This week, we witnessed another step in the Republican party's long drawn-out national suicide:
"I've struggled with it myself for a long time, but I came to realize that life is that gift from God," Mr. Mourdock said. "And even when life begins in that horrible situation of rape, that it is something that God intended to happen."
This vile remark was made by Richard Mourdock, the Republican candidate for a U.S. Senate seat in Indiana, explaining why he wants to ban abortion even for women who suffer rape. Until now, Mourdock was best known for his defeat of the long-serving incumbent Richard Lugar in a primary. (Lugar lost the support of Republican voters for his willingness to work together with President Barack Obama to prevent the spread of nuclear weapons. Think about that one for a minute.)
Even if Mourdock were the only Republican voicing ideas like this, he couldn't be dismissed lightly - he's not some local politician from a rural backwater, after all, but the winner of a statewide primary for national elective office. But he's not the only Republican voicing ideas like this. There was, of course, Todd Akin, another Senate candidate who opined that pregnancy from "legitimate" rape is vanishingly rare because a woman's body "has ways to try to shut that whole thing down". (The obvious implication is that any woman who alleges rape but gets pregnant is probably lying about the rape.) Other Republicans have voiced similar sentiments, including former presidential candidate Rick Santorum.
Now that the Tea Party wing is fully in control of the Republican party and is replacing moderate candidates with flaming wingnuts, we're seeing ugly, misogynist sentiments like these bubble to the surface more and more often. The strain of thought that's become dominant in American conservatism is shot through with anti-woman religious beliefs which see female sexuality as a dangerous and uncontrollable force and women who exercise sexual autonomy as the epitome of evil. But the horrendous hate and retrograde sexism of these ideas is too often overlooked by voters who'll excuse anything if it's presented as the product of sincere religious beliefs.
Over at Religion Dispatches, Sarah Posner has a perfect distillation of why faith-based policy-making is destructive to democracy and humanity:
We've become far too tolerant of religious explanations and religious excuses for public policy decisions.... But really we should be questioning why politicians are given a pass when they undergird their policy positions with God's will.
Does God intend climate change, and the global catastrophe that will ensue if it's left unchecked? Does God intend that some hardworking people will make a lot of money, while the slothful will stay poor, and deserve it? Does God say taxes are wrong? Does God say women should be submissive to their husbands? Does God say slavery is sometimes justified? Does God say we should all own guns? Just because some people answer "yes" to these questions doesn't mean their interpretation of God's intentions should dictate law and policy.
Whatever happens in this presidential election (although, as I've said before, the indicators look good for President Obama's reelection), the long-term demographic trends of America spell doom for the Republican party as it currently exists. Their voting base is overwhelmingly older, white, male and religious, even as this group makes up a smaller and smaller part of the electorate as a whole. I've written about the rise of nonreligious Millennials as a voting bloc; there's also the steady growth of non-white voters, especially Latinos, which promises to make the U.S. a "majority-minority" nation.
But the Akin and Mourdock stories suggest yet another factor. Women make up a slim majority of the electorate, and they already vote Democratic by large margins, but the Republicans seem hell-bent on doing everything they can to pry that gender gap open even wider. They're remarkably open about their desire to bring back the days when women's bodies were men's property, to be used and disposed of as men saw fit; and they seem not to understand that women have the power, if they choose, to sweep them permanently out of office and into the dustbin of the past. Let's just hope that there are enough women who are listening to what they're really saying.
Image credit: The Library of Congress on Flickr
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