrote that in 1936, but it applies to our own time, too. And, in a better world, our leaders would be doing all they could to address both faults.

Unfortunately, the world we actually live in falls far short of that ideal. In fact, we should count ourselves lucky when leaders confront even one of our two great economic failures. If, as has been widely reported, President Obama devotes much of his State of the Union address to inequality, everyone should be cheering him on.

They won’t, of course. Instead, he will face two kinds of sniping. The usual suspects on the right will, as always when questions of income distribution comes up, shriek “Class warfare!” But there will also be seemingly more sober voices arguing that he has picked the wrong target, that jobs, not inequality, should be at the top of his agenda.

Here’s why they’re wrong.

First of all, jobs and inequality are closely linked if not identical issues. There’s a pretty good although not ironclad case that soaring inequality helped set the stage for our economic crisis, and that the highly unequal distribution of income since the crisis has perpetuated the slump, especially by making it hard for families in debt to work their way out.

Moreover, there’s an even stronger case to be made that high unemployment — by destroying workers’ bargaining power — has become a major source of rising inequality and stagnating incomes even for those lucky enough to have jobs.

Beyond that, as a political matter, inequality and macroeconomic policy are already inseparably linked. It has been obvious for a long time that the deficit obsession that has exerted such a destructive effect on policy these past few years isn’t really driven by worries about the federal debt. It is, instead, mainly an effort to use debt fears to scare and bully the nation into slashing social programs — especially programs that help the poor. For example, two-thirds of the spending cuts proposed last year by Representative Paul Ryan, the chairman of the House Budget Committee, would have come at the expense of lower-income families.

The flip side of this attempt to use fiscal scare tactics to worsen inequality is that highlighting concerns about inequality can translate into pushback against job-destroying austerity, too.

But the most important reason for Mr. Obama to focus on inequality is political realism. Like it or not, the simple fact is that Americans “get” inequality; macroeconomics, not so much.

There’s an enduring myth among the punditocracy that populism doesn’t sell, that Americans don’t care about the gap between the rich and everyone else. It’s not true. Yes, we’re a nation that admires rather than resents success, but most people are nonetheless disturbed by the extreme disparities of our Second Gilded Age. A new Pew poll finds an overwhelming majority of Americans — and 45 percent of Republicans! — supporting government action to reduce inequality, with a smaller but still substantial majority favoring taxing the rich to aid the poor. And this is true even though most Americans don’t realize just how unequally wealth really is distributed.

By contrast, it’s very hard to communicate even the most basic truths of macroeconomics, like the need to run deficits to support employment in bad times. You can argue that Mr. Obama should have tried harder to get these ideas across; many economists cringed when he began echoing Republican rhetoric about the need for the federal government to tighten its belt along with America’s families. But, even if he had tried, it’s doubtful that he would have succeeded.

Consider what happened in 1936. F.D.R. had just won a smashing re-election victory, largely because of the success of his deficit-spending policies. It’s often forgotten now, but his first term was marked by rapid economic recovery and sharply falling unemployment. But the public remained wedded to economic orthodoxy: by a more than 2-to-1 majority, voters surveyed by Gallup just after the election called for a balanced budget. And F.D.R., unfortunately, listened; his attempt to balance the budget soon plunged America back into recession.

The point is that of the two great problems facing the U.S. economy, inequality is the one on which Mr. Obama is most likely to connect with voters. And he should seek that connection with a clear conscience: There’s no shame in acknowledging political reality, as long as you’re trying to do the right thing.

So I hope we’ll hear something about jobs Tuesday night, and some pushback against deficit hysteria. But if we mainly hear about inequality and social justice, that’s O.K.


By: Paul Krugman, Op-Ed Columnist, The New York Times, January 23, 2014

January 25, 2014 Posted by | Economic Inequality, Income Gap | , , , , , , , | 2 Comments

“GOP Sensitivity Training In Animal House”: The Real Harm Is The Ugliness Of The Policies Themselves

When we learned last month that John Boehner was providing “sensitivity training” to his male Republican colleagues, I knew we would be in for a treat. But who knew Boehner’s friends would provide an almost daily dose of “can you top this?” outrageous comments.

Just look at the sensitivity toward women that prominent members of the GOP have displayed just this week.

Yesterday, former Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee, a favorite GOP pundit and former presidential candidate, said that it’s the Democrats who have the “war on women” because they think women “cannot control their libido” and so rely on “Uncle Sugar” to provide birth control. (True to form, maybe he was trying to show us the difference between the pill makers and the pill takers?)

Then, later in the day, Rep. Louie Gohmert of Texas, went off on a rant about how bored but crafty high school girls have figured how to work the system by having more children to increase their welfare checks.

And we also learned that Republican Rep. Steve Pearce of New Mexico wrote in his memoir that women are to “voluntarily submit” to their husbands, and that men are to take “the leadership role” in the family. Perhaps hoping nobody would actually read his memoir, Pearce promptly denied saying what he has said in print.

Never wanting to be outdone, yesterday afternoon Tony Perkins, president of the Family Research Council, blamed a rise in sexual assaults on college campuses on President Obama and Sandra Fluke. Although Perkins used more polite language than that of Rush Limbaugh in describing Fluke, his implication was the same. Fluke’s “crusade…for unlimited birth control,” he implied, had encouraged young women to invite sexual assault on themselves.

What is going on in those sensitivity trainings?!

And that’s before we even get to the policies. Last week, the House Judiciary Committee approved a Republican-sponsored bill that further restricts low-income women’s ability to access abortion, threatens to wipe even private abortion insurance coverage from the market, and requires the IRS to investigate whether a woman who obtains an abortion has been raped. When confronted with the fact that the bill could drive low-income women “deeper into poverty,” Rep. Steve King of Iowa snickered. Speaking at the March for Life on Wednesday, House Majority Leader Eric Cantor made this bill the centerpiece of his speech.

Meanwhile, Republican-led state legislatures are having a field day restricting women’s access to birth control and abortion. The Guttmacher Institute found that more state-level restrictions on abortion access were enacted from 2011 to 2013 than in the entire previous decade. If Michigan’s recent debate over “rape insurance” is any indication, that trend of Republican legislatures trying to outdo each other is not slowing down anytime soon.

Even if the sensitivity training were working — which it clearly is not — no amount of sensitive language can cover up demeaning and disastrous policies. For example, Todd Akin was insensitive when he said the words “legitimate rape”; the House GOP was just being its authentic, retrograde self when it tried to write that principle into law. This is part of why GOP vice presidential candidate Paul Ryan had to go into hiding on the campaign trail. Ryan never said the words “legitimate rape,” but he did think that rape victims shouldn’t be allowed abortions.

What the GOP doesn’t seem to have grasped is that just saying sensitive things (or refraining from saying stupidly insensitive things) isn’t enough to win voters. It’s the policies, not just the way you talk about them.

If Republican National Committee chairman Reince Priebus’ planned “reboot” of his party’s image taught us anything, the new Republican craze for “sensitivity” will be short-lived. This week, after moving its annual meeting to accommodate the March for Life, the RNC will be encouraging its members to spend more time talking about their opposition to abortion rights. Yes, you read that right — more time talking about it. The GOP’s half-hearted attempt at outreach to women seem to already be going the way of its planned overtures to Latinos.

We shouldn’t be surprised when proponents of policies that are based in misogyny say misogynistic things. But we need to be clear that the real harm is not just a lack of sensitivity. It’s the ugliness of the policies themselves.

By: Michael Keegan, The HuffingtonPost Blog, January 24, 2014

January 25, 2014 Posted by | GOP, War On Women | , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

“Isolated From The Rest Of The Public”: The Tea Party And The Hammock Theory Of Poverty

The increased focus on inequality has shifted the conversation away from deficit/austerity mania and towards a discussion of what government should be doing to boost the economy and protect people from economic harm. And it’s also prompted good new polling that goes deep into public views of the economy, the safety net, inequality, and what government should do about it.

On these topics, this week brought two new polls from Pew Research and CBS News.

I’ve asked both firms for a detailed breakdown of their data, and here’s a striking finding: The ideas and assumptions underlying the GOP economic and poverty agenda are far and away more reflective of the preoccupations of Tea Party Republicans. Meanwhile, non-Tea Party Republicans are much more in line with the rest of the public on these matters.

In short, the Tea Party economic worldview, if such a thing exists, is isolated from the rest of the public, and even to some degree from non-Tea Party Republicans – yet it has an outsized role in shaping the GOP’s overall agenda.

Both the Pew and CBS polls find large majorities believe the income gap is growing, and both find that more Americans want government to do something about it. Both also find solid majority support for raising the minimum wage, extending unemployment benefits, and (in Pew’s case) taxing the rich to help the poor.

Both polls also find that far larger numbers of Republicans don’t think government should act to reduce inequality. This is reflected in the GOP economic agenda. As Jonathan Chait explains, this agenda continues to be premised on the ideas that there is, if anything, too much downward redistribution of wealth, that government shouldn’t interfere in the market by, say, raising the minimum wage, and that safety net programs lull people into dependency (Paul Ryan’s Hammock Theory of Poverty).

But here’s the thing. That basic set of assumptions — and the resulting positions on some of the individual policies being discussed – are held overwhelmingly by Tea Party Republicans; and not nearly as much by non-tea party Republicans. Key findings:

On government action to combat inequality:

* The Pew poll finds Republicans divided on whether government should do a lot or some to reduce inequality, versus doing little or nothing, by 49-46. But tea party Republicans overwhelmingly tilt against  government doing something by 66-28, while non-tea party Republicans overwhelmingly favor doing something by 60-35.

* The CBS poll is less pronounced, but even here, Tea Party Republicans overwhelmingly oppose government acting to reduce the gap between rich and poor by 82-17, while non-Tea Party Republicans believe this by 66-29 (so nearly a third of non-Tea party Republicans believe it).

On unemployment benefits:

* The Pew poll finds Republicans oppose extending unemployment benefits by 53-44. But Tea Party Republicans overwhelmingly oppose this by 70-29, while non-Tea Party Republicans support it by 52-44.

* Similarly, the CBS poll finds that Republicans oppose extending unemployment benefits by 49-40. But Tea Party Republicans overwhelmingly oppose it by 58-31. Non-Tea Party Republicans favor extending them by 46-43.

On the Hammock Theory of Poverty:

* The CBS poll finds that Republicans believe unemployment benefits make people less motivated to look for a job by 57-40. But Tea Party Republicans overwhelmingly believe this by 67-32. By contrast, only a minority of non-tea party Republicans believe this (47-51).

* The Pew poll has a similar finding: Republicans believe government aid to the poor does more harm than good by making people dependent on government, rather than doing more good than harm, by 67-27. But Tea Party Republicans overwhelmingly believe this by 84-11, while non-tea party Republicans are somewhat more closely divided, 59-35.

On the minimum wage:

* The Pew poll finds that Republicans favor raising the minimum wage to $10.10 an hour by 54-44. But Tea Party Republicans overwhelmingly oppose this by 65-33. Non-Tea Party Republicans overwhelmingly support it by 65-33. (All the above Pew numbers include Republicans and GOP-leaners).

* The CBS poll is less pronounced, but even here, Tea Party Republicans tilt against a minimum wage hike by 52-47, while non-tea party Republicans favor it by 50-48.

A number of conservative reform types, such as Michael Gerson and Peter Wehner, and Michael Strain, have written at length about the need to break from tea party orthodoxy on economic matters, and to begin to envision an affirmative government role when it comes to strengthening (and reforming) the safety net, and even spending government money to combat the near term jobs emergency. I don’t know if non-tea party Republicans can be reached and split off from the tea party on these matters or not, but it does seem at least plausible, if the above numbers are an accurate picture of things.

Meanwhile, some Republican lawmakers do seem sincere about charting a new course on poverty. But the party agenda remains in thrall to a set of ideas that remain largely the province of a small tea party minority, and are not nearly as widely held among Republicans overall.


By: Greg Sargent, The Plum Line, The Washington Post, January 24, 2014

January 25, 2014 Posted by | Economic Inequality, Income Gap, Tea Party | , , , , , , | Leave a comment

%d bloggers like this: