The Caterpillars Are Winning
I’ve written before about the “Republican War on Women”. It’s a meme, to be sure, but one that seems to have some stickiness or even truthiness to it, because key Republicans keep doing things that are so gloriously tone-deaf.
Instead of concentrating on jobs, the Republicans in the House concentrated on sex. House committees investigating the conflict between women’s previously established right to contraceptive services and the desires of the Catholic Church refused to hear testimony from women. When Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi held shadow committee meeting with Georgetown law student Sandra Fluke testifying, de facto Republican spokesman Rush Limbaugh called Fluke a “slut”.
Faced with the ensuing controversy, Republican National Committee chairman called the idea of a “Republican War on Women” a false and pervasive meme, likening it to a mythical “War on Caterpillars”. Regardless of what he meant, the caterpillars were enraged.
Even a Nixon-appointed Federal judge failed to see the sense in a suit filed by several states’ Republican Attorneys General which advanced the argument of Federal “coercion” to drive women towards contraception that they did not want and were morally opposed to. I’ve written before how the provision of contraceptive services is required by The Pregnancy Discrimination Act of 1978, not by some imagined special feature of Obamacare. Yet, that hasn’t stopped Congressional Republicans from wrapping themselves in the flag and carrying the cross before them. Sometimes their religious zeal has outstripped their common sense.
Freshman Representative Kevin Yoder (R-Overland Park, KS) went on an American Israel Public Affairs Committee (AIPAC)-sponsored trip (supposedly for Congressional fact-finding). I’ve never been compelled to disrobe when visiting the holiest religious sites on Earth. That’s why I find it hard to explain why Yoder apparently thinks that mixed-gender skinny-dipping in the Sea of Galilee is a damn fine idea. He has a 100 percent solid voting record from National Right to Life, including votes against Planned Parenthood funding. His moral rectitude was evident for all to see, along with his primary sexual characteristics. By current standards, Yoder is also more fiscally conservative than the average Republican; his fiscal combined DW-NOMINATE is +0.574, significantly to the right of the average +0.478.
(Note that the DW-NOMINATE scores listed in this article are combined, meaning they use the scale designed to be used between the House and Senate; these numbers appear to be more moderate than the separate DW-NOMINATE scores used with just the House, but it’s just a different scale, and they are therefore not comparable to the scores we have used in previous articles. Why do we use the combined scale here? Because the separate-scale numbers have yet to be published for the 112th Congress.)
Republican Vice-Presidential candidate and House Budget Committee chair Paul Ryan (R-Janesville, WI) voted for a Federal-level “personhood” amendment. (I’ve written before about these amendments, which would ban any contraceptive medication or procedure that acts after conception, and may well make each miscarriage a potential homicide to be investigated.) Like Yoder, he voted to defund Planned Parenthood. Like Yoder, Ryan is more fiscally conservative than the average Republican; his combined fiscal DW-NOMINATE is +0.567.
Women’s advocacy groups, such as Emily’s List, reacted to Ryan’s candidacy with predictable outrage.
Romney spokeswoman Amanda Henneberg shot back:
This is a desperate attempt by President Obama’s allies to distract from his failed economic policies, which have been particularly devastating to women. Hundreds of thousands of women have lost their jobs; poverty among women is highest in nearly two decades; and half of recent graduates can’t find a good job. Middle-class families have struggled in the Obama economy, and Mitt Romney and Paul Ryan have a plan to strengthen the middle class and get our country back on the right track.
Now cometh Missouri Representative Todd Akin (R-Wildwood, MO), who (at least until yesterday) was favored to win over incumbent Missouri Senator Claire McCaskill, with a five-point Akin advantage in the Real Clear Politics average (with the usual sparse polling data). For example, in Michael’s latest Senate Watch, he rates the Missouri Senate race as “Leans Republican”. Akin is an engineer and a member of the House Science Committee. He’s leveraged that position to invent a new system of human reproductive biology, claiming that women who are raped release Magic Unicorn Dust from their ovaries which stops conception in its tracks:
It seems to me, from what I understand from doctors, [conception from rape is] really rare. If it’s a legitimate rape, the female body has ways to try to shut that whole thing down. But let’s assume that maybe that didn’t work or something: I think there should be some punishment, but the punishment ought to be of the rapist, and not attacking the child.
Confronted with the rank stupidity of this remark, Akin’s campaign website tried to walk back the quote but failed to follow The First Rule of Holes. His campaign released a statement, which reads in full:
As a member of Congress, I believe that working to protect the most vulnerable in our society is one of my most important responsibilities, and that includes protecting both the unborn and victims of sexual assault. In reviewing my off-the-cuff remarks, it’s clear that I misspoke in this interview and it does not reflect the deep empathy I hold for the thousands of women who are raped and abused every year. Those who perpetrate these crimes are the lowest of the low in our society and their victims will have no stronger advocate in the Senate to help ensure they have the justice they deserve.
I recognize that abortion, and particularly in the case of rape, is a very emotionally charged issue. But I believe deeply in the protection of all life and I do not believe that harming another innocent victim is the right course of action. I also recognize that there are those who, like my opponent, support abortion and I understand I may not have their support in this election.
But I also believe that this election is about a wide-range of very important issues, starting with the economy and the type of country we will be leaving our children and grandchildren. We’ve had 42 straight months of unacceptably high unemployment, trillion dollar deficits, and Democratic leaders in Washington who are focused on growing government, instead of jobs. That is my primary focus in this campaign and while there are those who want to distract from that, knowing they cannot defend the Democrats’ failed economic record of the last four years, that will continue to be my focus in the months ahead.
Instead of admitting he just Made Stuff Up, he claims he merely failed to capture his empathetic spirit in his remarks.
Akin’s combined DW-NOMINATE is +0.623, to the right of Reps. Ryan and Yoder.
To give the reader an idea of where these three Republican House members stand relative to their colleagues, here’s a graph by DW-NOMINATE developer Keith Poole which he posted on his blog. All three of these caterpillar-hating Representatives lie well to the right of the mean Republican House member, which puts them amongst the most conservative politicians in the country. It would seem, based on this evidence, that hating caterpillars is highly correlated with DW-NOMINATE.
President Obama has a 14-point lead among women in Virginia, a 23-point lead among women in Wisconsin, and an eight-point lead among women in Colorado, according to an August 8 Quinnipiac/CBS/New York Times poll. I don’t know what the President’s lead among caterpillars in swing states is. But based on what I’m seeing here, I’m thinking Reince Priebus might want to take another look at that caterpillar problem he’s having.
- Concerned Women For America Mocks Sandra Fluke (huffingtonpost.com)
- State Drops All Charges Against Planned Parenthood (huffingtonpost.com)
- How Not to Figure Out Republicans (esquire.com)
- GOP Senate nominee: Women don’t get pregnant from ‘legitimate’ rapes (rawstory.com)
- Missouri Republican: ‘Legitimate rape’ rarely causes pregnancy (firstread.nbcnews.com)
- What Happens Next on Akin (thepage.time.com)
- Is Todd Akin Toast In Missouri? (decoded.nationaljournal.com)