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July 16, 2014 1:34 PM Being (Republican) and Nothingness

By Ed Kilgore

I’ve never much been enamored of the label “nihilists” (probably most associated with Jonathan Chait’s analysis) for today’s radicalized conservatives, because it suggests they quite literally don’t believe in anything other than destructive activity. I’m persuaded they believe in a lot of things, most importantly the restoration of an imagined prelapsarian paradise of traditional culture, laissez-faire capitalism, and in a pinch, “state’s rights.” That does involve blowing up a lot of things, but it’s not nihilism.

But the gambit Senate Republicans are undertaking (per a report from HuffPost’s Laura Bassett) in response to Democratic legislation seeking to overturn the Hobby Lobby decision is hard to describe as anything other than, well, nothingness:

In response to a proposal by Senate Democrats to require for-profit employers to cover birth control in their health plans, Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) said Tuesday that Senate Republicans plan to offer their own bill requiring employers to allow women to buy their own birth control.
“We plan to introduce legislation this week that says no employer can block any employee from legal access to her FDA-approved contraceptives,” McConnell told reporters. “There’s no disagreement on that fundamental point.”
The GOP bill would change nothing, because women can already legally access contraceptives approved by the Food and Drug Administration….
Sen. Kelly Ayotte (R-N.H.), joining McConnell at his press conference, said the bill is intended to make the political point that “women have the same rights today to access contraception as they did before Obamacare was passed, and before the Hobby Lobby decision.”

It’s rare to hear a Senator admit a piece of legislation is designed simply to make a political point, but there you have it. The point itself is ludicrous: Democrats have not suggested Hobby Lobby will impose a national birth control ban. They are instead arguing that contraception coverage is a basic preventive health measure that is legitimately part of an employee’s earned compensation, even if the employer alleges to believe (contrary to the overwhelming weight of medical and scientific opinion) that contraceptives are responsible for a Holocaust of microscopic zygotes that are ontologically the same as you or me.

I wonder if this zen approach to legislative messaging represents a trend. Next perhaps we’ll see legislation banning slavery in response to Democratic minimum wage proposals (after all, failing to lift the minimum wage doesn’t mean workers aren’t free to work for peanuts, does it?).

In any event, while I don’t think conservatives are necessarily nihilists, I’m not so sure about the front-man for this bizarre exercise, Mitch McConnell. If he really believes in anything other than the perpetuation of his own power, it’s not immediately evident from his manner or record. For all I know, he worships The Lord Satan in his Capitol hideaway. He certainly is the master of the devilish legislative charade.

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.

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