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Morra Aarons-Mele

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Getting Out the Slut Vote in 2012

Posted: 03/02/2012 12:44 pm

On Thursday, the dangerous Blunt Amendment failed to pass the U.S. Senate. The amendment, which would have enabled employers to pick and choose what services they would cover under insurance on moral grounds, was electorally unwise at best and reckless at worst.

The Blunt Amendment highlights how far off the deep end some Republicans have gone in recent months. In my home state of Massachusetts, Sen. Scott Brown ran radio ads comparing himself to a Kennedy, claiming that former Sen. Ted Kennedy also supported moral exemptions for employers offering insurance coverage. Sen. Brown has refused to pull the ads, even after urging from Sen. Kennedy's son, Patrick. I'm pretty new to Boston but there's one thing I've learned: Never, ever take the Kennedy name in vain.

The Blunt Amendment is only the latest absurdity in recent weeks concerning attacks on women's health care. Rush Limbaugh began a nasty rant against the law student and women's health advocate Sandra Fluke, calling Fluke a "slut" and a "prostitute." Then Limbaugh added, "So Miss Fluke, and the rest of you Feminazis, here's the deal. If we are going to pay for your contraceptives... We want something for it. We want you to post the videos online so we can all watch."

I think a lot of women looked at this brave and earnest young woman and thought, "Good lord, if Sandra Fluke is a slut, I'm one too! Bring out the slut vote!"

It's just another day in the 21st century, another heinous example of public misogyny. It's not hard to feel that some on the right are committing a purposeful war against women. They are outliers, but they are able to command a lot of air time. I think many women in this country long ago accepted they are doing just that and they've sort of given up fighting against the misogyny. Many women are just feeling sad and defeated.

On the other hand, it's hard not for Democratic strategists, I'd imagine, to rub their hands together in glee. What a fantastic narrative that's emerging! Can Rush, Rick, Roy and Mitt go any further? As I said last week, bring it!

Yes, these attacks on women's health are obvious, and Rush is an easy baddie, but he's not alone. The Women's Media Center makes a strong case that the explosion of the super PAC and millions upon millions of dollars being spent on television quashes women's voices on air, where most Americans still get their political information.

According to the Women's Media Center, men with an anti-woman agenda are controlling Republican Super PAC campaigns, thus driving more airtime for the anti-contraception bunch. And now, with the raging debate around birth control being dominated by conservative men, it is clear that women's health in this country is at an even greater risk. If a small group controls the dialogue around these issues at every level and the facts about the importance of birth control, cancer screenings, and reproductive choice can lose ground to extreme ideological fantasy.

And it's not just one or two extreme candidates espousing these views; it's the whole lot. Yesterday when asked about the Blunt Amendment, Mitt Romney said that he "wasn't going there," that he didn't support the amendment. Just minutes later he decided he misunderstood the question and that he did support the amendment. There is not a single Republican candidate who publicly supports women's reproductive rights. This becomes all the more terrifying when considering the sheer number of ads in print, on TV and radio, and online that are currently bombarding the American public and will continue to bombard us well into next year. Yes, these extremist views will help Democrats, but at what price? How much further right from the center are we pushing political dialogue in this country when we're debating whether or insurance companies should cover birth control? How many more women's voices will we remove from the debate?

During the Senate vote on the Blunt Amendment, Sen. Bernie Sanders tweeted: "If the Senate was 83 women and 17 men instead of the other way around, #BluntAmendment would never have made it to the Senate floor." And for the most part, he's right. This is a critical time to elect women like Elizabeth Warren to the Senate, especially in light of moderate Republican Sen. Olympia Snowe's recent announcement that she will not be seeking re-election (also the only Republican to vote against the Blunt Amendment).

Radical Republicans, hyper-focused on a race to the right, don't see the wall they're running toward. Perhaps it's true that primary voters tend to place themselves at more ideological extremes, but the same is not true of the broad electorate who will vote in the general election. Rush and his ilk are kidding themselves if they think most Republican and Independent women, who may otherwise identify as pro-life, are going to fall in line with these dangerous extremist policies come November.

Kaitlyn Dowling contributed to this piece.

 

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