As the dust settles on the Supreme Court’s Hobby Lobby ruling, it’s interesting to me to note the reaction of the right’s most visible spokesmen. Looking out at the Media Machine of Fox News, talk radio, and the bigger right-wing Internet sites, three things become clear:
- The support of Hobby Lobby, which was oft-pitched by the right as being entirely about religious freedom and not women’s access to birth control, now appears to have been very much about women’s access to birth control.
- In an attempt to make sure majorities cannot discriminate against minorities, the Court seems to have ironically empowered some majorities into believing they have been given permission to do just that.
- There is no conservative victory so sweet that the right’s most visible spokesmen cannot turn it against themselves in time for an upcoming election.
Let’s take a quick look at these points, in order.
Everywhere you look, the Media Machine seems to be going out of its way to declare the Hobby Lobby decision as not just a victory for religious freedom, but also a victory against women being able to engage in sex for non-procreative reasons. RedState’s eponymously named editor took to the air-waives to both cheer the fact that women’s ability to have “consequence free sex” had taken a blow and equate modern birth control with abortion. Never one to be outdone, no less than Rush Limbaugh declared the following:
“But in the normal, everyday flow of events, pregnancy requires action that has consequences. Yet we treat it as a great imposition that women need to be protected from. It’s a sickness, it’s a disease, it’s whatever, and there’s gotta be a pill for it. Yet they wouldn’t have the problem if they didn’t do a certain thing. It’s that simple… All we’re trying to do is bring some sanity back to things, some common sense.”
On the Fox News front, Sean Hannity told women that they should go buy condoms if they couldn’t control themselves, while that one guy from The Five decided that the SCOTUS decision was the perfect opportunity to revisit the topic of what a total slut that Sandra Fluke is. Mike Lee, the Tea Party darling senator from Utah, has inexplicably agreed that women’s birth control is not a healthcare issue so much as it is one of “recreational behavior.”
And sadly, it’s not just the most visible conservatives who are making the case that this really is about a woman having control over her own body. Over at Cosmopolitan — (what were the odds I was ever going to find a reason to link over there?) — Jill Filipovic is compiling Hobby Lobby tweets from the movement conservative rank and file. Among the rejoices of religious liberty are such Let-Freedom-Ring messages as “if you want to be a whore and sleep with every man you find pay for your own birth control,” “try closing your legs,” and calls for women who want birth control to “host a gangbang.”
In truth, there are many ways to honestly and justifiably couch the Hobby Lobby case in terms of the tension between the religious freedoms of employers vs. the religious freedoms of employees. But these calls for women to have to face “consequences” for choosing to engage in sexual realtionships are not among them.
In a move that should surprise absolutely no one, there is this bit of news from Dylan Scott over at Josh Marshall’s joint:
The day after the Supreme Court’s Hobby Lobby ruling, a group of religious leaders sent a letter to President Barack Obama asking that he exempt them from a forthcoming executive order that would prohibit federal contractors from discriminating against LGBT people… “Without a robust religious exemption,” they wrote, “this expansion of hiring rights will come at an unreasonable cost to the common good, national unity and religious freedom.”
Yep, we’ve already gone from arguments that “my religious freedom trumps my female employees ability to have basic healthcare as part of their employer-paid for insurance” to “my religious freedom trumps the civil rights of people I wish to discriminate against.” In retrospect, I suppose the only surprise is that it took an entire day to get from point A to point B. As Ta-Nehisi Coates can tell you, this is nothing new. The religious freedom of the majority has been held as a justifiable reason to suppress civil rights in America as long as there’s been an America in which to suppress those rights.
Now, of course none of this means that the courts will side with the religious leaders in question. Hobby Lobby was, after all, a narrow decision. And its certainly quite possible to be in agreement with the religious-freedom argument made in regards to employer-paid insurance premiums (a position I have some sympathy for, even as I object) and still outright condemn the entirely unsympathetic practice of using the religious-freedom argument to curb the civil rights of minorities. Indeed, I suspect that many (maybe even most) of those people who support the Hobby Lobby decision fall into this camp. Still, it seems wise to note how quickly those who would like to be allowed to legally discriminate against minorities are co-opting such a narrow decision.
And if the notion of SCOTUS allowing, say, some religious-based “whites-only” business policy seems too unimaginable a consequence in our advanced 21st century world, here’s a far more likely — but equally chilling — example of something they might consider in a post-Hobby Lobby world:
What’s going to happen — and mark my words, this is coming –when some company owners inevitably declare that because of their religious beliefs they refuse to pay premiums to cover employees who may need ongoing treatments for HIV, AIDS, or hepatitis, which unlike birth control pills are things even most middle-class people cannot afford out-of-pocket?
If there’s one single thing I say over and over like a broken record on this site (other than dogma is inherently dangerous), it’s this: In a pluralistic democracy, there are no real fights between freedom vs. tyranny; there are only fights between one person’s freedoms vs. another person’s freedoms. Even if SCOTUS never budges an additional inch on this decision — indeed, even if they eventually reverse it — Hobby Lobby’s aftermath has highlighted how ugly an underbelly our so-called “modern society” sports.
I keep saying that the modern right will never again surprise me by its willingness to go so far out of their way to politically shoot themselves in the foot — and still, time after time, they keep finding ways to make a liar out of me.
After their back-to-back shellacking in 2008 and 2012, it was clear that in order to have a shot at re-taking the White House the GOP needed to make inroads with two groups. One that gets a lot of talk is of course non-white minorities, but the other is women. With their treatment of the Hobby Lobby case, they’ve put themselves on a path that might actually increase the female voter gap in favor of democrats. Fox News might well have some viewers that still wish to believe that most women oppose mandating contraception as part of healthcare or that most women think contraception is tantamount to “abortion causing drugs,” but they’re living in a dream world.
Or maybe they’re not. Erickson might have summed up the entire position of the right better than anyone this week when, in reference to why he uses such inflammatory rhetoric when talking about women, he scoffed “liberals are so easy to troll” — which is perhaps the most honest self-evaluation I’ve seen the right take of itself in quite some time.
I used to write that conservatives in this country need to both wake up and grow up if they want to have even a whiff of the goodies on the 2016 table. Now I simply don’t believe they’re capable. In fact, I’m beginning to wonder if they aren’t going to take the universally assumed triumphs of November, 2014 and find a way to inexplicably snatch defeat from the jaws of victory yet again.
Trumpeting “insights” about how women who have sex should be forced to pay the consequences isn’t good politics; it isn’t even bad politics. It’s just a desire to keep on living life as a frat boy into middle age and beyond.
 And no, I did not accidently forget to write “spokespeople.”