Breaking Down the 2012 Election


Breaking down the election and looking at how reproductive rights played a role in how it all went down. Also, Jennifer Nelson will be on to talk about the complex relationship between women’s magazines and their audiences.

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Lou Dobbs denies that repealing Roe would damage abortion rights

Akin on “legitimate rape”

Richard Mourdock on rape

“Method of conception”

George Will mansplains women’s concerns

Limbaugh equates caring about reproductive rights with being stupid

Limbaugh once again accuses women of being stupid

On this episode of Reality Cast, I’ll be breaking down the election and looking at how reproductive rights played a role in how it all went down. Also, Jennifer Nelson will be on to talk about the complex relationship between women’s magazines and their audiences.

Seems like conservatives are beginning to realize that their hard line opposition to reproductive rights is politically toxic. The strategy isn’t, sadly, to give up on fighting women’s rights, however, but simply to deny that’s what’s going on. Lou Dobbs, on Fox News, for instance, tried to pretend repealing Roe v. Wade wouldn’t hurt abortion rights.

  • dobbs *

If repealing Roe v. Wade wouldn’t hurt abortion rights, then how come the people who oppose abortion rights have made that their central concern for decades?

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It’s been less than a week since the 2012 elections came to a close, but I’m already feeling nostalgic.

  • election 1 *

The big story is that the nation got a full eyeball of how anti-choice militants, who are increasingly controlling the Republican Party, actually think. There is this ongoing belief a lot of liberals have  that anti-choicers who oppose rape exceptions are somehow more admirable than those who don’t, because it’s somehow more consistent with the claim that opposition to abortion is about “life”. What we discovered is actually, they’re just really dedicated misogynists who don’t really think of rape as that big a deal. Todd Akin’s comments were the most obvious example of this.

  • election 2 *

This got a lot of attention for being scientifically inaccurate, but what’s more interesting to me is how this really shows why anti-choicers are becoming more aggressively opposed to rape exceptions. It has nothing to do with “life” and everything to do with what Akin was on about here, which is their belief that most rape victims weren’t really raped. Back in the 70s, anti-choicers were okay with rape exceptions, because most rape was de facto legal, and so it’s not like women really could get them anyway. They assumed it would only affect virgins attacked by strangers in alleyways. Akin’s meaning was quite clear: He’s one of those who thinks you were asking for it if you were drinking or went on an unchaperoned date. Merely going to a party makes you wicked enough to deserve forced childbirth. The only reason this aspect is getting less play than it should is that a lot of people still think that a woman brought rape on herself in certain circumstances.

Because of all this, Akin  lost to McCaskill by over 15 points. Richard Mourdock of Indiana also lost a Senate race he was expected to win by making a stupid comment about rape. Mourdock, when confronted with the same question, knew better than to openly suggest that rape victims are lying sluts who had it coming. But he didn’t really do much better.

  • election 3 *

He put a slightly nicer spin on it, but the basic message was the same. First of all, the rapist is basically cast in this situation as if he’s a force of nature, and rape as a thing that just happens to women. Again, forced childbirth is cast as something that’s “supposed” to happen. There’s an anti-choice narrative about how forced childbirth is a miraculous thing that turns bad girls into chaste mothers, and you can see it in play here. The whole fantasy is of a naughty girl who goes to parties getting raped, and now God has forced her to stay home with a baby as penance for her sinful ways. The rapist ends up being a tool of God’s to control women.

Republican Vice Presidential candidate Paul Ryan also lost his bid when Obama/Biden won on Tuesday. Ryan was able to somewhat successfully minimize how he has long shared Akin’s views on rape, which is why he co-sponsored a bill in the House that would redefine rape narrowly, so that you basically had to be beat up for it to “count”. But he did slip up once during the campaign, talking about rape in such a way that it’s clear he doesn’t really think of it as a crime so much as just another way to maximize the number of women who are pregnant who don’t want to be.

  • election 4 *

You call it a horrible crime and a violation of a woman’s bodily autonomy. He calls it a “method of conception”, and an excuse to find more ways to take away a woman’s right to control her body. In a lot of ways, this quote from Ryan really summarizes how much anti-choicers revealed this election that they don’t care about women, and can’t even be bothered to think about something like rape beyond seeing it as another opportunity to strip women of their right to decide when to give birth.

Of course, the most depressing thing in all this is that for all the talk about abortion and rape, almost no one talked about how rape exceptions don’t even work, and how places where abortion is banned except for rape, most rape victims end up having to get black market abortions anyway.

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insert interview

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One of the strangest narratives to emerge during this election from conservatives was this notion that a woman who cares about her reproductive rights cannot also care about other issues, such as jobs or the economy. Over and over again, you heard conservative pundits claim that every time Obama highlighted reproductive rights, he was somehow saying that women don’t care about anything else but sex, even though he often highlighted reproductive rights while also talking about other things he’s done for women, such as signing the Lilly Ledbetter Act that protects women from pay discrimination. They promoted this narrative while claiming to be “concerned” about women, but in reality, what came across was this belief that if you want to control your uterus, you must somehow not be able to use your brain. Michelle Malkin reduced the whole narrative to a quip.

  • pundits 1 *

Of course, the underlying assumption of this is that what’s good for your reproductive health somehow must be bad for the rest of your life, but that’s about the dumbest idea I’ve ever heard. It’s like saying if your feet are warm, the rest of you must be cold. I’m sure this weird idea makes sense to conservatives, who do tend to treat female sexuality like it’s some great evil that needs to be controlled, instead of a normal part of everyday life. But what was weird was how certain conservatives tried to sound when claiming that what is good for your reproductive health care must be bad for you economically. George Will sounded very certain that you can’t both want insurance coverage for contraception and want lower unemployment at the same time.

  • pundits 2 *

For all his concerns that Obama condescended to women, the reality is that Will was the one being condescending. He claimed, on TV, that by caring about contraception, women must be too occupied to care about jobs. In reality, women are actually not stupid creatures who can only have one concern at a time. In reality, women saw that Obama both passed an economic stimulus package that lowered the unemployment rate and that  he passed a health care bill that provides for copay free contraception. Women are also capable of wearing a pair of pants while also wearing a shirt, though I suspect that George Will believes we put a shirt on and then get too distracted doing that to remember our pants.

While George Will was putting a high-minded spin on the claim that supporting reproductive rights means that a woman literally can’t think of anything else, Limbaugh was being totally crass about it.

  • pundits 3 *

To be clear, he’s literally saying that if a woman cares about her reproductive rights, she must be subhuman, stupid, and emotional. Thus, any candidate who supports reproductive rights is saying this. But in reality, the only people who were saying that women who care about reproductive rights are stupid were conservatives. Not only did Limbaugh equate caring about reproductive rights with being stupid and being objectified, he called women who take the issue seriously “sex machines”.

  • pundits 4 *

Here are the facts, courtesy of the Guttmacher Institute. 99% of Americans have sex by the age of 44. 95% of Americans have sex without having been married first. More than 99% of women who have had sexual intercourse have used contraception. Among women at risk for unintended pregnancy, 89% are currently using contraception. The two most popular forms of contraception are the pill and sterilization, both of which are covered under the HHS mandate. Considering these numbers, it makes about as much sense to characterize people who support contraception access as stupid and sex-obsessed as it does to characterize people who want running water as stupid and hydration-obsessed. And conservatives know this; the only reason they ran with this issue is that it gave them a chance to call women stupid, and pretend that Obama was to blame for it.  But female voters didn’t buy it, as the gender gap was, as usual, incredibly hefty this election.

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And now for the Wisdom of Wingnuts, the misogyny spins out of control edition. Female voters turned out in high numbers for Obama, and Rush Limbaugh responds by saying foul things. I know you must be shocked.

  • Limbaugh *

Fact check: They didn’t just think that, but Romney promised it. He said he would repeal the Affordable Care Act, which would mean an end to the current contraception coverage. He also said he would cut all of Planned Parenthood’s funding. Now Limbaugh is mad at women for believing him. But again, I would like to reiterate: Because women want reproductive health care doesn’t mean that we’re nothing but vaginas. Limbaugh receives health care for his heart, but no one thinks that he’s only a heart. In fact, many of us metaphorically wonder if he has one at all.  

Follow Amanda Marcotte on twitter: @amandamarcotte