Saturday, October 27, 2012

Romney, Rape and the Republicans

Hi all, sorry for my long absence. I have been busily posting political thoughts over on Facebook and getting into lots of conversations but have not gotten around to posting here for much too long.

But now that the race is near the end and there is a very real possibility that Romney might manage to win the presidency with his sudden turnaround to Mr. Moderate, I felt I needed to write more about what a Romney presidency would mean.

It seems Romney's plan all along was to veer hard right for the primaries and then, as one of his advisers memorably said, use the "Etch-a-Sketch" and get rid of all that in time for the fall campaign when moderates and independents become important in the race. At the time, the comment was seen as a gaffe, but it turns out that is exactly what he had in mind all along. And the Democrats didn't see it coming. No doubt that is one reason President Obama seemed so flummoxed in that first debate; he came prepared with all kinds of anti-far-right rhetoric and there was Romney, blithely making statements supporting moderate positions on subjects he had previously been "severely conservative."

Or at least, he made it seem that way. His dissembling was particularly noticeable in his claims about his stance on health care. Contraception? Oh, he's for it. All women should have access to contraception. But he, and unfortunately, President Obama, did not point out that the whole difference was the President's plan requires women's insurance to cover contraception and Romney's plan would not.

Pre-existing conditions? Oh, yes, a Romney plan would cover those. But of course he didn't say that his plan was simply a return to the current situation we already have - people who have already had insurance can continue being covered despite pre-existing conditions. It doesn't help anyone who hasn't been insured already, although the individual states could choose to cover them - again, no change from current policy. The pre-existing conditions lie was such a whopper his spokespeople had to explain it after the debate - when all the undecided voters had stopped paying attention.

So who is the real Mitt Romney? Apparently there isn't one. Mitt Romney is whoever he needs to be to get elected. The real question is, who are his masters? Who is he beholden to? It seems pretty obvious - The far right. Grover Norquist. The Tea Party. Right-wing evangelic Christians.

Heck, Grover Norquist himself said it doesn't really matter who is president as long as he signs the legislation that comes to his desk. And, if he wins, that person would be Romney.
"All we have to do is replace Obama. We are not auditioning for fearless leader. We don't need a president to tell us in what direction to go. We know what direction to go. We want the Ryan budget... We just need a president to sign this stuff."
So whatever Mitt's real beliefs, if he has them, he will be kowtowing to the far right end of his party. He chose Paul Ryan as a running mate to do just that. Ryan's positions are what are "severely conservative." Ryan's proposed budget would change the tax structure, lowering the top bracket to 25% from 35%, as well as making Medicare into a voucher program and making Medicaid into a block grant program administered solely by the states.

Romney has distanced himself from the Ryan budget, coming out with his own budget. However, his budget includes a large increase in military spending, as well as lower taxes, which he said could be covered by getting rid of unidentified loopholes. According to the Center on Budget Policy and Priorities, in order for Romney's budget to work, it would require cuts in many programs that help the elderly, veterans, disabled people and poor children.
"For the most part, Governor Romney has not outlined cuts in specific programs.  But if policy­makers repealed health reform (the Affordable Care Act, or ACA) and exempted Social Security from cuts, as Romney has suggested, and cut Medicare, Medicaid, and all other entitlement and discretionary programs by the same percentage to meet Romney’s overall spending cap and defense spending target, then they would have to cut non-defense programs other than Social Security by 22 percent in 2016 and 34 percent in 2022...  If they exempted Medicare from cuts for this period, the cuts in other programs would have to be even more dramatic — 32 percent in 2016 and 53 percent in 2022."
Then there is the "war on women." For some reason this year the Republicans have been very focused on rape. Legitimate rape, forcible rape, other kinds of rape. Many of these discussions about rape pertain to the issue of abortion and pregnancy that occurs as a result of rape. And in Pennsylvania, there is proposed legislation requiring mothers on welfare to prove they were raped before they would be allowed to collect additional funds to support a new baby.

So, why are Republicans so fixated on rape? Because in their eyes, if a woman is raped, it wasn't her fault she got pregnant. She didn't have sex in order to enjoy it, heaven forbid. It was forced on her - and it better have been done forcibly, because after all, "some girls rape easy."  If she just had sex voluntarily, out of desire, then she should reap what she sows, even if she was being responsible and using birth control that failed. She made her bed, let her lie in it. And of course the man had nothing to do with it, did he? No blame falls on him. It's all about controlling women.

Republican Richard Mourdock, who was recently criticized for his comments saying that pregnancy as a result of rape is something God intended, is just one of several Republicans, including Vice Presidential nominee Paul Ryan, who don't believe in abortion even in the cases of rape and incest. But you know what? I don't really have a problem with that. If their belief is that life begins at conception, then an exception for rape or incest makes no sense at all. Either it's a life or it isn't. And if that's what you believe, fine - just don't impose that belief on everyone else.

Again, even the rape/incest exception is an example of the blame game against women - if the woman didn't mean to have sex, then it's OK to kill the fetus. Otherwise the woman should be forced to have that baby because again, she should reap what she sows.

Unfortunately, the idea of making the exceptions for rape, incest, or to save the life of the mother, is now being construed as a "moderate" position in the Republican party. As Gail Collins points out in today's New York Times,
" One of the truly disturbing parts of our current politics is that we have begun to identify people who want to impose their religious beliefs on millions of women who don’t share them as moderates as long as they’re O.K. with the rape exemption."
The real shame of the whole "pro-life" stance in the Republican party is that they only care about that baby before it's born - afterwards, that baby and its mom are on their own. Don't expect handouts from the government to support that kid! Oh, and if he turns out to be a criminal, they have no problem with the death penalty. This has never made any sense to me either.

If anyone thinks Romney doesn't endorse these antediluvian positions on women's right to choose, remember he said he would support amendments to the constitution proclaiming life begins at conception and that marriage is between a man and a woman. He also pledges to take away federal funding from Planned Parenthood, which provides needed health care to many low income women.

And if he has the opportunity to appoint one or more Supreme Court Justices - which is extremely likely - he will appoint justices who would vote to overturn Roe vs. Wade and who would be favorable to a constitutional amendment supporting marriage as being only between a man and a woman. According to his own website, "As president, Mitt will nominate judges in the mold of Chief Justice Roberts and Justices Scalia, Thomas, and Alito."

Then there's the whole issue of racism in the Republican camp. Every time I try to believe that racism isn't at the core of many Republicans' antipathy toward President Obama, another reminder smacks me in the face that yes, obviously, that is part of it. The coded and not-so-coded words (Sarah Palin, "shuck and jive"??? Really???) - Obama being hanged in effigy - and now, most recently, John Sununu, co-chair of Romney's campaign, accusing former Secretary of State Colin Powell of endorsing President Obama due to racism. Of course, he later backed off of his comments - but that is the Republican way: put it out there, send your signal, then say, "Oh, I didn't mean it like that."

Don't even get me started on climate change and the environment. Suffice it to say that Romney says he loves coal and would love to drill for oil and gas on public lands and in the Arctic Wildlife Refuge, and wants to gut environmental regulations.

So what is the upshot of all this? A Mitt Romney presidency would be bad for:

The poor
The middle class
The elderly
LGBT people
The environment

The only people it would be good for is the richest 1% of the population, and the military-industrial complex.

We are better than this. We must ensure that President Obama gets another four years to enact his policies.

Now we have the "storm of the century" bearing down on the eastern coast of the U.S. Let's hope it does not disrupt these elections. Voter turnout for President Obama's supporters is key. Let's make sure everyone gets to the polls and votes! This election could not be more important!