What do conservative politicians want even more than balanced budgets or an end to abortion?
When Republicans in Colorado pulled the plug on America’s most successful teen pregnancy prevention program, they told the world something about themselves and their political kin: Conservatives may talk about ending abortion or balancing state budgets, but there’s something they want more. This point has been underscored by the latest spliced-video smear campaign against Planned Parenthood that, if successful, will defund every service Planned Parenthood provides except abortion.
So what are conservatives really after?
Across the web, in words that range from thoughtful analysis to conspiracy theory to snark, commenters have offered up their hypotheses. Decide for yourself which make the most sense
1. Republicans want to create a labor oversupply and drive down wages. The idea here is that increasing the number of wage-hungry people at the bottom of the economic pyramid serves the interests of the wealthy because it changes the value of labor relative to capital. Although fiscal conservatives complain about welfare, the financial advantages of more births to poor women outweigh the costs. More workers desperate for jobs means corporations can negotiate wages and benefits more aggressively. If you don’t take it, somebody else will.
- [Birth control] makes them compete for the good workers. Can’t have that, then they would have to pay competitive wages and benefits. –Sid Peavar
- They’re thinking long term. I mean, how can you guarantee a steady stream of people desperate enough to take crappy low wage jobs if they manage to finish high school? And godforbid they should go to college. –Shan
- Where do you think the capitalist system is gonna find the slaves it needs to fight its wars and build its gadgets? – Martin Penwald
2. Opposition to birth control is driven by racism or the desire to preserve white Christian privilege. Republican opposition to family planning hits poor minority women the hardest because middle- and upper-class women can usually get the information and care they need. This means Republican policies disproportionately drive up abortions and births among poor women who are often young, immigrants, and racial minorities. Even so, some commenters argue that Republican opposition to contraception is racially motivated. They may have a point: For example, Jerry Boykin of the fundamentalist Christian Family Research Council has urged “red-blooded patriotic” Americans to have more babies so they can outbreed Muslims. Commenters who see racism as a core motivation fall into two camps: those who argue that white Christian men are trying to drive up the birthrate of white Christian women, as in the Duggar quiverfull movement, and those who argue that denying women of color control over their fertility is a way to keep minorities poor and disempowered.
- Keeping minority women poor and in need of social services benefits white conservatives in that it legitimizes racism. It reinforces the idea that black women are sexually deviant welfare mongers. By ensuring that most women of color remain poor and lacking resources, conservatives (and liberals some of the time) can use blanket statements about the problem with welfare and poor people without having to use triggering language about race. —EC
- The whole point of having a quiver full of babies is to … out-populate the “enemy.” … This was our plan for taking back America for God. So the children were like arrows (which is the ammunition) in God’s holy war. —Vyckie Garrison
3. For religious conservatives, controlling women trumps other social priorities. In this view, conservative Republicans would actually prefer not to be increasing the number of poor people (or racial minorities) in America, but their determination to maintain traditional gender roles trumps all. If women can control their fertility, men can’t control women, which makes better access to better birth control a no-go.
- Opposition to abortion is not so much about saving babies, but about control of women. And that requires controlling their reproductive rights, sexual lives, and fertility. In that context, opposing both abortion rights and contraception is not an inconsistency. —Schrodinger’s Niece
- It is and has always been about control. Calvinistic Puritan Hester Prynne Scarlet Lettering obsession of generations of insecure men. —Portia McDonagal
- I think it’s possible that their desire to keep women in their place trumps even their distaste for poor, brown people. —an
4. Conservative Christians are hung up on sex and think that young people who break their sex rules should be punished with STIs and babies. In this view, conservatives think people who fool around get what they deserve—especially women. Universal access to better birth control (including abortion) would turn America into a cesspool of hormones run amok. Without straight Christian men making the rules, queers would be perverting children, hypersexual Blacks and Hispanics would be raping women, prime virgin females would become licked lollypops, and 11-year-olds would behave like bunnies. The country would become a wild rumpus of sex without consequences!
Sex columnist Dan Savage is the most prominent spokesperson for this theory:
It’s sex for pleasure that they hate. They hate that kind of sex more than they hate abortion, teen moms, and welfare spending combined. Knowing that some people are having sex for pleasure without having their futures disrupted by an unplanned pregnancy or having their health compromised by a sexually transmitted infection or having to run through a traumatizing gauntlet of shrieking “sidewalk counselors” to get to an abortion clinic keeps them up at night.
A chorus of commenters agree with Savage.
- These religious authoritarians are upset if anyone has sex for fun. That’s it. That is what they really hate. And pregnancy carried to term, whatever the consequences, is the punishment. —John Zelnicker
- Their puritanical views on human sexuality overpower their desire to prevent abortion. -—Prototypeatheist
- In their little minds, women who have sex for fun, without shame, and—better yet—with multiple partners and/or anything that isn’t this vanilla heteronormative monogamous relationship, are basically going to destroy society. It’d be dogs and cats living together! —nyhcmaven84
5. Because the Bible. Some folks point to Bible-belief as the root problem, causing both the Christian Right’s fanatical desire to impose an Iron-Age gender script on society, and the Christian Right’s insistence that non-procreative sex is sinful. In this view, a woman managing her fertility (or a man “spilling his seed”) violates natural law. The Catholic Catechism puts it bluntly: “Lust is disordered desire for or inordinate enjoyment of sexual pleasure. Sexual pleasure is morally disordered when sought for itself, isolated from its procreative and unitive purposes.” Christians holding this view are stuck opposing contraception even if, by doing so, they drive up the abortion rate.
- Babies are a gift from God unless they’re a righteous punishment for sinful women.—infmom
- A key feature of all fundamentalist religions is that women and girls get punished for having sex, whether they wanted to have sex or not. —Lalameda
- The Christian right are fertility worshipers. —myschievousme
6. Religious conservatives design policies for their ideal world rather than the one we live in. In the world that many conservatives believe was prescribed by God, teens wouldn’t have sex before marriage; nobody would have singles sex or extramarital sex; wise fathers would give their virgin daughters in marriage to godly men; married couples would always be receptive to pregnancy and able to care for however many children God gives them; and everyone would be straight and cisgender.
Conservative policymakers either try to force this world into existence or else behave as if it already existed. But critics say that this kind of idealism blinds well-meaning conservatives to the fact that, in the real world, their policies promote something very different from stable partnerships and flourishing families.
- The more I ponder the mental/emotional dynamics of strict conservatism (as an ideology), the more I wonder if the core may be an idealism divorced from reality. There is a stubborn attachment to “the way things ought to be,” a virtual refusal to accept and adapt to reality. —Howard Pepper
- You’re operating with a view of what ‘should’ be, not what is, and re-framing a health question as a power and purity issue.—Matt Thorton
- Is it working? Check out “God’s Loophole” by comedy duo Garfunkel and Oates. –RS [warning: funny but graphic]
If none of these theories does it for you, never fear. They are only the most popular hypotheses from a longer list. Maybe you fall into one of these camps:
–The goal is simply to keep the culture wars going for political gain.
–They’ve dug themselves into an anti-government hole and can’t get out of it.
–They wouldn’t know what to do with themselves otherwise.
–The incessant focus on other people’s sex lives is titillating.
Or maybe you have a theory of your own?
Valerie Tarico is a psychologist and writer in Seattle, Washington. She is the author of Trusting Doubt: A Former Evangelical Looks at Old Beliefs in a New Light and Deas and Other Imaginings, and the founder of www.WisdomCommons.org. Her articles about religion, reproductive health, and the role of women in society have been featured at sites including AlterNet, Salon, the Huffington Post, Grist, and Jezebel. Subscribe at ValerieTarico.com.
Conservative Christians are hung up on sex and think that whoever break their sex rules…
Thank goodness for this comment, which is a deep and insightful addition to the discussion about to this otherwise trivial discussion of abortion, birth control, and gender.
Nope. Whoever is correct, because it is the subject of that clause. But it should be “whoever breaks.” Whom (like him and them) is an object.
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Those are good points about the Religious Reich, Valerie. They like to keep everyone, especially women, ignorant too, so that they can control them. The less educated people are, especially about their bodies, the more the Religious Reich can control them.
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“For example, Jerry Boykin of the fundamentalist Christian Family Research Council has urged “red-blooded patriotic” Americans to have more babies so they can outbreed Muslims.”
And, this is any different to anything other groups are saying about breeding out whites, how? If racism is using a system to undermine or oppress others, then certainly, by using social govt support systems to raise their many children, the racists are the ones intentionally practicing “la reconquista” against whites. I’ve seen this attitude and behavior publicly acknowledged by prominent leftist Latinos in Los Angeles, and even by people who I thought were my friends.
You know? I was thinking I’d only have two, but I might have a third, just to piss them all off. If that’s racist…. I’m a racist.
Yes, I might have a third just to piss them off is racist–putting racial antipathy above the well being of your family says quite a bit.
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i love you :)keep on , keepin’ on girl! -J
Date: Wed, 29 Jul 2015 00:47:36 +0000 To: firstname.lastname@example.org
I think the reasons presented are all valid to some extent, but I think it all begins with religious belief. For most of us, our faith requires that we live according to certain standards of behavior, and that’s fine. If you don’t like abortion (and I don’t), then don’t have one. If you want to eat only kosher food, that’s also fine. But fundamentalists take it one step further — not only do they live according to their own religious dictates (which is fine), they are afraid that their God will punish them nonetheless if they see others behaving wrongly and they don’t try to stop it any way they can.
In the end it’s all based on the irrational fear of an imaginary entity that demands global conformity (not just personal conformity) and a belief system based on books and gospels that most adherents don’t even bother reading, much less analyze and try to understand. What to do with these kinds of people? Outside of having them undergo mandatory lobotomies, I haven’t the faintest idea. Maybe this is how the human race will terminate itself.
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“Mandatory lobotomies” I’ve been an advocate of this procedure all my life. I think we should legislatively mandate an annual, public mass lobotomy event. This year would be the perfect year to start the annual event. We could start with the entire line-up of Rethuglican candidate for the Presidency. And while we’re at it get Joyce Meyers, Pat Robertson, Hagee, Boykin, and the rest of the insane nutjobs holdin’ court on the national airwaves. I wanna see their skulls smokin’. And they ain’t gettin’ any tounge depressors either.
I’m with you, wostraub. Let’s get to work petitioning out Congressional reps to get the ball rollin’.
I don’t think a lobotomy would stop them from talking. About the only thing it would do is inhibit their emotions. I think what would be better is mandatory visits to a psychologist (for therapy and deprogramming), a psychiatrist (for medication), and if the therapist can’t deprogram them, then one who is trained in deprogramming people who’ve been in a cult. If they start babbling about the therapist, psychiatrist, and deprogrammer stealing their souls and sending them to hell, then we need to up the anti, maybe with restraints or something.
I guess I was under the misimpression that lobotomies were a prerequisite for joining the Republican Party —
I was going to make that same observation yesterday… so… my sediments exactly. When they do a lobotomy, what do they fill the empty space with, peanut shells?
Well, actually… It’s a rather gross procedure, at least it was in the 60s. From what I understand and roughly describing, they took an icepick shoved it up through the nose and destroyed the frontal lobes, causing them to be emotionless humans- ie One Flew Over the CooCoo’s Nest (rough example of emotionless humans, but it is an approximation. So unless they improved the procedure, that wouldn’t be a very effective way to change the behaviour of Fundamngelicals. After the 60s, the procedure is almost never done, if ever.
Another great article, Valerie (and not just because you quoted me… thanks for the attribution). Before I noted that, on #6, I was thinking… “Yeah! I’ll have to comment on this.” But many of the points are perhaps equally important and valid.
You and I and many others, thankfully, are examples that people DO often recognize the negativity and fear in their rigid positions over time… IF they are learning and growing. Unfortunately, large portions of the conservative X’n world sees introspection with ANY kind of psychological aids (therapy, self-help books not specifically Christian, dream work, etc.) as forbidden. Or dangerous. Or both. Even “Christian psychology” (if there were such a thing) is often highly suspicious and thus avoided or opposed. On the other hand, in other circles psychological approaches ARE respected or sought out… in which case insight into the subconscious nature of many of the racist, disrespectful-of-women attitudes may be brought to conscious awareness. If so, they can be and often are changed.
Or in another scenario, the insecure, defensive males, if they do real “shadow work”, may see “the shadow” subconsciously at work and be able to liberate it to some extent at least. Articles like yours are important, but in personal conversation with such people, the direct confrontation approach is highly unlikely to work, which I imagine you’d agree with.
Yes, no doubt all of your collective points (and others too) contribute. And because they altogether influence such a big swath of the electorate, “big money” (and their faithful, paid legislators) love them all. For more of the same; Money and Power.
I suspect it’s a combination of all of these at various levels with most white male conservatives who use their primary guide as that found in #6
I have a different take on this. (I bet that you’re shocked. :)) Although all of the above may be true to some extent, IMO, the “short answer” is politics. It’s extremely annoying and frustrating to me that most people don’t understand how our political system works. Worse yet, many are extremely intelligent, with undergraduate or graduate degrees.
For example, I couldn’t convince many of my (extremely intelligent) friends of the stupidity of voting for Nader. Voting for a “sure loser” like Nader is a very effective way to get ignored by politicians! Worse yet, if it weren’t for the Nader voters, we wouldn’t have had Bush once, much less twice.
(Now to my point. :)) The major constituencies of the Republican Party are:
1. The 1%. Their votes only make a difference in a close election, but they contribute a ton of money.
2. The “bigot vote”. The Republican Party’s positions on immigration and gay marriage are ample evidence of this.
3. Religious Conservatives, whom I refer to as the “crackpot vote”. The Republican Party’s positions on abortion and gay marriage are ample evidence of this.
4. The “stupid vote”. Witness the prevalence of “Bushisms” during GWB’s presidency. As strange as it may seem to us smart folks, many “Bushisms” actually made sense to stupid people.
Another thing that most people don’t understand is that politicians pay close attention to the
(n + 1)/2 th voter.. It’s only a slight oversimplification to state that, in effect, the (n + 1)/2 th voter determines public policy. (Imagine how different our country would be today if the (n + 1)/2 th voter in 2000 had been a Liberal!)
Although the Republican Party doesn’t know exactly where the (n + 1)/2 th voter lies, they know that he or she is somewhere among the bigots, the crackpots, and the stupid people. They also know that they can’t win without all three of these groups.
Given the above, it doesn’t take a rocket scientist to figure out what one gets when one votes Republican. Unfortunately, far too many people, especially independents, are unaware of this fact.
One final note: Reading this post might lead one to the conclusion that I’m a partisan Democrat. Rest assured that I’m not; in fact, I consider myself a “Democrat by default”. I’ll be 67 next moth, and I never voted a straight ticket in my life until the bigots, the crackpots, and the stupid people took over the Republican Party!
“2. The “bigot vote”. The Republican Party’s positions on immigration and gay marriage are ample evidence of this.” – I call that the “Fear Factor.”
The trick behind the Fear Factor lies in making the public afraid of something by presenting it in the worst possible light, then assuring you that THEY alone have the solution.
You may have a point, although IMO the public has been largely desensitized to it. For example, the suggestion that allowing transgendered individuals to use the bathroom of their choice would enable boys to enter the girls’ bathroom has gone nowhere. In addition, (I assume that) the suggestion that anything would upset the established order doesn’t go over very well with minorities and with most women.
No doubt it also helps that e.g. in the states that have allowed gay marriage, the sky hasn’t fallen. :)
Congress votes today (Aug 3rd) on defunding Planned Parenthood – everyone interested should email their Senators and Representatives via this site as soon as possible: http://cqrcengage.com/secular/home
I suspect the the reason this didn’t work was that (1) Republicans would have been caught in a baldfaced lie, i.e., breaking their promise (in 2014) not to pass new abortion restrictions, and that (2) the claim by Republicans that other organizations would pick up the slack proved to be false. (in other words, this was more pandering to the “crackpot vote”.)
Unfortunately, most people don’t realize that this will continue until we vote the bastards out!
“(1) Republicans would have been caught in a baldfaced lie, i.e.” – When did that ever stop them? Can you say, “Weapons of Mass Destruction” –?
I mean, with a straight face —
It took a day for this to come to mind (sorry). Politicians make baldfaced lies all the time; in fact, Politico has a system of “Pinocchios”, by which they measure the extent of a lie. (One Pinocchio is a fib; two Pinocchios is a bigger lie, etc.)
What I should have said was that Republicans would have been caught breaking their campaign promise of no new abortion legislation. (Republicans have already broken that promise, but, since it was right after the election, they likely thought that practically no one was looking. :)) Politicians often can be held to keeping their campaign promises. Witness Carter’s promise to enroll his daughter in a public school, and Bush I’s infamous “read my lips; no new taxes”. (Obama didn’t keep his promise to close Guantanamo, but he can’t be blamed, since Congress fought it tooth and nail.)
Here’s a website, Lowell, that my son turned me on to – I think you’d enjoy it: http://crooksandliars.com
Butting in here… There’s another thing politicians are experts at doing, like professional wrestlers. They “promise” to implement some badly needed reform they really don’t want to, so they work a deal with the opposition. “Neither you not us wants to do this, so we’ll bring it up, you fight us on it publicly. You win, we’ll look like we did our best and you get publicity and it let’s your supporters know where you stand and how powerful you are.” It’s called a set-up, misdirection, a scam.
Obama never intended to change US policies aimed against the rest of the world and did the usual Democratic shuffle: wheeling and dealing behind the scenes. If he hadn’t he’d have ended up like JFK. A president is on a tight leash, bought and paid for, a figurehead for the masters. It’s important to remember that Dems or Reps, they’re all one group – all owned and managed by banksters and billionaires. They’re all puppets. Obama, for example, has clearly been Monsanto’s Main Man in Washington, and the only reason he got the job. Americans would never have elected him in a free and popular ballot. Not white (obviously), questionably Christian (many still believe he’s a closet Muslim), a socialist, possibly a communist and so on. Obama wanted to sit in the oval office, so he made the deal. Simple.
As was the case in the Soviet Union, there really is only one “party” running on two fronts: the party of, and for, the rich and powerful. And for those who still don’t get it, “America” (that benighted nameless nation) never was a democracy, never the land of the free or home of the brave, and it’s even possible that Washington actually did tell a lie once or twice in his life as a politician. No wonder Americans worship Elvis and wanted Lucille Ball canonized as an American saint.
Butting in here too, In response to Sha’Tara: Oh my! Obama “never intended to…….” ? (he) “wanted to sit in the oval office so he made the deal.” ? “Simple” as that?? Not so much, I think. I believe we have to try hard to stay rational and analytical. I too greatly lament that probably the large majority of our population does not know, (nor, for innumerable combinations of reasons, have the resources or motive to learn), what our good ol’ Human race is up against. And I agree that, essentially, the huge preponderance of Money on the deceptively titled “Conservation” side is BUYING its’ choices of all the rules. Giving in to oversimplification and cynicism isn’t likely to help. The Question remains: What can we do, that we are not doing now doing, besides rant? (I give in to “rant” a lot myself.) We must go on collecting further tangible, defensible facts about how and where “The Power” is leading us, of course. But there’s already LOTS of Evidence “on our side.” What are we not yet (successfully) doing with it?? We need some ideas about that.
Ok, PLUS one random “toss in:” The ProLife’s pushback stuff going around right now, including at the “highest” levels, is truly Sickening.
Thanks for quoting me above. I think all of these theories are applicable, in different degrees and combinations depending on the individual.
However, you misspelled my name. It’s Zelnicker, not Zeinicker; a mistake I find to be quite common. :)
Wow…this whole blog is a fascinating study in human psychology – and I don’t mean the people you write about.
I care not for the Christian right and have never once voted for a prominent Republican, yet I find this the most nasty, overgeneralized, bigoted bunch of hostility and broad generalizations I’ve seen this side of Louis Farrakhan.
“In the rush 2 vilify our political opponents we’re more likely 2 become a reflection of what we dislike in politics not a force 2 change it.” Cory Booker, D-NJ
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Full disclosure first, I’m against most abortions but I’m not a Christian nor belong to any religion.
Regarding the first point, I think both political parties want to increase population, and drive down wages, and increase dependence on the government. That’s why most Democrats and even a majority of Republicans aren’t interested in limiting immigration either. Sadly many (most?) of the dependents are women and their children.
As to the other points, yes religion and government are all about control and always have been, queue up Janet Jackson sing here!