Little wingnut monsters: even if you don't feed them, they grow up anyway

Little wingnut monsters: even if you don't feed them, they grow up anyway

by digby

This fine fellow at the NY Times thinks liberals are ruining America because by paying attention to the right wing we are somehow making it impossible to find common ground with them. I find this unconvincing, since we ignored them for decades --- during which time they created a monster. And that monster is now mainstream. Here's just one example, from Sarah Posner:
In 2002, as head of the Brazos County Coalition for Life, Bereit, a former pharmaceutical salesman, developed a list of local companies targeted for a boycott over their donations of goods and services to a fundraiser for the local Planned Parenthood. The clinic was the community’s only abortion provider and one of only a few facilities where low-income women could obtain healthcare. Local business owners called the boycott “a threat” and “blackmail.” In Houston, activists made similar efforts to boycott local contractors who worked on a new facility that opened in 2010, which has been continually protested by anti-abortion forces as the “largest abortion facility in the Western hemisphere.”

Following his successes with the Coalition for Life in Brazos County, in 2004 Bereit launched the first local 40 Days for Life campaign — 40 days being a biblical number — of “prayer and fasting” outside medical clinics, or “abortion mills” as activists call them.

A year after launching 40 Days for Life, Bereit joined the American Life League, long considered one of the fringe players in the anti-abortion movement, serving as national director of its project STOPP, or Stop Planned Parenthood.

Shortly after joining STOPP, Bereit blamed the Supreme Court decision in Griswold v. Connecticut, which ruled state bans on contraception unconstitutional, for “a tragic moral breakdown in our culture,” adding, “It is time for Americans to take a long, hard look at the real legacy of the Griswold decision. Although we can’t undo the consequences overnight, we can begin to take back our society one step at a time. The first step is to put an end to the destructive influence of Planned Parenthood, the organization that forced this tragedy upon our nation 40 years ago.”

In an online discussion titled “Ending Abortion,” Bereit interviewed Jim Sedlak, his former colleague and the current executive director of STOPP, calling him “the most credible expert I have ever heard on the topic of Planned Parenthood.” STOPP’s petition web page to end federal funding of Planned Parenthood charges, among other things, that Planned Parenthood’s “top goal for the next 14 years is to push its agenda of promiscuous sex everywhere in our society,” and that it pushes pornography to children, covers up for rapists and child predators, and is “openly hostile to Christianity.”

In a 2006 white paper, the pro-choice group Catholics for Choice described the American Life League as being “on the right wing of the antichoice movement, marginalized and isolated even among ostensible allies.” But the very aims of ALL — opposition to legal abortion without any exceptions, the creation of legal rights for fertilized eggs, and elimination of access to birth control — seem to have crept into the mainstream of anti-abortion activism in the six years since the publication of that report. ALL had a presence at the religious freedom rally, with supporters sporting its green “The Pill Kills” t-shirts. Former Rep. Bob Dornan, a long-time ALL ally, addressed the crowd. He called HHS Secretary Kathleen Sebelius and House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi “Judas Catholics” and approvingly quoted Cardinal James Francis Stafford, head of the Apostolic Penitentiary of the Holy See, who in 2008 called President Obama “aggressive, disruptive, and apocalyptic.”

STOPP’s 1995 essay, “Why We Oppose Planned Parenthood,” still widely reprinted on anti-abortion websites today, claimed that Planned Parenthood is a “cold, calculating group intent on spreading the Humanist religion, luring our children into their web of premarital sex and unlimited abortions, reducing the population of minorities in particular and filling its coffers with the profits from sales of birth control devices.” The document accused Planned Parenthood of being a “population control group” and complained that it “receives large amounts of government monies to spread its philosophies. PPFA receives $150 million from American taxpayers. Thus, we are being forced to pay for its outrageous programs and its attacks on our youth.” ALL currently is promoting its new campaign to take “Jesus to Planned Parenthood through Mary,” through which the group claims to call on Mary to use her “extraordinary gifts from God” to “put an end to the reign of terror that is Planned Parenthood.”
I remember reading that thing back in the late 90s and they might as well have been speaking in tongues for how much relevance it had to anything going on in politics. Abortion was under siege, of course, but the carrying on about being forced to pay for Planned Parenthood and attacks on birth control and female sexuality sounded like the rantings of lunatics and nobody but the fringiest fringers believed it. Not anymore. You'll recall that thishappened four months ago:
House Republicans voted on Friday to strip federal funding from Planned Parenthood, cutting money for contraceptives, HIV tests, cancer screenings and reproductive health services as part of an attempt to weaken the abortion provider. Planned Parenthood does not currently spend federal money on abortion services
They've come a long way, baby.

And it wasn't because feminists made a huge deal out of protecting Planned Parenthood back in the 1990s and giving these zealots oxygen that brought us to where we are today. They were good girls (and boys) and ignored the explicit threat. In fact, the clueless Democrats started babbling incessantly about birth control as the "common ground" we could all agree upon, obviously having no clue that the goalposts were already moving.

I wrote this back in 2006, when the Republicans introduced the Health Insurance Marketplace Modernization and Affordability Act (HIMMAA), which would have allowed insurance companies to ignore nearly all state laws that require insurance coverage for certain treatments or conditions, such as laws that require them to include contraceptives in their prescription plans. I said then:
This development is very interesting in light of the new emphasis on birth control among strategists in the Democratic party. The next battle is already being fought out on the edges of the abortion debate. If this goes the way of Democrats' previous brilliant strategies in the culture wars, within five years we'll have jettisoned our argument about Roe altogether and will be fighting with all our might to preserve Griswold, which the other side will be arguing is a matter of states' rights just like Roe. (No "streamlining" necessary.)
And still today, I hear "Oh please, you're being hysterical. They'll never get away with defunding Planned Parenthood or making contraception illegal." And I'm reminded again of this piece by Michael Bérubé from that same period, reminding us that our left wing avatar Ralph Nader had said it didn't matter if Roe vs Wade was reversed because it would "just go back to the states":
My point is that Nader, like all too many men on the left, doesn’t believe that the right-wing culture warriors really mean it. They think it’s all shadow-boxing, a distraction, a sop thrown to the radical fringe. That same attitude can be found, as I’ve noted before, in Tom Frank’s What’s the Matter with Kansas?, where Frank writes, “Values may ‘matter most’ to voters, but they always take a backseat to the needs of money once the elections are won. This is a basic earmark of the phenomenon, absolutely consistent in across its decades-long history. Abortion is never halted. Affirmative action is never abolished. The culture industry is never forced to clean up its act.”

The idea is that an actual abortion ban would go too far: the first back alley death, and the Republican Party is in deep trouble. Well, maybe and maybe not, folks. You might think, along similar lines, “the first hideous death by torture in the War on Terror, and the Republican Party is in deep trouble,” or “the first unconstitutional power grab by the executive branch, and the Republican Party is in deep trouble,” or “the first data-mining program of domestic spying, and the Republican Party is in deep trouble,” or “the first systemic corruption scandal involving Jack Abramoff and Duke Cunningham and Tom DeLay, and the Republican Party is in deep trouble,” and you’d be, ah, wrong, you know.

Besides, there’s a nasty time lag between that first back-alley death and the repeal (if any) of a state’s draconian abortion law, and in that time-lag, that state’s Republican Party might or might not be in deep trouble. It’s hard to unseat incumbents in this jerry-built and gerrymandered system, after all. So there’s no guarantee that popular outrage against back-alley deaths would jeopardize a state’s elected GOP officials en masse. But we can be pretty sure that women with unwanted pregnancies would be . . . how shall we say? in deep trouble.
The unthinkable becomes the thinkable in slow motion. You have to pay attention or you won't even notice until it's already too late.

*And just in case you aren't aware, the "abortifacient" nonsense is utter bullshit.