Republicans Didn't Have to Support the Bishops
by David Atkins
Many people have critiqued my and Digby's assertions that the anti-contraception stance constitutes a victory for the GOP. Most of the comments and emails to me about this piece have indicated that I'm an avowed pessimist who cannot realize when the Republicans have overplayed their hand and lost an issue. In the critics' opinion, the Bishops overreacted and have now created an issue that will be easy for Democrats to exploit, thus creating a pre-packaged defeat for the Republicans.
But keep in mind that the Republicans did not have to support the Bishops. The Bishops could simply have registered their objection and then meekly gone along with offering contraception as they have done so often before under various state laws. But the conservative establishment decided to kick in. Fox News, Limbaugh, and the other assorted factions of the reactionary media empire decided to make a big deal out of it, and their legislative puppets in the Republican Party dutifully stepped right in line to make hay of it.
These things don't happen by accident. The conservative establishment decided early on that this was going to be a hill for them to die on. They weren't forced to die on that hill. They could have let the Bishops stand alone. But they didn't. They decided to run this ball all the way down the court.
And guess what? As Digby points out, it's working. What just a few weeks ago was considered so mainstream as to an afterthought (providing contraception) is now seen as some sort of controversial touchstone, even as "religious freedom" has become a buzzword in the press.
Democrats can high-five one another about Republican overreach and laugh hysterically at the increased number of votes Barack Obama will receive in 2012 over Mitt Santorum. But ultimately the joke's on us. It's been on us ever since the Obama Administration decided to concede an inch to the misogynist conspiracy of extremist fanatics that are the Bishops, rather than mock them immediately for being out of touch with their own flock, to say nothing of the mainstream American public.
The political ground on contraception has suddenly shifted to the right faster than I have seen on any social issue in my lifetime. It's incredible.