Democrats Seek To Regain Votes Of White Males

The Republicans have built a strange coalition. In terms of priorities,  it is primarily the party of the top one percent, but many other upper income Americans still mistakenly believe the Republicans represent their interests. This still would not give them anywhere near enough votes to win elections so they have gone after primarily two other types of supporters. For years they conned the religious right into following them while only throwing them a few bones, but in recent years the Republicans have more fully adopted their agenda. This still was not enough voters but in the past they could win elections by scaring low-information poorly educated white males into voting for them.

It made absolutely no sense for these white males to vote against their interests and vote for Republicans but this has been a group which has been easily fooled. The New York Times looked at Democratic attempts to win some of these voters back:

Some white men have proved to be within reach: single men, college students and graduates with advanced degrees, the nonreligious, and gay men. But working-class married men remain hardest to win over and, unless they are in unions, get the least attention — to the dismay of some partisans.

“You can’t just give Republicans a clear field to play for the votes of white working-class men without putting up some sort of a fight because that just allows them to run the table with these voters, thereby potentially offsetting your burgeoning advantage among minorities, single women, millennials,” said Ruy Teixeira, an analyst at the left-leaning Center for American Progress.

“I just think Democrats are having a hard time figuring out how to effectively pursue it,” he added.

What discourages Democrats is that men’s attitudes shaped over generations — through debates over civil rights, anti-Communism, Vietnam, feminism, gun control and dislocations from lost manufacturing jobs and stagnant wages in a global economy — are not easily altered.

“Democrats are for a bunch of freeloaders in this world as far as I’m concerned,” said Gari Day, 63, an Avis bus driver from suburban Detroit. “Republicans make you work for your money, and try to let you keep it.”

Michael Bunce, 48, buying parts at a Lowe’s in Southfield, Mich., first ascribed his Republican bias to fiscal matters, but quickly turned to social issues like gay rights. “I don’t see why that’s at the top of our priority list,” he said. “But you say that out in the open, and people are all over your back.”

Democrats’ gloom about white men was eased temporarily by Mr. Obama’s 2008 election when he won 41 percent of white male voters — the first time a Democrat exceeded 40 percent since Mr. Carter in 1976. But their support for his re-election fell to 35 percent, roughly what Democrats have gotten since they lost to Richard Nixon.

Republicans say Democrats’ appeals to women, minorities and gays have been counterproductive with white men. “When you’re spending 60 percent of your time talking about birth control and Obamacare, not a lot of men are paying attention to you,” said Brad Dayspring, spokesman for the National Republican Senatorial Committee.

Another issue arose later in the article which also explains their support for Republicans–guns. While Democrats have done little, largely out of fear, to push gun control, that is an issue which is going to work to the advantage of Republicans. If this article is representative and social issues play a big factor, this also does not leave Democrats with a good opening. However, if Democrats can get them to think rationally about economics, then they could win votes if they can get past the type of misconceptions quoted above. Those who have been convinced that Obama is a socialist are seriously ignorant about both economics and current events.

Democratic economic policies both better enable working people to earn more money and Democratic taxation plans have proposed taxing the middle tax less then Republicans. Republican tax cuts for the ultra-wealthy don’t do anything to help the bus driver quoted above. Plus, while the low information white males might not care about birth control (although they could also suffer from Republican attempts to restrict access to contraception) they do benefit considerably from the changes in health care under Obama.

The article points out that, “No Democratic presidential candidate has won a majority of white men since Lyndon B. Johnson in 1964.” There is a significance to this date. The Democrats lost the south and the low-information white voters after the passage of the Civil Rights bill. Much of this came down to the Southern Strategy as described by Lee Atwater:

You start out in 1954 by saying, “Nigger, nigger, nigger.” By 1968 you can’t say “nigger”—that hurts you, backfires. So you say stuff like, uh, forced busing, states’ rights, and all that stuff, and you’re getting so abstract. Now, you’re talking about cutting taxes, and all these things you’re talking about are totally economic things and a byproduct of them is, blacks get hurt worse than whites.… “We want to cut this,” is much more abstract than even the busing thing, uh, and a hell of a lot more abstract than “Nigger, nigger.”

It works just as  well in northern white states to scare low education white voters into fearing that minorities are a threat to them. Homophobic white males, like the one quoted above, are just as likely to be racists.  Such tensions decreased a little when Obama ran in 2008, but the Tea Party has helped bring about a return to old patterns. Democrats will need to make a strong pitch explaining the truth about economic issues,  overcoming considerable misinformation they have been exposed to, if there is any chance to pick up the votes of the low information white voters. While it makes sense to go after additional voters, realistically if the Democrats are going to win, it will primarily be with the votes of educated white males, females, and minorities.

Cross posted at The Moderate Voice

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The Religious Right’s Counterproductive Positions On Contraception And Abortion

It comes as no surprise that many in the religious right are not satisfied with the data released earlier this month showing a decrease in abortions. Margaret Talbot discussed their reaction:

One problem was that the groups didn’t like the messenger. The report, which showed that between 2008 and 2011 the rate of abortions had fallen to its lowest level since 1973, came from the Guttmacher Institute. Guttmacher produces scrupulous research on reproductive health; it also supports abortion rights. But the bigger problem was the message itself, because the report made a persuasive case that the right-to-life movement cannot take credit for the decline in abortions. Since 2008, states have enacted more than a hundred laws related to abortion, most aimed at limiting access to the procedure. The researchers, however, concluded that the new laws, with few exceptions, had had little impact on the number of abortions. Instead, much of the decline is probably attributable to more effective contraception, some of it available through the federal funding—“Uncle Sugar,” in Mike Huckabee’s creepy coinage—that Republicans like to rail against.

As the goals of the religious right are based upon a desire for control and using government to impose their religious views on others, we have known for quite a while that they also sought restrictions on birth control, even if this would be inconsistent with a lone goal of reducing abortions. Talbot pointed out a couple of additional counterproductive and seemingly contradictory aspects of the position of the religious right. Their extension of opposition to choice beyond abortion prevents possible compromise with liberals who would support measures to reduce abortions which do not involve denying choice. The actions of the religious right also increase the possibility that abortions will be obtained later in the course of pregnancy. While the religious right often devotes a lot of their rhetoric to later-term abortions, these are actually very rare, and their actions are contrary to a claimed goal of reducing these:

Nonetheless, the new laws do place additional burdens on women seeking abortions, and, perhaps more important, they may also be erecting obstacles to a consensus position on abortion—one that most Americans could abide. For reasons both moral and practical, most Americans think that if an abortion is to be performed it should be done early in the pregnancy. Yet many of the laws that right-to-life groups have pressed for in recent years have tended to produce the opposite effect, resulting in later abortions. Consider the case of medical abortions, induced by the drug mifepristone, the so-called abortion pill. The Guttmacher report shows that, between 2008 and 2011, there was a striking increase in the percentage of such procedures—in 2011, they accounted for twenty-three per cent (up from seventeen per cent) of all non-hospital abortions—even as the over-all rate declined. By definition, these are early abortions: they are performed before nine weeks’ gestation. (Unlike surgical abortions, they can be done almost as soon as a woman receives a positive pregnancy test.) From the public-health, reproductive-choice, and moral-comfort points of view, an increase in the percentage of abortions performed this way is beneficial.

Yet the latest vogue in anti-abortion legislation is to ban medical abortions. One approach has been to short-circuit programs that allow mifepristone to be prescribed through telemedicine. A program started in Iowa, in 2008, allowed a woman to receive ultrasounds and talk to a counsellor at a satellite clinic, and then video-conference with a doctor in another location. The doctor could remotely unlock a drawer in the clinic and the necessary medication was dispensed to the woman. After the program began, women seeking abortions in Iowa tended to do so earlier; nevertheless, the over-all abortion rate in the state declined. The program’s safety record and women’s reported satisfaction with it were solid. (It was especially helpful in rural areas.) But in 2010 Iowa elected an anti-choice Republican governor, who appointed new members to the state medical board, and it subsequently ended the program. A judge stayed the ban in November, and the matter is now being litigated. Meanwhile, legislatures in fourteen other states have prohibited the use of telemedicine for medical abortion—“Webcam abortion,” as opponents call it—even though the system hasn’t even been tried on any significant scale in those states.

All this brings to mind the bizarre inability of certain prominent Republicans to understand the importance of contraception in our society. Making it more difficult for women to get an abortion early in an unintended pregnancy—or to prevent an unintended pregnancy in the first place—makes their lives harder. Yet Mike Huckabee and Rand Paul have been on a tear recently, insisting that focussing on reproductive rights patronizes women. Unlike Democrats, Huckabee says, Republicans want women to be “something other than victims of their gender,” who are “helpless without Uncle Sugar” to “control their libido or their reproductive system.” It shouldn’t be necessary to say it again, but a woman’s ability to exert control over her reproductive system is at the heart of her ability to control her destiny in many other ways as well.

The right’s anti-abortion crusade must be seen not as actions being promoted with the sole goal of reducing abortions but as a campaign to exercise control over the rights of others. Ed Kilgore argues that “antichoice activists almost universally regard the very contraceptive measures most associated with reduced abortion rates, especially the highly effective IUD, not as contraceptives at all but as ‘abortifacients,’ because they operate (or might operate) to interfere with the implantation of fertilized ova on the uterine wall.”  He concluded his discussion of Talbot’s article by writing:

None of this, however, is the least bit surprising if you think all abortions—including the “abortion” of fertilized ova that may occur when an IUD or a Plan B pill—or any other hormonal birth control method—is used—are equally horrific acts of homicide. That is the position of virtually every “right to life” group in the country. So their propaganda focus on late-term abortions is entirely strategic. For all the millions of tears shed about the “barbarity” of the tiny handful of late-term abortions performed legally (or illegally, as was the case with Dr. Kermit Gosnell, whose clinic antichoicers have seized on with enormous glee), the antichoice goal is as it has always been to use widespread instinctive unease with late-term abortions as a stepping stone to a total abortion ban, which would extend to “abortifacient” devices like IUDs. Nobody should forget that for a moment.

While to a certain degree true, the problem remains that many on the religious right see the use of contraception by others as something they have the right to regulate, regardless of the mechanism of action. BooMan responds to this by asking, “should we consider these people to just be deluded? Or, should we consider them to be primarily concerned not about abortion, but with preventing women from having sex out of wedlock? Is the idea basically that if women can’t separate sex from child-bearing that they will save themselves for marriage?”

I hate to try to say what the motivation is of others, but I suspect that for most who seek to restrict reproductive rights the prevention of sex out of wedlock is only part of their motivation for opposing both abortion and contraception. Their desire to control reproductive rights and the bodies of women extends to married women and is not limited to preventing sex out of wedlock, as much as they might desire to do this.

Cross posted at The Moderate Voice

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Abortion Rate At Lowest Point Since Roe v. Wade

A study from the Guttmacher Institute, which has been monitoring the abortion rate, shows that this has dropped to the lowest rate since Roe v. Wade.  The rate was 16.3 abortions per 1000 women in 1973 at the time of the Roe v. Wade decision. The rate subsequently increased to a high of 29.3 in 1980 and has been steady dropping since then. There most recent data from 2011 showed a rate of 16.9 per 1000 women.

This decrease is attributed largely to improvements in birth control, as well as to the economy as people tend to adhere to using birth control more when the economy is bad. While it is unlikely to happen, one might think that reducing the rate back to the level when Roe v. Wade took effect would lessen the hostility of conservatives towards the Supreme Court decision, and perhaps decrease their attempts to impose their views on abortion upon others. If a reduction in abortion was their sole goal, then we would also expect conservatives to support the wider use of contraception. However, as their views are more based upon religious dogma and authoritarianism, they are likely to continue to attempt to restrict contraception as well as abortion.

The drop in abortion has not been attributed to the wave of anti-abortion legislation pushed through recently as most of the new laws did not take effect until after 2011. It will be interesting to see how this affects abortion rates in the future, but interpretation could be hindered by the drop in abortion rates regardless of the changes in abortion laws.

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John Kerry Warns Of A Trend Towards Authoritarianism In Eastern Europe–Don’t Forget Our Problems At Home

John Kerry has warned about a disturbing trend of authoritarianism in Eastern Europe. He is probably right, but what about that trend here? The Republican Party has made voter suppression a major part of their electoral strategy, along with continuing the Southern Strategy based upon racism and now xenophobia. The party of small government increasingly advocates using the power of government to infringe upon the private lives of individuals. They claim to support capitalism while they work to redistribute the nation’s wealth and replace our system with a plutocracy.

An informed electorate is essential to the workings of a democracy but the Republicans use their propaganda machine, such as Fox, to intentionally spread misinformation. They have been preventing the normal workings of a legislative branch, meeting on election night to organize to oppose any measures initiated by Obama, regardless of the merits, how needed they are, or even if they are former Republican positions. They talk of supporting the Constitution, but it is a version of the Constitution which exists only in their heads, and is not what was intended by the Founding Fathers. They totally deny the essential liberties in the First Amendment intended to form a secular state as they promote the agenda of the religious right. Even their so-called libertarians don’t have a very good record with regards to supporting liberty.

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Mike Huckabee Thinks Democrats Are Providing Coverage Of Birth Control Pills Because Women Cannot Control Their Libido

After being embarrassed by comments such as Todd Akin on “legitimate rape” and Richard Mourdock, saying that pregnancies resulting from rape are a “gift from god,” the Republican Party has been trying to teach their candidates how to speak without offending women. (Maybe they should teach their candidates about science, history, and economics t00). It appears that Mike Huckabee (who could also use some education on science) did not show up to the class on how to avoid offending women. This is how he wants the Republicans to speak to women:

“I think it’s time Republicans no longer accept listening to the Democrats talk about a ‘war on women,’” Huckabee said during a speech at the Republican National Committee’s winter meeting in Washington. “The fact is the Republicans don’t have a war on women, they have a war for women, to empower them to be something other than victims of their gender.”

Huckabee said Democrats rely on women believing they are weaker than men and in need of government handouts, including the contraception mandate in Obamacare.

“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 them for them a prescription each month for birth control because they cannot control their libido or their reproductive system without the help of the government, then so be it,” Huckabee said. “Let’s take that discussion all across America.

He is saying what he thinks Democrats think, but from the context it sure appears that he is projecting his views here. Apparently, in Huckabee’s mind women who do need birth control are those who cannot control their libidos and do what he thinks unmarried women should do–abstain from sex. I believe this is a view he shares with Rush Limbaugh who called Sandra Fluke a slut for advocating in support of contraception coverage. After marriage, one Republican Congressman, Steve Pearce, recently advised that the wife’s role is to “voluntarily submit, just as the husband is to lovingly lead and sacrifice.” This is a view which Huckabee appears to share.

Was this comment on  libido just a one-time mistake? No, he has used the same line before on his show.

Taylor Marsh tried to explain things to Huckabee:

Democrats are aiding women economically with free reproductive health care that includes preventative screening and birth control, not because they think we’re sluts, but because they know it’s a basic healthcare cost that drains the pockets of young women, and they’re trying to level the economic playing field a bit for us. Republicans are the ones who are fighting basic reproductive health care coverage, which hurts women.

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Obama And Philosophical Differences Between Left And Right

If viewed from the perspective of perfection, liberals have plenty of reason to object to Obama. There’s his continuation of NSA surveillance, with recommendations for reform which are a good first step but do not go far enough. He continues the disastrous drug war (or should we call it the war against minorities) and is taking far too long to end the war in Afghanistan. He did a fine job of averting the Bush depression upon taking office but his stimulus program was too little (although we must also consider the Republican opposition to this and the manner in which they blocked his other proposals). While the Affordable Care Act has had some major successes, the difficulties in implementation show the advantages of a single-payer plan favored by many on the left. Still, when looking from the perspective of a two-party system, Obama’s accomplishments on economic recovery and health care reform are significant, and there is not a single problem which would not be worse if current Republican policies were being followed. More importantly, there a major difference in world view which can be seen in two recent comments from Obama.

Today there was this statement released on the anniversary of Roe v. Wade:

Today, as we reflect on the 41st anniversary of the Supreme Court decision in Roe v. Wade, we recommit ourselves to the decision’s guiding principle: that every woman should be able to make her own choices about her body and her health.  We reaffirm our steadfast commitment to protecting a woman’s access to safe, affordable health care and her constitutional right to privacy, including the right to reproductive freedom.  And we resolve to reduce the number of unintended pregnancies, support maternal and child health, and continue to build safe and healthy communities for all our children.  Because this is a country where everyone deserves the same freedom and opportunities to fulfill their dreams.

This shows a fundamental difference between Obama, and most Democrats, compared to the majority of Republicans. Republicans have no respect for reproductive freedom, and the right of women to control their own bodies. If you ignore the biology, along with philosophical problems in denying self-ownership of one’s own body, their case against abortion might be somewhat understandable. As it is frequently accompanied by opposition to birth control, it becomes clearer that this is primarily a religious viewpoint which they wish to impose upon others. On a related point, they also desire to impose their religious views to prevent same-sex marriage, an issue which Obama has evolved on. (Plus many Republicans do not even accept basic science with regards to evolution).

Obama showed his views are also evolving on marijuana and the drug war. In an interview with David Remnick in The New Yorker, Obama showed consideration of the underlying issues:

When I asked Obama about another area of shifting public opinion—the legalization of marijuana—he seemed even less eager to evolve with any dispatch and get in front of the issue. “As has been well documented, I smoked pot as a kid, and I view it as a bad habit and a vice, not very different from the cigarettes that I smoked as a young person up through a big chunk of my adult life. I don’t think it is more dangerous than alcohol.”

Is it less dangerous? I asked…

Less dangerous, he said, “in terms of its impact on the individual consumer. It’s not something I encourage, and I’ve told my daughters I think it’s a bad idea, a waste of time, not very healthy.” What clearly does trouble him is the radically disproportionate arrests and incarcerations for marijuana among minorities. “Middle-class kids don’t get locked up for smoking pot, and poor kids do,” he said. “And African-American kids and Latino kids are more likely to be poor and less likely to have the resources and the support to avoid unduly harsh penalties.” But, he said, “we should not be locking up kids or individual users for long stretches of jail time when some of the folks who are writing those laws have probably done the same thing.” Accordingly, he said of the legalization of marijuana in Colorado and Washington that “it’s important for it to go forward because it’s important for society not to have a situation in which a large portion of people have at one time or another broken the law and only a select few get punished.”

As is his habit, he nimbly argued the other side. “Having said all that, those who argue that legalizing marijuana is a panacea and it solves all these social problems I think are probably overstating the case. There is a lot of hair on that policy. And the experiment that’s going to be taking place in Colorado and Washington is going to be, I think, a challenge.” He noted the slippery-slope arguments that might arise. “I also think that, when it comes to harder drugs, the harm done to the user is profound and the social costs are profound. And you do start getting into some difficult line-drawing issues. If marijuana is fully legalized and at some point folks say, Well, we can come up with a negotiated dose of cocaine that we can show is not any more harmful than vodka, are we open to that? If somebody says, We’ve got a finely calibrated dose of meth, it isn’t going to kill you or rot your teeth, are we O.K. with that?”

Far short of ending the drug war, but this leaves open hope of a change in policy. It makes no medical sense for marijuana to be classified as a Schedule I drug, and prohibition causes far more harm than the drug. It is hard to see any leading Republicans, other than perhaps Rand Paul (who does fall short of the libertarian position), considering a change on this issue.

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Republicans Add Limiting Contraception Coverage To Their Demands

Yesterday I pointed out how the Republican battles over the budget are not really over reducing the deficit. A new terrorist-demand from the far right does show how they remain dedicated to using the power of the state to infringe upon the rights of individuals–in this case the rights of women:

House Republicans have added a measure aimed at limiting contraceptive coverage to the spending bill coming up for a vote Saturday night, a spokesman for Rep. Tim Huelskamp, R-Kansas, told CNN.

A senior House leadership aide confirmed that development.

The so-called “conscience clause” would allow employers and insurers to opt out of preventative care for women which they find objectionable on moral or religious grounds. That prominently includes birth control, which most insurers are required to provide for free under current Obamacare rules…

Democrats say the measure is unnecessary because the administration has granted exemptions to contraceptive coverage to religious nonprofit institutions. But advocates, such as Huelskamp, insist that all institutions should be able to opt out of any preventative coverage for women that they find objectionable.

The addition of the “conscience clause” ties a heated social issue to the already sharp shutdown debate.

Not surprisingly, Tim Huelskamp is a member of the Tea Party Caucus

Once again, House Republicans who ran on a platform to increase jobs show that they are more concerned with fighting the culture wars than creating jobs–even when the result of their actions is to harm the economy and increase unemployment. This also shows that the Republicans are not serious about coming to an agreement (at least with a little time left before the last minute). They know there is no way that this measure will be accepted by either the Senate or the White House. Hopefully Democrats can use this to their advantage in pointing out the Republican opposition to birth control, which most Americans disagree with.

To paraphrase Mark Twain, nobody’s life, liberty, or property is safe while the Teabaggers are in session.

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Connie Britton of Friday Night Lights Says Mitt Romney Wrong To Use “Clear Eyes, Full Hearts, Can’t Lose”

Peter Berg, writer-director of  Friday Night Lights, has already  sent a letter to Mitt Romney objecting to Romney using the phrase “Clear Eyes, Full Hearts, Can’t Lose” from the television series, calling this stealing. Series star Connie Britton and producer Sarah Aubrey have written an op-ed arguing that Mitt Romney is wrong to use the phrase:

Dillon is a classic American town filled with hard-working, middle-class Americans, who just want to lead productive, healthy lives. And the women we represented on the show — the women we are in real life — are like the millions of women across the nation. Women who want to make our own health care decisions. Women who want to earn equal pay for the work we do. Women who want affordable health care.

In fact, it is President Obama who has shown his values to be more closely aligned with those represented by the phrase. The first measure he signed into law after becoming president was the Lilly Ledbetter Fair Pay Act — so a female high school counselor or physical education teacher can fight for equal pay for equal work. This law makes it possible for women such as the character that I (Britton) played of Tami Taylor — to fight for the same wages as men no matter what they do or where they live, from Dillon to Philadelphia, where Tami was able to pursue her dream job as a college admissions counselor.

And President Obama’s landmark Affordable Care Act has been transformative for women. For the first time in our lives, being a woman is no longer a pre-existing condition — our insurers can’t charge us more for having breast cancer or being the victim of domestic violence. This law fully covers the cost of our preventive care, our annual check-ups, our birth control. And on Friday Night Lights, quarterback Matt Saracen’s grandma would have then been able to get the affordable health care she needed.

Romney actually wants to throw the entire law — and every benefit — out, and while he’s at it, get rid of Planned Parenthood—the health care provider that nearly three million Americans rely on for their life-saving cancer screenings, well-woman visits and affordable birth control. Planned Parenthood was well represented on the show, too — Brian “Smash” Williams’ mom worked there, Tami got a pregnancy test there, and, after being abandoned by her parents, Becky Sproles was able to get a safe and legal abortion there.

So as women, let’s take “Clear Eyes, Full Hearts” back and use it as it was always intended — as a motivator for progress, power, and greatness. Let’s use our clear eyes and full hearts to vote early. Let’s use our clear eyes and full hearts to tell every friend, family member and neighbor about what’s at stake for women in this election. What’s at stake for all of us.

If we women make ourselves aware of the issues and make our voices heard, we most certainly cannot lose.

 

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Fighting The Culture War And Fighting For the First Amendment

Kathleen Parker complains that we are fighting the same culture war. She dismisses liberals who are concerned about social issues, and claims that the conservative views we object to are just “random comments by a couple of outliers.” There sure are a lot of outliers in the Republican Party. While comments from a couple of Republican Senate candidates have received a lot of publicity, the underlying views of Todd Akins and Richard Mourdock are the positions supported by most Republicans. Congressional Republicans have promoted far more measures to regulate reproductive rights than to increase jobs since elected in 2010.

Republicans frequently claim that the issues of the culture wars should not be considered in the election, knowing that these issues harm them in the short run and doom them to fringe status in the long run. While Republican rhetoric is full of misleading talk of small government, Republican policy has been to use big government to impose the views of the religious right upon others. Republicans deny our heritage of separation of church and state, promoting a revisionist view of the First Amendment which is contrary to the writings of the Founding Fathers as well as previous court decisions. These are fundamental issues regarding what type of government and society we have–a free society or a theocracy. Rather than devoting too much attention to the culture wars, these issues have received far too little attention in political campaigns.

There is a long list of measures from Republicans which demonstrate that these are not views coming from outliers. ECHIDNE-OF-THE-SNAKES presented a list of just a small number of examples in response to Parker:

Let’s put this red herring, this small ball, this trivial topic into some perspective.  You might start by looking at the state level initiatives on abortion.  Most states working hard to limit reproductive choice have Republican majorities in the state house.  Examples of the kinds of things which are small ball:

(ENACTED) ARIZONA: In April, Gov. Jan Brewer (R) signed a measure that would allow a medical professional to withhold information from a woman about her pregnancy that may have resulted in her obtaining an abortion. The bill will go into effect later this year.

KANSAS: In May, the Senate adopted an omnibus reproductive health bill that includes a provision that would shield medical professionals from litigation if they withhold information from a woman about her pregnancy that may have resulted in her obtaining an abortion. The bill would also amend the state laws on abortion coverage, postviability abortion, abortions after 20 weeks postfertilization, abortion counseling, abortion training programs, abortion based on gender, tax credits for abortion-providing organizations, and sex education. No further action is expected since the legislature has adjourned its regular session.  

(ENACTED) KANSAS: In May, Gov. Sam Brownback (R) signed a measure that expands the state’s refusal clause for abortion and potentially contraception. The new law allows an individual to refuse to perform, make referrals for or participate in abortion services or services the individual “reasonably believes” would end a pregnancy. Current law permits an individual to refuse to perform or participate in an abortion. The new law also permits a health care facility to prohibit “the performance, referral for or participation in” abortion services or services that the facility “reasonably believes” would end a pregnancy. Current law allows a hospital to refuse to permit the provision of an abortion. The law goes into effect in July.

MISSOURI: In March, the House adopted a measure that would allow health care providers and facilities to refuse to participate in contraceptive services. The bill would permit health care providers, including social workers and health care facility employees to refuse to participate in, or provide counseling or referral for abortion, contraception and other specific health care services. A refusal would not be permitted if a patient’s life was endangered.No further action is expected since the legislature has adjourned its regular session.

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Shorter Mitt Romney: A Woman’s Place Is In Her Binder

Binders full of women has become the most quoted line from last night’s debate, now with its own web site and Facebook page. Maybe this is actually some sort of Mormon euphemism, because it is just outright false that Romney has ever shown any concern for hiring more women. Here’s the story behind this latest Romney  lie and where the binder really came from:

What actually happened was that in 2002 — prior to the election, not even knowing yet whether it would be a Republican or Democratic administration — a bipartisan group of women in Massachusetts formed MassGAP to address the problem of few women in senior leadership positions in state government. There were more than 40 organizations involved with the Massachusetts Women’s Political Caucus (also bipartisan) as the lead sponsor.

They did the research and put together the binder full of women qualified for all the different cabinet positions, agency heads, and authorities and commissions. They presented this binder to Governor Romney when he was elected.

I have written about this before, in various contexts; tonight I’ve checked with several people directly involved in the MassGAP effort who confirm that this history as I’ve just presented it is correct — and that Romney’s claim tonight, that he asked for such a study, is false.

I will write more about this later, but for tonight let me just make a few quick additional points. First of all, according to MassGAP and MWPC, Romney did appoint 14 women out of his first 33 senior-level appointments, which is a reasonably impressive 42 percent. However, as I have reported before, those were almost all to head departments and agencies that he didn’t care about — and in some cases, that he quite specifically wanted to not really do anything. None of the senior positions Romney cared about — budget, business development, etc. — went to women.

Secondly, a UMass-Boston study found that the percentage of senior-level appointed positions held by women actually declined throughout the Romney administration, from 30.0% prior to his taking office, to 29.7% in July 2004, to 27.6% near the end of his term in November 2006. (It then began rapidly rising when Deval Patrick took office.)

Third, note that in Romney’s story as he tells it, this man who had led and consulted for businesses for 25 years didn’t know any qualified women, or know where to find any qualified women. So what does that say?

Well, one reason Romney did not know where to find qualified women is that Bain and the private equity field were male-dominated.His record in Massachusetts was not very good, with  “a  University of Massachusetts study showing that by November of 2006, the level of women as a percentage of senior level positions had dropped to lower than it was when Romney took office.”

Barack Obama made reference to the line while campaigning:

Obama made a passing reference Wednesday to the remark still buzzing with memes and snarky comments in the Twitterverse after last night’s match-up.

“We don’t have to collect a bunch of binders to find qualified, talented, driven young women ready to learn and teach in these fields right now,” Obama said to supporters in Mount Vernon, Iowa.

He continued: “When young women graduate, they should get equal pay for equal work. That should be a simple question to answer.”

We can’t get a straight answer from Mitt Romney on this, and many other, issues. He has been opposed to the Lilly Ledbetter Fair Pay Act from the start, even if unwilling to answer the question last night.

More Romney distortions from the debate can be found here, his obfuscations on birth control and abortion here,  and still more on why Romney’s policies are bad for womenhere.

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