Political Animal


April 05, 2012 1:15 PM Caterpillar Wars

By Ed Kilgore

You never know how these things are going to turn out, but I get the feeling that RNC Chairman Reince Priebus’ comparison of Democratic claims of a GOP “war on women” to a hypothetical “war on caterpillars” could be an iconic moment in the 2012 election cycle. No, it won’t necessarily change any votes right away, but it is likely to become a convenient symbol of the cavalier attitude the GOP has towards “women’s issues.”

More immediately, Priebus’ remarks are an illustration of how completely Republicans have tied themselves into knots on cultural issues. To hear him today, GOPers never, ever talk about anything but the economy and the fiscal situation. Not two months ago, of course, they were tripping over each other to scream about the administration’s contraception coverage mandate as a central campaign issue—nay, a veritable “war on religion.” Did we all just imagine that, or were all the militant words somehow an invention of Democrats or the MSM? And are all the continuing Republican efforts at the state level to restrict abortion rights and harass women—er, excuse me, caterpillars—with hoops they must jump through to exercise those rights somehow a fiction?

What’s really going on, of course, is that Republicans want to divide up the electorate and offer different messages to different segments of voters. If you are, say, a Catholic Democrat or independent who leans left on economic issues but is ambivalent about abortion and/or defensive towards the prerogatives of your church, then by God this election is about the “war on religion.” But if the close association of the GOP with theocrats gives you the willies, then all this culture-talk is an invention of the Democrat Party and the MSM, because Republicans never, ever think about anything but jobs, jobs, jobs, budget, budget, budget, and freedom, freedom, freedom.

There’s nothing particularly novel about utilizing targeted and sometimes conflicting messages to different audiences, but it would be nice if GOPers stopped squealing like little piggies every time they get called on it, and projecting their dishonesty onto everyone else. Maybe the reaction of “caterpillars” to Priebus’ fable will teach them a valuable lesson.

Ed Kilgore is a contributing writer to the Washington Monthly. He is managing editor for The Democratic Strategist and a senior fellow at the Progressive Policy Institute. Find him on Twitter: @ed_kilgore.


  • K in VA on April 05, 2012 1:28 PM:

    Caterpillars become beautiful butterflies. Republicans do not. Not ever. The End.

  • Danp on April 05, 2012 1:29 PM:

    Maybe, by caterpillars, Priebus means right leaning climate change experts.

  • Ian A on April 05, 2012 1:29 PM:

    Perhaps it is the case that the GOP is the party of (particularly ugly) caterpillars, while the Dems are the party of butterflies.

  • Bokonon on April 05, 2012 1:33 PM:

    They really have complete contempt for the American voting public, don't they?

  • Burr Deming on April 05, 2012 1:34 PM:

    Any doubts about Republican attitudes toward women should be calmed by the statue being erected here in Missouri right in the rotunda of the state Capitol.

  • stevio on April 05, 2012 1:38 PM:

    Repulicant's know their low information voter mass can't figure-out what day it is much less policy that is subtle. It's too much to expect them to own a modicum of intellectual curiosity to figure it out. It's why Mississippi will always vote for a G.O.P.er.

    Evolution , for some reason, never got beyond 1846 there. Hate always trumps reason and begets irrational non-resolution to problems like being the only industrial nation with no universal health coverage.

    I guess no one ever gets sick in Alabama, Georgia, Tennessee, Louisiana, and Mississippi. Those lucky, lucky,stupid people. It's why we still have war, millions uninsured and nincompoops in this country.

  • Anonymous on April 05, 2012 1:41 PM:

    but it is likely to become a convenient symbol of the cavalier attitude the GOP has towards “women’s issues.”

    Before we get too smug, let's not forget how easily women's issues are thrown under the bus by plenty of Dems.

  • martin on April 05, 2012 1:42 PM:

    Sorry, Anonymous is me

  • Robert on April 05, 2012 1:44 PM:

    "They really have complete contempt for the American [voting] public, don't they?"

    Now that's fixed.

    They think we are stupid simply because the MSM is stupid.

  • bkmn on April 05, 2012 2:07 PM:

    Blather, Reince, repeat.

  • Gandalf on April 05, 2012 2:24 PM:

    And so what are those instances that you speak of martin? I have a feeling we're taliking about another apples to oranges comparison.

  • latts on April 05, 2012 2:32 PM:

    I guess no one ever gets sick in Alabama, Georgia, Tennessee, Louisiana, and Mississippi.

    Sure they do, but most still have insurance and feel that being insured is evidence that they're good, smart, worthwhile people instead of the shiftless and irredeemable Them. The [white/Christian] ones who fall through the cracks are validated because they're also good people who the system failed while coddling the undeserving. And the [not white/Christian] ones who are pushed into the ditch are used to being seen as the problem, so they manage as best they can while performing the important function of allowing ordinary-at-best people either self-righteousness or opportunities to show Jesus how generous they really are, depending on whether the situation inspires action or contempt.

    In the south, all political roads lead to the problems being liberals' fault.

  • Equal Opportunity Cynic on April 05, 2012 2:47 PM:


    "Repulicant's know their low information voter mass can't figure-out what day it is much less policy that is subtle."

    No doubt, but does "their low information voter mass" include the median voter or just the 27% who sit around all worked up over the latest from the faux-outrage machine? We know the Republicans will carry Alabama and Utah; how is this going to help them carry Florida or Wisconsin or Ohio?

  • Stephen Stralka on April 05, 2012 2:48 PM:

    The longer they keep not getting it, they happier I'll be. It's not like the zealots are going to stop pushing these anti-woman measures in the meanwhile, so the Republicans are going to be able to pretend none of this is actually happening. They're going to be stuck trying to convince millions of women that a mandatory unnecessary transvaginal ultrasound is just another way of saying "We love you."

  • Mitch on April 05, 2012 3:02 PM:


    "Sure they do, but most still have insurance..."

    In my experience, most of them do not have health insurance, particularly the people at the low-end of the economic scale. I am from the South, and only a minority of my family is provided insurance by their employers. Indeed, many of the larger employers (retail and food service in particular) hire only part time workers for the specific reason of avoiding benefits & insurance.

    The people don't care about this because (A) God will take care of them, (B) there's always the emergency room when they need it, and (C) government programs, like Medicaid, CHIP, etc.

    And, yeah, most of the people are too clueless to realize that the GOP wants to kill those programs, or that E.R. care is the worst possible option.

  • Peter C on April 05, 2012 3:04 PM:

    Well, they CERTAINLY are waging a war against women, but with 'Clean Coal', 'Drill Baby, Drill', 'Defunding the EPA', 'Selling off public lands', 'Fracking', 'Climate-change denial', and their overall contempt for science, the future for caterpillars is looking pretty bleak too if Republicans maintain or increase their power.

    Those caterpillars better pray that 'the rapture' solves all their problems too, because otherwise, my impression was that they wouldn't necessarily fare too well in the scenario painted by the Book of Revelation. Republicans (when they have control) don't worry overmuch about 'collateral damage', especially if they it's someone else's collateral.

  • Joe Friday on April 05, 2012 3:12 PM:

    "Maybe the reaction of 'caterpillars' to Priebus' fable will teach them a valuable lesson."

    Ah, instead of, "The Worm Has Turned !", it will be, "THE CATERPILLAR HAS TURNED !".

  • latts on April 05, 2012 4:03 PM:


    Just glancing at Wikipedia, it seems like Georgia was the only state mentioned that actually had an uninsured rate of over 20% in 2009 (obviously, there have been changes since then). Even in the absolute worst states for health-insurance access, a clear majority has some kind of coverage.

    I'm from the south as well, and on an anecdotal basis, most of the uninsured Republicans I've known have been temporary cases. Based on voting stats in which the poorest people in even deep-red states vote for Democrats, I'd guess that the real screamers are either relatively comfortable-- most of my high-school classmates are now doing okay as nurses or teachers or roofers or working for government (!) somehow, or expect that their situation is a fluke that will be corrected (don't forget that brown people get awesome care for free, in their imaginations), with the odds mostly being against their needing significant care in the interim. Hell, my entire wingnut extended family is mostly comfortable thanks to the federal government; between base contract employment and widow's benefits and disability and the VA, they're a lot more stable than mere income brackets would indicate. And oh, they're completely certain that it's all because they're especially deserving, but that's another story.

  • boatboy_srq on April 05, 2012 4:16 PM:

    RNC Chairman Reince Priebus’ comparison of Democratic claims of a GOP “war on women” to a hypothetical “war on caterpillars”

    This. Is what happens when you get so wrapped up in the Humanity of Teh Baybeez that any reference to larvae gets close enough to dogwhistle for you.

    Unless, of course, the current crop of GOP bigwigs really were hatched from eggs.

    Captcha: previously ooderle.

  • exlibra on April 05, 2012 4:48 PM:

    One is a wildlife specimen in a fur, and the other is ditto. How can poor Reince Priebus (RNC PR BS, after all the vowels are removed) tell the difference?

  • Prattle On, Boyo on April 05, 2012 5:02 PM:

    The Republican party is so bereft of anything substantive or meaningful to the average person who must work for a living that the best idea they can concoct about fixing the economy and stopping the hemorrhage of good paying jobs that they export OUT of the country to 3rd world shit holes is to blame women for using contraception and working outside of the home. *This* is the sum total of the party's platform and the rubes are falling for it. The Democrats are no better and choose instead to distract their disciples by using the Floriduh shooting incident to disarm the public and otherwise neuter the 2nd Amendment.

  • Mitch on April 05, 2012 5:46 PM:


    That 20% figure is about the same as in my home state. I think it was 18% in KY last time I checked. In my experience, nearly ALL of those low-income, uninsured individuals in the South are Republican voters. Those were the people I was talking about. By "most of them" I meant most of the die-hard conservatives that I know; sorry if I did not make that clear. I have never noticed that the poor had any sort of Democratic leaning in my home area—except among minorities. Quite the opposite, the few Dem voters that I know back home tend to be more affluent and better educated than the Wal-Mart employed masses.

    My experience is a bit different than yours, though. Most of my high school classmates are certainly not doing well for themselves. The same is true for my family, who have always been minimum wage workers. Like you, though, my friends and family who are doing well tend to be benefiting for the government in one way or another.

    The most rabid anti-government conservative in my family (and one of the few with a good job) has NEVER worked for anyone but Uncle Sam. First he worked 20 years in the military, and now a nice Post Office job; and he blames the cuts to the USPS on Obama and the Dems, of course.

    These people don't just exist on a different world; they're in an altogether different reality.

  • Doug on April 05, 2012 10:06 PM:

    Maybe it's me, but I'm hoping Republicans NEVER learn!
    The more they screw up, then screw up the "walk-back", THEN screw the walk-back from THAT, the greater the chance more people; ie, voters, will catch on to the fact that if a Republican has his/her mouth open - he/she's lying.
    (There WERE other options for that open-mouth reference, but...)

  • mishanti2 on April 05, 2012 10:19 PM:

    As a woman who always votes the GOP crap really pisses me off. Yes we care about the economy, jobs,but also the environment,health care, and all sorts of issues. BUT the GOP can't keep introducing all these ridiclous bills to keep us married and pregnant and uneducated.
    My niece who a couple years ago was spouting anti Obama stuff she heard told me today that she is now voting for him and she considers herself a "pro-choice anti-abortion" woman. A woman who would love that no one ever need an abortion but knows that there are women in all sorts of circumstances who need or decide to have one.
    I am an RN and spent a decade in the Army. I am so fed up with these attacks on the Democratic Party, Obama and all of us women who don't fall for the GOP party lines.

  • mishanti2 on April 05, 2012 10:20 PM:

    Did NOT mean I vote for the GOP crap. I vote in every election and always for a non GOP/TP candidate.