Election 2012: Will Contraceptives be a Winning Campaign Issue?
Here’s something: The newest attack on the Obama Administration is his health plan’s requirement that companies and organizations cover contraceptives for their employees. It began with the Catholic Church (which we covered here), wiggled its way through the Republican National Committee and its affiliates, and is now in full attack mode in the mainstream media, who are picking up on some Democrats’ opposition to the plan.
According to a report at ABC News, five Democrats are “expressing concern” about the Department of Health and Human Service’s decision that employers include contraceptive coverage, even for religious-affiliated charities and the like. The Dems in question: Sens. Ben Nelson of Nebraska, Bill Nelson of Florida, Joe Lieberman of Connecticut, Joe Manchin of West Virginia and Bob Casey of Pennsylvania.
In other words, the bandwagon wing of the party. The Senate Democrats most afraid of being Senate Democrats. Casey won’t answer questions about his affiliation with the president. Manchin ran for Senate on a ‘strong gun leadership’ record. And in the case of Lieberman, he’s just an independent who caucuses with the party, but won his 2006 election because of Republicans. The Connecticut boremonger who’s made a career on supporting state-sponsored violence, endorsed Sen. John McCain for president in 2008 and other than those two factoids, has never done anything else of note in his long, terrible career (the same can be said about Ben Nelson.)
Around the web, bloggers are scratching their heads in unison with PhillyNow. Little Green Footballs asks of the processed controversy, “Unless I passed out under an enchanted tree and have been sleeping for decades without knowing, this is the year 2012, right? AD?” The Daily Kos notes the Catholic Church’s extremely hypocritical stance on the matter, considering leaders have essentially remained silent on decades of known child rape and torture that’s become a church pastime, while fighting this health benefit tooth and nail.
Think Progress notes how Republicans are attempting to expand the conscience clause to exclude religiously affiliated institutions from the requirement (a move opposed by women’s groups) while all members of Congress currently enjoy contraception insurance as part of their government health benefits.
As has been noted elsewhere, 58 percent of U.S. Catholics support a contraception mandate and 98 percent of Catholics use contraception, if they’re getting any. But good thing the outrageous outrage isn’t limited to Catholics. A powerful Southern evangelical minister, Dr. Richard Land, recently claimed Dr. Martin Luther King status on the issue, and is encouraging his followers to go to jail instead of giving their employers the option of spending less money on health benefits. “We want the law changed, or else we’re going to write our letters from the Nashville jail, just like Dr. King wrote his from the Birmingham jail,” he told Life Site News.
As this is all going on, Republican candidates are claiming a “war on religion” being waged by the president. The whole ordeal has probably helped out Rick Santorum, who won three states in one night earlier this week as the issue was still sliming out of the bathtub spout a la Ghostbusters 2. To his supporters, this is an issue he, and only he, can take on. But as he does, President Obama’s approval numbers are in the positive for the first time since Dec. 23. Which begs the question: What’s the silent majority’s stance on this?
But that doesn’t mean the conservative Democrats won’t run scared, in baffling ways. “I have strongly supported efforts to provide greater access to contraception,” Bob Casey wrote in an open letter to the president. “I believe, just as strongly, that religiously affiliated organizations like hospitals and universities should not be compelled by our Federal government to purchase insurance policies that violate their religious and moral convictions.”
Manchin wrote a letter to the president, too. Also up for re-election this year, he called the requirement “a direct affront to the religious freedoms protected under the First Amendment of our Constitution.”
We could go on. But the main point: This is weird. Mostly because contraceptives are so uncontroversial. Which is something the vast majority of Americans believe. You can buy some of them at the cash register. Six years ago, one could have managed a phony outrage party of hypocrisy on an issue like this; people still would have rather not known. But facts and polls and are too out in the open these days. And I get the feeling many of the groups mentioned above will end this entire ordeal with, as they say, egg on their face.