When it comes to women, the Republican Party is turning over a new leaf, its leaders repeatedly assure us. No more “legitimate rape,” the famous phrase that sank GOP senatorial candidate Todd Akin of Missouri. The National Republican Congressional Committee is trying to see to that, Politico reported in December, with a series of training sessions to teach male candidates how (not) to craft their messages when running against women opponents.
Then along came Uncle Sugar, the euphemism for the U.S. government deployed by former Arkansas Gov.
Mike Huckabee in remarks to the winter meeting of the Republican National Committee (RNC), who equated Obamacare’s contraception benefit with the failure of women to control their libidos. That prompted RNC chairman Reince Priebus to tell those in attendance, according to Politico:
“I’ve said many times before that the policies and principles of our party are sound,” Priebus said in a Friday speech at the RNC winter meeting in Washington. “However, as we look to grow the ranks of our party, we must all be very conscious of the tone and choice of words we use to communicate those policies effectively.”
So it makes perfect sense, then, that Texas Attorney General Greg Abbott, who is running to be his state’s governor against likely Democratic nominee and pro-choice hero Wendy Davis, should choose to campaign with a washed-up rock star known for his misogyny and racism. That would be Ted Nugent, who just last month said that former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton had “spare scrotums.” (In the same video interview with Guns.com, Nugent called President Barack Obama “a subhuman mongrel” and “a chimpanzee.”)
Abbott appeared with Nugent at a campaign stop on Tuesday at El Guapo’s restaurant in Denton, Texas.
As far as Nugent’s misogyny goes, the “scrotums” remark is relatively mild stuff. In an interview with Denver Westword Music magazine in 1994, Nugent called the then-first lady “a toxic cunt” and “a two-bit whore”:
You probably can’t use the term ‘toxic cunt’ in your magazine, but that’s what she is. Her very existence insults the spirit of individualism in this country. This bitch is nothing but a two-bit whore for Fidel Castro.
Then there’s Nugent’s admission that he sought out underage teenage girls as sexual partners—with their parents’ permission, he claimed—liaisons he said were “beautiful.”
In 2007, Nugent issued an album whose cover featured a bound and gagged naked woman served with vegetables on a platter. The gag in her mouth was a hand grenade. (Media Matters has the image in its compendium of Nugent’s misogyny, if you dare to look.)
A 1998 episode of VH1’s Behind the Music
has Nugent defining a feminist as “a fat pig who doesn’t get it often enough.”
There’s more, of course, where all of that comes from. Like the time he called Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D-CA) a “worthless whore,” and suggested that Sen. Barbara Boxer (D-CA) “suck on my machine gun.” (He also invited Obama to do the same.)
When it comes to fighting the “war on women,” it seems that some right-wing Republicans just can’t stop themselves. And there’s a reason for that: Their base consists largely of men with a patriarchal worldview—and the women who love them. Most of the other women (especially single women), and many of the men who don’t hate women, vote for the other party.
In Abbott’s case, he’s going to need strong turnout from his base, since the brutal battle in the state legislature last summer did not play well across the board, and it energized the pro-choice grassroots, who flooded the state capitol building and made Wendy Davis a national star.
Public opinion on abortion in Texas is complex, but only 16 percent of respondents to a June 2013 poll commissioned by the Texas Tribune want to see abortion outlawed.
It’s Nugent’s pro-gun activism, Abbott says, that makes the hunter-guitarist such a swell campaign-trail pal. Guns do matter in Texas, and Davis has taken some heat from progressives for her recent statement of support for open-carry gun laws. Apparently Abbott is betting that gun rights trump sexual morality, even among the Christian evangelicals he counts among his core constituency. Here are Abbott’s comments, as reported by Wayne Slater in the Dallas Morning News:
Sen. Davis knows she is suffering with voters because of her flipping and flopping on 2nd Amendment gun laws. And she knows that Ted Nugent calls her out on her disregard for 2nd Amendment rights. We are going to expose Sen. Davis’ weaknesses on the 2nd Amendment and show that in this area and in so many other areas, she represents the liberalism of Barack Obama that is so bad for Texas.
So pay no attention to those gross anatomical references to the former first lady of the United States, or to the campaign-trail buddy’s assertion of how “beautiful” were his sexual assignations with teenage girls.
If Abbott’s tapping of Nugent as a surrogate does the candidate no damage with the family values crowd who claim morality as the basis of their opposition to women’s reproductive freedom, laid bare is the real modus operandi for the right’s assault on women’s rights. It’s about the patriarchy, stupid.
Correction: The Behind the Music episode referenced in this article is from 1998, not 2012. We regret the error.