The annual show of purebred conservatives and glibertarians known as CPAC convened again last week to rant about how dire and horrible and insurmountable the threats to the “shining city on the hill” are because there isn’t a someone in the White House bent on cutting taxes for the rich.
And – again – the only thing that got in their way was the truth.
Two months into President Obama’s second term, millionaires and billionaires are paying higher taxes. Instead of crushing the economy – as conservatives always warn it will — unemployment is at a five-year low, stock markets are teasing all-time highs, and the housing market is finally seeing a real recovery (just as the real threat of the sequester begins to take effect).
Ten years after the invasion of Iraq, America’s occupation of that country is over and the disaster in Afghanistan is also quickly tumbling to a close. Meanwhile, the deficit is rapidly shrinking, Medicare costs are stabilizing and millions more Americans will have public health care in less than a year as our collective fear of being branded with a pre-existing condition disappears forever.
In nearly every way that can be measured, America is better off than it was when CPACers’ former hero, George W. Bush, left office.
But the right still must conjure a crisis of “freedom.” So they rant against the debt that is almost entirely the result of Republican policies and imagine an Obama obsessed with droning peaceful citizens, taking their Big Gulps and denying schoolkids a White House tour.
The one female keynote speaker at CPAC – the eminent feminist Sarah Palin – touched on all these themes and even had time to bolster her gun-culture credentials.
“You should have seen what Todd got me for Christmas,” she said, while brandishing a giant Big Gulp (unintentionally mocking Marco Rubio’s unfortunate mid-speech big gulp). “Well, it wasn’t that exciting. It was a metal rack, a case for hunting rifles, to put on the back of a four-wheeler. Then, though, I had to get something for him to put in the gun case, right? So, this go-around, he got the rifle, I got the rack.”
The former governor of Alaska makes jokes about her breasts and celebrates gluttony. That doesn’t just make her a typical Fox News viewer; it makes her the premier advocate of the right’s warped obsession with only worrying about losing rights that are in no danger of being taken away.
Of course, when it comes to “freedom” actually being threatened, there’s one group of Americans whose rights are constantly at risk: women who live in Republican-controlled states.
The right wants you to imagine a government that’s going to send drones to confiscate law-abiding citizens’ guns, along with millions of other paranoid situations that will never happen to them – unless they decide to move to Yemen and join al Qaeda.
However, for millions of women, the right to make their own decisions about their bodies is basically gone. One study suggests 87 percent of counties in America have no access to an abortion provider. Mississippi has one clinic open and it’s always on the verge of being closed.
In Texas, Rick Perry and Republicans have waged a war to defund Planned Parenthood – even though the Planned Parenthood affiliate in their state performs zero abortions. They’ve turned down millions in Medicare money and cut $73 million from family planning – at a cost of $273 million to taxpayers — just to try to get the group out of the state.
The result is access to contraception, cancer screenings and preventive care for more than 200,000 women is at risk. Half of all pregnancies in the state of Texas in 2011 were unplanned. For these women, the freedom to lead a life of their own choosing is nearly gone.
And the right justifies this assault on freedom in the name of preventing the “murder” of innocent babies, which is how they frame abortion. In doing this, they not only strip women of their inalienable rights from the moment of insemination, they cast the 1 in 3 women who have an abortion by age 45 as “murderers” – people who deserve no rights at all.
And whose “freedom” is the right really worried about? That’s easy. The employers whose insurance plans now have to include basic birth control as an option for women who want it.
On Saturday, CPAC speaker Eric Metaxas used the birth-control mandate as an example of the “disturbing parallels” he sees between what’s going on in America today and Germany in the 1930s.
Insurance plans that require women to have access to basic reproductive health care are akin to forced sterilization and laws that prevent Jews from owning land? It’s a comparison rich in irony — Nazis banned Jews from the state’s national health insurance — and so unbelievably insulting that I’d to have to violate Godwin’s Law to properly explain what kind of sick propaganda it truly is.
When women’s “freedom” came up, it was to suggest they should have the freedom to arm themselves against harm. They already do and always will – despite this, nearly 1 in 5 women report they have been sexually assaulted.
Of course, conservatives’ real problem is that women and members of the LGBT community in blue states have never had more freedom, despite the disparities in pay and other lingering effects of fading prejudice. And they’re afraid that kind of freedom is what the future looks like. So they’re standing athwart history, yelling “Stop!”
But they can’t even do that honestly anymore without making the gender gap worse. So they rant about the threatened “freedoms” of rich, armed business owners who need all the liquid sugar they can drink.
These are the kinds of freedoms you pretend-worry about when your agenda is actually to limit the self-determination of half the population of the country you claim to love. And isn’t it nice when you can get a woman to make that case for you?
AP Photo/Carolyn Kaster