Now that the nation has spanked Rush Limbaugh for his heavy breathing over Sandra Fluke, and there has been open ridicule of the Virginia legislature’s vaginal ultrasound laws, you would think that there would be a chilling effect on similar sentiments and legislation elsewhere. Apparently not.
It seems that there was some kind of general memo distributed to elected officials in state houses around the country that read, with Svengali-like enchantment: Non-Procreative. Sex. Must. Cease. Looks like we’re seeing more pre-abortion vaginal ultrasound and fetal personhood legislation proposed in state after state, and that memo was spread around long before Rush flapped his gums.
According to the Guttmacher Institute, this last year alone close to a thousand new laws have sprung up across various states, limiting or punishing reproductive choice for women. All Rush did was openly broadcast the fight over our vaginas. Conservatives in state legislatures and local governments have been doing the rest of the footwork, long before Sandra Fluke spoke up. They had hold of The Memo long before Fluke-Limbaugh made the news cycle(s) of March.
To some, the ludicrousness and misogyny of these laws signal the last thrashing of a dying conservative movement, but in his newest article, leading progressive political messaging expert George Lakoff thinks otherwise. Lakoff says in his article “The Santorum Strategy”:
This is anything but an irrational position for radically conservative Republicans. Quite the contrary. It fits conservative moral logic — the logic used by conservative populists, male for sure and for many women as well. In some respects it embodies the most powerful aspects of conservative moral logic, strengthening conservative moral logic in the minds not only of conservatives, but also of independents who have both conservative and progressive world views and swing between them.
Here’s how that logic goes.
The strict father determines what happens in the family, including reproduction. Thus reproduction is the province of male authority. The strict father does not condone moral weakness and self-indulgence without moral consequences. Sex without reproductive consequences is thus seen as immoral. If the nation supports birth control for unmarried women, then the nation supports immoral behavior. The conservative stress on individual responsibility means that you and no one else should have to pay for your birth control — not your employer, your HMO, or the taxpayers.
Having to pay for your birth control also has a metaphorical religious value — paying for your sins. This is a classical slippery slope narrative. If no one else should have to pay for your birth control, the next step is that no one else should have to pay for any of your health care. And the step after that is that no one else should be forced to pay for anyone else. This is, everything should be privatized — no public education, safety nets, parks, or any public institutions or services. (emphasis mine – fb)
That is what makes conservative moral logic into such a powerful instrument. And conservative and independent women can be pragmatic about the birth control details, while accepting the moral logic as a whole.
Incidentally, Rush Limbaugh’s ‘slut’ and ‘prostitute’ remarks, while even more extreme than Santorum, make sense to conservatives in terms of the same conservative moral logic. Limbaugh apologized for those two words, but not for the logic behind them. Even after the apology for the two words, the logic lingers.”
Professor Lakoff says the campaigns of Mr. Santorum, Gingrich and Romney, as loony as they are, have an agenda. This is not the end of conservatism but the full flower. The job of the 2012 campaign for the Republicans is, in effect, “The Santorum Strategy,” which — aside from Republican re-taking the White House and Congress — is to “ingrain the conservative agenda into the national dialogue permanently.”
What better way to do it than to engage the entire country in a national dialogue condemning pre-marital sex and asserting the Constitutional right for freedom of religious expression for churches opposing contraception? How else can you get those concepts blasted into the public consciousness than to have the fatuous Mr. Limbaugh proclaim it in the most vile and insulting way possible? Oh, it’s burned in there alright. This is how Rove gets his base into the voting booths. In 2000, it was the fight over custody of Elian Gonzales and in 2004, it was San Francisco’s massive lines surrounding City Hall for gay marriage ceremonies. In 2012, its the year of the Sluts v. America.
As astute as Professor Lakoff is, I came away from reading his article feeling cheated out of examples of what the progressive community could do to provide a framing with similar moral imperative for our side of the argument. Lakoff is a consultant after all, and wouldn’t want to give away trade secrets for free. We’re just the bitches, sluts and whores whose lives, bodies, and the people who love us are at stake. Outside of the Occupy Movement, which created the 99% v. 1%, what do we have? Even with the many great and hilarious efforts in response to Virginia’s ultrasound law and other female contraception-impeding legislation, we could use more of our creativity to draw back the conversation to the morality of justice and equality. Hey, you know, there was a memo written about that nearly 150 years ago.
Whatever happened to that?