Editore"s Note
Tilting at Windmills

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February 17, 2011

THE GOP OVERREACH ON ABORTION, AND THE LIKELY BACKLASH.... It's been about six weeks since House Republicans took the majority, and the ration of abortion bills to job bills is probably not in line with voters' expectations.

So far, the number of Republican bills related to lowering unemployment is zero. On the contrary, House Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio) has admitted publicly that his budget bill will force thousands of Americans workers from their jobs, on purpose. At the same time, the House GOP has pushed the odious "No Taxpayer Funding for Abortion Act," the life-threatening "Protect Life Act," and the plan to raise business taxes over their insurance plans that might cover abortions. Other proposals are on the way to cut off federal dollars to women's health care clinics that offer abortions, and to eliminate Title X funding, which Planned Parenthood depends on.

Culture warrior Rep. Joe Pitts (R-Pa.) boasted last week, "This House is more pro-life than it's ever been." That's probably true, and as it turns out, pro-choice Democrats seem rather excited about it.

Dave Weigel had a smart piece last night, after hearing DCCC Chairman Steve Israel (D-N.Y.) hammer the Republican majority for working on "redefining rape" instead of jobs.

"We need to bring out 9 million independent voters," Israel explains. "If you do a geographic analysis of them, they live in about 37 fairly suburban, moderate districts across the country. Those 9 million independent voters, in those 37 [districts], elected Republicans because Republicans said that they would, on Day One, focus on revitalizing jobs. And what did they do on Day One? They redefined rape. That is not what those independent voters expected from the new Republican majority."

This is the kind of bluster you can engage in after your opponent has dunked on himself. It will undoubtedly continue until at least Nov. 6, 2012. Abortion rights activists, whose relevance had been waning during elections fought over the war in Iraq and the Great Recession, have found a toehold in politics again. The strategy has three parts.

1) Wait for the pro-life movement, now at an apex of political power, to do something stupid.
2) Pounce on the stupid thing that it just did.
3) Repeat.

There was, not surprisingly, some pent up demand among opponents of abortion rights to get to work with the new GOP-led House, but whether they realize it or not, Republicans have overreached in a hurry. This has not only reinforced fears that the GOP doesn't care nearly as much about the economy as they pretended to during the campaign, but it's also serves as a wake-up call to the left.

The result is a backlash Republicans probably could have avoided if it hadn't gone too far, too quickly.

That's most of the plan. The rest of the plan, as Israel explains, is making life difficult for some of the pro-life Republicans who were swept into Congress last year. The theory is that voters sort of elected them by accident. And they are numerous. [...]

Take Rep. Ann Marie Buerkle, R-N.Y., one of the Democrats' favorite examples. She started in politics as a spokeswoman for Operation Rescue in the 1980s. She didn't hide this fact, but when she began running, she said she'd "be really careful not to make this a referendum on abortion." Her opponent, incumbent Rep. Dan Maffei, tried to make abortion an issue. He lost. And when Beurkle got to Congress she immediately became a prominent pro-life advocate.

As this relates to 2012, the typical mainstream voter may still not be interested in the culture war, but that's the point -- Republicans will make them interested by going to extremes, such as redefining rape.

Steve Benen 2:00 PM Permalink | Trackbacks | Comments (9)

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Who's going to tell the voters about it? Fox? Right.

Posted by: Twinky P on February 17, 2011 at 2:21 PM | PERMALINK

I dislike the term "culture war" or "culture warrior" because it is a euphemism for something that is really quite odious. From the beginning in Nixon's Southern Strategy, getting the right wing all whipped up in hatred and division against some other group is what the "culture wars" have been all about. Sure, the target changed (women's rights, gay rights, etc) but there is nothing cultured or noble about bigotry.

And on abortion, the actual public policy measures they endorse (abstinance only, making abortion iillegal, etc ) does more harm than any good. And of course, they are categorically against public policies (low poverty rates, access to medical care & contraception, good public education) that have a proven track record in reducing abortion rates.

Really, we need a new term instead of "Culture War". Supposedly Pat Buchanan boasted to Nixon was that the strategy was to divide the country, then take the bigger piece. Let's start calling it "Nixonian divide and conquer" or something like that.

Posted by: esaund on February 17, 2011 at 2:30 PM | PERMALINK

Well, it's nice that Democrats have finally decided to take advantage of the radical pro-life extremism common among Republicans.

But Republicans have been dominated by pro-life extremists for many years now. And public opinioin is still (moderately) pro-choice. Why didn't Democrats loudly call them on it, for example, last year, when it could actually have helped them keep some of their seats in the House?

Why do Democrats only come up with winning strategies when their backs are against the wall?

Posted by: Basilisc on February 17, 2011 at 2:34 PM | PERMALINK

Republicans, through their own over-reach and fanatisism, may 'abort' their own chances for government dominance in 2012.

You've gotta love them for that!

Sometimes, the only thing standing between Republicans and complete domination of the US Governement is Republicans.
It sure as Hell ain't the Democrats.
But, maybe this'll wake them up. It seems to have so far!

Posted by: c u n d gulag on February 17, 2011 at 2:41 PM | PERMALINK

I sure think the Wisconsin Governor has overreached as well, he is saying he will have a 137 million deficit at the end of the year, others are saying that a few days after he took office he gave 140 million in tax cuts to his favorite groups. This thing gets dirtier by the day.
How does it feel to be from that state and to have voted for this crook?

Posted by: j on February 17, 2011 at 2:42 PM | PERMALINK

"Culture warrior Rep. Joe Pitts (R-Pa.) boasted last week, "This House is more pro-life than it's ever been." That's probably true, and as it turns out, pro-choice Democrats seem rather excited about it."

Why do these imbeciles think abortion is the big issue that keeps America awake at night? What happened to jobs, the financial crisis, $4 trillion in tax extensions with borrowed money, two undeclared wars, energy policy, our rotting infrastructure, our dysfunctional health care system, middle class wages flatlined in real dollars since 1988, etc. Who votes for these idiots?

Posted by: max on February 17, 2011 at 4:12 PM | PERMALINK

It's a Republican War on Women. We need to hammer that theme over and over for the next year.

Posted by: Pollysi on February 17, 2011 at 4:23 PM | PERMALINK

Culture warrior Rep. Joe Pitts (R-Pa.) boasted last week, "This House is more pro-life than it's ever been." That's probably true, [...] Steve Benen

It is NOT, even REMOTELY, true. Pro Birth, yes. Pro Forced Labor, as gulag calls is, yes. Pro life? No effing way. Pro life means making sure that the woman doesn't get pregnant every 9 months, weakening herself and her babies. Pro life means she has access to healthcare (that includes financial support, if necessary). Pro life means programs which teach mothers how to take care of babies. Pro life means supporting low cost creches and preschool programs so that the mother can be reabsorbed into the work force.

Even limited to the area of reproduction, pro life means many things, mostly concerned with the well being of the mother and the child. It does not, DOES NOT, mean protecting the seed.

Posted by: exlibra on February 17, 2011 at 5:47 PM | PERMALINK

Pitts is not a culture warrior. He's a flaming idiot who speaks out both sides of his mouth and parrots repub talking points as if they actually meant something. And he has been doing this for decades since before I moved from Lancaster County back in the Dream Time. His shtick to paint himself as family friendly and then he votes against anything that actually helps families.

And then he's one of those who Jesus was talking about when He said something to the effect of "There are many who will say Lord, Lord, but I will not know them." Pitts is a C Street Family man, which tells you all you need to know about his motives.

Posted by: Texas Aggie on February 18, 2011 at 12:47 AM | PERMALINK



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