Commentary

The GOP’s Death Wish

Georgetown Law Center student Sandra Fluke testified February 23, 2012 about women's health and contraception. She had been blocked from testifying at a House Oversight and Government Reform Committee the previous week on the 2010 health care law regulation requiring employers and insurers provide contraception coverage to their employees. Committee members noted that the previous hearing only had men as witnesses, leading Democratic leaders to call a separate hearing to let a woman's voice be part of the discussion."

The Republican Party must have a death wish.

It cannot win a national election without the support of (a) Latinos (b) Women (c) African-Americans, and (d) Independents.

Yet The Grand Old Party appears to be doing everything in its power to alienate these voters forever.

A couple of weeks ago, when California Representative Darrell Issa convened an all-male panel on birth control, he contended that the issue was not women’s health, but “religious freedom.” So he refused to invite Sandra Fluke, a young law student to speak.

Later, furious Democrats held their own hearing. As Diane Roberts recounts it in The Guardian, Fluke testified there that while Georgetown, the Roman Catholic-run university she attends, provides some health insurance, it does not include contraception – and the pill can cost $1,000 per year. Women take contraception for a variety of medical reasons, not only to prevent pregnancy, she said, recounting the story of a friend, a fellow student, who needed the pill to treat cysts. She couldn’t afford it, got sick and had to have an ovary removed.

Fluke’s reward for being candid? A profane and uninformed trashing by potty-mouth Rush Limbaugh, who called her a prostitute and a slut because she wanted to get paid (presumably insurance premiums) for having sex. He also demanded that she post videos of her sexual encounters on the Internet “so we could all see them.” Limbaugh lost a ton of sponsors, but conservative bloggers, radio interviewers and Fox News continued their attack on Fluke.

And the response of Republic Presidential candidates and their funders? Well, frontrunner Mitt Romney said meekly of Limbaugh’s insults, “it’s not the language I would have used.” Newt Gingrich blamed “the media” for exploiting the story and said there were far more important issues – Barack Obama’s “war on religion”, for example. Santorum’s Daddy Warbucks reminisced on television that “back in the day” women used aspirin to keep from getting pregnant: “The gals put it between their knees. Santorum himself described contraception as “a license to do things in a sexual realm that is counter to how things are supposed to be.” Pennsylvania Gov. Tom Corbett said about a bill that would require ultrasounds for women seeking to have abortions, that those who didn’t want to see the fetal images could “just … close your eyes.”

And in another big GOP idea that will further endear the front-runner to women and independents, Romney’s is cheering up his Republican caucus in Congress by proposing to “get rid of” Planned Parenthood, which provides vital health services to women all over the country. Its abortion practice represents less than three per cent of its total care, and no federal tax dollars are involved in that part of the practice.  For many women, Planned Parenthood is their sole health care provider. So its destruction would be exactly what you’d propose if your mission was to completely lose your last vestige of credibility with women voters.

And Newt Gingrich’s view that African American kids have no model of the value of work because of the physical and familial environments they grow up in. His solution: Hire the kids to work as janitors in the public schools. Predictably, this from the GOP’s self-appointed “man of big ideas,” will not win him any awards from the NAACP.

There is also ample evidence that the vibes emanating from the three Presidential wannabees is having negative consequences for many of those who are on the so-called “down ticket” – Republicans who are running for lesser offices ranging from US Senator to town manager.

Case in point: The Republican candidate running for former Rep. Gabrielle Gifford’s (D-AZ) seat on Friday responded to Santorum’s opposition to women serving in combat by saying she wanted to “kick him in the jimmy.”

Now, as for the Latino vote, the Republican Party has done zilch, zero, nada, to even acknowledge their existence. Gingrich has called Spanish “the language of the ghettos.”

Santorum, campaigning in Puerto Rico, said there could be no Statehood without “fluent command of English.”

However, Gingrich apparently favors some version of the Dream Act, while Santorum and Romney have both taken a hard line on immigration reform, as if to seal their death pact with this constituency.

It would seem that the wingnuts of the GOP have gotten snookered, first, by believing their own far-right propaganda about Obama’s birthplace, birth certificate, and suchlike, and second, by the demographic changes that have been taking place over the last decade.

Despite their presence in 2008, it doesn’t seem that Republicans understand or accept the reality that they will soon be presenting their ideas to a nation in which their traditional majority has become a minority.

More important, as pointed out by Tom Curry, national affairs writer with MSNBC, “The potential clout of Latino voters has become as familiar a story line as the gender gap. But what might make 2012 different is the edge Latinos could give President Barack Obama and the Democrats in battleground states which aren’t thought of as immigration portals or left-leaning strongholds.”

Curry notes that the 2010 Census revealed that in the past decade the adult Latino population has nearly doubled in Nevada, Virginia, and North Carolina. “Also, it’s increased by 60 percent or more in two Midwestern battleground states, Indiana and Ohio,” he says, adding:

“Obama won all five of those states in 2008 — two of them by very narrow margins — and they are likely to be decisive in next year’s balloting.”

“What the Census figures suggest is that the road to White House in 2012 may well go through the Hispanic community” said Frank Sharry, executive director of America’s Voice, an advocacy group that favors allowing illegal immigrants to work toward U.S. citizenship,” Curry says.

In Nevada, for example, Latinos were about 11 percent of registered voters in 2008, according to the Census’s Current Population Survey. About 90 percent of those registered actually voted, and according to exit polls, 76 percent of them cast ballots for Obama.

Likewise in Colorado, where Latinos comprised 9 percent of registered voters, with 87 percent of those individuals voting on Election Day. Obama won about three out of five Colorado Latino voters. .Nevada and Colorado were among the nine states that went for George W. Bush in 2004 but for Obama in 2008.

Based on 2008 exit poll data, Curry concludes, “if Latino voters were subtracted from the total, Obama would have lost two of the states that he won: New Mexico and Indiana. Even without those two states, he would still have won far more than the 270 electoral votes needed to win the White House, but those voters helped create a larger margin.”

No election is ever a slam-dunk. Voting day is months away, and – overnight – something could happen that could change the entire electoral calculus for November.

But even with that huge caveat, it’s difficult to see how the Republican Party – at least the one we used to know – which has so many really smart and well-informed members, could have ended up with three substandard candidates and a seemingly blissful ignorance of the societal factors that are likely to seal their fate.

William Fisher has managed economic development programs in the Middle East and elsewhere for the US State Department and the US Agency for International Development. He served in the international affairs area in the Kennedy Administration and now writes on subjects ranging from human rights to foreign affairs for a number of newspapers and online journals.

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1 Response for “The GOP’s Death Wish”

  1. annemarie kreybig says:

    Somehow feels like a “kick in the pants” into a retrograde time!

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