Rebecca Traister on the 2008 elections and what they meant for American women. Sex and gender issues create chaos for the Tea Partiers, and how much of the opposition to health care reform is rooted in the religious right.
Links in this episode:
On this episode of Reality Cast, I’ll be talking to Rebecca Traister about her new book covering women in the 2008 election. Also, the conservative movement gets all tangled up about sex this election, and the opposition to health care reform is fueled by the religious right.
Bitch Magazine put up a podcast with the folks at Sociological Images.
- sociological *
It’s worth checking out. I can’t really use their links on this show, because they’re image-oriented, but I always find their site interesting and provocative.
The midterm election season is heating up, and the big story is the rift between mainstream Republicans and the Tea Party candidates. And inside that major story is another story, which is how issues of gender and sexuality are playing out within it. For instance, the incumbent Senator of Louisiana, David Vitter, is facing some serious problems with losing esteem from his party. The Republican governor of Louisiana, Bobby Jindal, has refused to endorse Vitter, claiming that he stays out of federal races. But Think Progress has detailed how many federal races Jindal has gotten involved in, so it has to be something else. And I think it’s partially because the Democrats have decided to really go after Vitter for his prostitution scandals, putting out a website based around a 5 minute video where they detail first the DC Madam case, and then this.
- sex 1 *
Most Republican incumbents are finding the party backing them even when there’s an appealing Tea Party contender in the race. But Vitter is having trouble getting past this history to keep his seat. But Vitter’s far from the only figure dogged with these kinds of issues this election. The Constitution Party is a far right Christian party that is running Tea Party favored candidates. A Senate candidate in Ohio named Eric Deaton is facing some serious problems.
- sex 2 *
There wasn’t much information from this report, but apparently a grand jury thought there was enough reason for concern that they indicted Deaton for this crime. The case sounds really typical of many sexual abuse scandals in the religious right, with the alleged victim meeting Deaton at church, and he allegedly using his authority to put her in this sexual situation.
In that case, there’s actual cause for concern. However, there’s a much stranger moderates vs. right wingers situation going on in Delaware. The website Liberty dot com is a conservative website that claims that they want to be for the right what Move On is for the left. Except that Move On doesn’t tend to engage in baseless accusations of adultery against politicians they fault for being too centrist. But that’s exactly what Liberty dot com did to Rep. Mike Castle, who is running for Senate as a moderate Republican against Tea Party candidate Christine O’Donnell.
- sex 3 *
When the media followed up with Yates Walker, the Liberty dot com spokesperson, he pretended that they were just asking questions about a rumor he claims is just floating around, though there’s really not a lot of sourcing in general to support this claim. As Think Progress noted, it’s really interesting that Walker would be so eager to spread rumors like this, as he was charged with rape a couple years back. Walker accuses his accusers of lying, saying that he was found not guilty.
Outside of the world of actual scandals, there’s just a general tendency to use sexually explicit language and sexual metaphors in order to reduce opponents this election season. And instead of being across the left-right divide, you’re seeing as much, if not more, of it being between the hard right and more moderate Republicans. Senator Lisa Murowski of Alaska lost to Joe Miller in a primary that got so ugly that Joe Miller left a rude comment on Twitter.
- sex 4 *
Calling a female candidate a prostitute seems to be just par for the course nowadays. But for my money, the most entertaining use of sexual metaphors coming from overexcited right wingers has to Sarah Palin’s response to a profile done of her in Vanity Fair. She said that reporters in general who use anonymous sources to write about her are, quote, “impotent, limp and gutless reporters” end quote. Impotent and limp! She really should have followed up by impugning their penis size, even if they get over that limp thing. Of course, if you read the article that caused this eruption from Palin, you’ll find that the reason the reporter gives for using mostly anonymous sources is that everyone he talked to was so afraid of being on the receiving end of Palin vengeance that they wouldn’t talk to him under any other circumstances.
I’ve been spending a lot of time documenting on this show what I think is a flaw in the mainstream media coverage of the Tea Party movement, which is a lack of focus on their connections to the Christian right. The reason I’m doing so is because, at the end of the day, it’s the business of pro-choicers if the religious right can hide itself. If they get cover, they can more effectively roll back hard-won reproductive rights while no one is paying attention. In fact, I would say reproductive rights is probably their main reason to want this kind of cover. They know the pro-choice position is the popular one, and they need the subterfuge. So it’s up there as a reason they’d want to downplay the religious right in the movement. Right up there with the general shame over being so loony.
Which is why I was both pleased and a little disappointed to hear an NPR segment that debunked a lot of myths, propagated mainly by tea partiers, about health care reform. Pleased that they took these myths seriously enough to talk about them and debunk them, but a little annoyed because they didn’t once mention the way that the religious right and anti-choice movement have been the most important factor is disseminating these myths.
- hcr 1*
NPR followed the origins of this myth in terms of what’s actually in the bill. Or was in the bill, since the supposed origins of this myth were taken out. Basically, the original bill had a provision in there to help fund some programs that would help track electronic devices people were already getting implanted, like pacemakers. The purpose would be to know if they’re failing the patients, mostly, though I’m sure there were some other uses. It was taken out of the bill for who knows what reason, though it honestly wouldn’t surprise me if the wingnut reaction had something to do with it.
What they miss is talking about why this is a religious right concern. There’s a widespread belief amongst evangelical Christians that the anti-Christ, once he comes to power, will try to control the populace by marking them with the mark of the beast. What this will look like has changed from era to era, from being a literal 666 tattoo to being a bar code to being a microchip. From what I can tell, the belief that the anti-Christ will control the populace with implanted microchips is widespread and possibly nearly universal in the evangelical Christian right. Which means this woman who asked this almost surely believes Obama is the anti-Christ, and she’s really panicked.
With that in mind, think about this next clip they address on NPR.
- hcr 2 *
Why this is untrue is complicated, so I’ll continue to quote them.
- hcr 3 *
Again, you have to remember how much rumors that Obama is the anti-Christ are fueling this belief. The anti-Christ is imagined in the evangelical culture to be a dictator who operates outside of the usual norms of a democratic society. Putting together a private army is exactly the sort of thing they believe he’d do. So this is another way for them to express this fear in coded terms, without necessarily talking about how it’s about religion. NPR goes on to describe a widespread fear that jackbooted thugs are going to force you to buy insurance and register with a federal bureaucracy, which again is just more coded language about how they presume an anti-Christian dictatorship is just about to happen.
There’s one more belief that was prevalent during the actual campaign to pass the bill, but has by no means gone away.
- hcr 4 *
She’s referring to the mythical “death panels”, this notion that the federal government is going to save money by having the elderly killed. This was started by medical industry types who stand to face cost controls under health care reform, but it really took off because it fits anti-choice narratives. Again, you have the religious right being one of the biggest, and possibly the biggest, way that these kind of paranoid narratives are being spread around. So when you hear that the Tea Party is secular, don’t believe it. They’re just as interested in curtailing things like reproductive rights as they ever were. They just have a different gloss on right now.
And now for the Wisdom of Wingnuts, why would they call me a misogynist just because I hate women edition? Glenn Beck’s sub Joe Pagliarulo read a letter from a conservative whining that his friends call him racist because of his Facebook comments that I’m sure are just sunshine and rainbows.
- he man *
If he thinks that saying he wants to be in the He Man Woman Hater’s Club should shield him from being called a misogynist, then I’m guessing his commentary that he claims isn’t racist, well, might not seem that way to someone who is looking at this with clear eyes.