A week before the 2008 election, in the milk aisle of a Manhattan supermarket, I ran into the only man I know who is descended from a signer of the Constitution.
Fool that I am, I turned the conversation to politics.
"Because you don't want your taxes to go up?"
I'd been hearing this for months. That's not surprising; I live in what may be the most privileged zip code in New York. My six-year-old daughter was with me, smiling, happy, innocent. She was unaware of the implications of this conversation. But I saw them, and very clearly.
And I snapped.
At forty pounds, my daughter was easy to lift and hold right against the poor man's -- okay, the rich man's --- face.
Then I asked him: "Who do you think should pay for the last eight years -- her?"
No answer was forthcoming.
With another election looming, I'm hardened to the reality that the single issue for the Republicans I talk to is their personal tax rate. What makes me crazy is when I hear that line from Republican men -- smart, well informed, successful men -- who are fathers of daughters. And, once again, I feel myself on the verge of jerking my now-sixty pound daughter aloft.
This time, I want to shout: "Would you really trade your daughter's reproductive freedom for... a tax cut?"
And the thing is, they would. Not that they'd see it that way -- these days, who takes the long view about anything? Well, Supreme Court Justices do. Ruth Bader Ginsburg, at 79, has no plans to retire before she's 82. Antonin Scalia, at 76, will sit on the Court until the ultimate chief justice summons him. Anthony Kennedy, 76, and Stephen Breyer, 74, haven't scheduled their exit interviews. But life happens. It is possible that the next president will appoint as many as four Justices. And if Mitt Romney is that president, he will appoint judges who will vote to overturn Roe v. Wade.
But a Republican president isn't essential to the anti-choice cause. Consider the state elections of 2010. Where Republicans came to power, their first priority seemed to be passing "personhood" legislation that gives human status to a fertilized egg. Those laws would threaten in vitro fertilization, the morning-after pill and most forms of birth control. No personhood laws have been passed yet, but Republican-led states have found other ways to limit women's choices, like requiring women who are contemplating abortion to submit to invasive and unnecessary examinations and targeting family planning clinics with such onerous regulations they'll be forced to close.
It's a conversation-ender to point out to Republican fathers of daughters that most of the successful politicians in their party hold views about women that would be applauded by the Taliban. That's crazy talk, and these are enlightened men. They don't endorse honor killing, don't want enforced chastity for their daughters. This is just about taxes, about saving money they can pass on to their kids.
If only life were that simple. Republicans may be able to put a price tag on the death of reproductive autonomy, but women famously have minds of their own. Decades from now, if the Republicans have their way, I can picture daughters of Republicans bluntly asking their fathers: "You traded my reproductive freedom for... a tax cut?"
What I can't imagine is their fathers' responses.