When Tennessee GOP Congressman, Scott DesJarlais, discovered he’d knocked up one of his patients, there was a simple solution. A drive down to Georgia for an abortion would fix that glitch, same as it had for his wife twice before. His staunchly “pro-life” supporters keep sending him back to Congress without a hint of concern.
When the mistress to GOP Rep Tim Murphy turned up pregnant he recommended the obvious solution. If not for a scathing harassment lawsuit from his office staff he might still be in Congress. We don’t know how many times the former President paid for an abortion because he pointedly refuses to answer the question. Republicans don’t care. Indifference from Republican voters to abortions encouraged and even funded by the white men they elect might seem strange, but it shouldn’t. This is exactly the outcome that anti-abortion politics was meant to produce.
A dirty secret sits beneath Republicans’ muted response to Texas’ new abortion ban. Republican posturing on abortion has always been premised on the fact that Roe was unassailable. Taking the most extreme and unpopular position on reproductive rights was a free ride because that dog could never catch the car. Now a frothing mob of theocrats in the Texas Legislature has wrecked the silent bargain at the root of Republican power. There will be hell to pay.
The Supreme Court overturned Roe v Wade last week without even hearing an argument. Texas Republicans this spring had passed a bizarrely structured abortion ban which everyone, including Republicans, assumed the courts would invalidate. They didn’t.
Texas Republicans woke up to discover that they’d banned all abortions in the state. Because of the breadth of the law’s enforcement mechanisms, no one will be able to get an abortion in Texas for any reason.
Why would Legislators let such an absurd and extreme bill pass? Why not? The only cost of passing an abortion ban should have been the money shelled out by taxpayers and the ACLU to fight over it in court.
The egregiousness of this bill was supposed to be its saving grace. A simple 12-week ban on abortion with a few reasonable exceptions for health and rape would not only have passed the Legislature, but the newly reconstituted SCOTUS might have let it stand. GOP leaders in Texas calculated that they could pacify the dumbest, craziest, most malicious elements of their base by appearing to give them what they wanted. In the end, we all live under the safe-keeping of the black-robed adults on the Supreme Court, so none of this was supposed to matter.
Texas’ abortion ban violates the silent agreement at the heart of Republican power. Predatory, destructive and occasionally insane Republican policy objectives, great for stirring up white yokels, must never touch affluent whites. If you’ve ever wondered why business leaders, investors and Mitt Romney-types tolerate mouth-breathing loons like Louis Gohmert, now you know. The Republican golden rule, “Do only unto others,” is supposed to protect affluent white voters from the rest of the party.
Since Republicans absorbed an influx of white Dixiecrat refugees in the 1980’s and ’90’s, the party has settled into a balance of power among its three often-overlapping interest groups: racists, religious nuts and grifters. All of them are either white, working their way toward whiteness, or are simply willing to cash a check to protect white supremacy.
Each Republican faction is allowed to let their freak flag fly as long as their extremes don’t threaten affluent whites. Religious nuts can rail about abortion as long as white sorority girls can still get one. Racists can scream about closing the border as long as goods and services still flow. Grifters can get permission to sell snake oil cures as long as solid healthcare remains available to the affluent. And both racists and religious nuts can stir up a crime panic as long as they consent to further gutting the IRS and SEC.
Republicans lecture America on the need for stiffer drug penalties while they and their kids light up. Medicare, which white people expect to need, is a sacred right, functioning as well as any European universal health care system. Medicaid, which white people don’t expect to need, is a constant political punching bag, crippled by pointless, punitive restrictions.
Social Security, which whites expect to need, is untouchable. Food and housing aid, which whites don’t expect to need, are constantly underfunded and subject to harassing restrictions.
Observers often puzzle at apparent Republican hypocrisy because they don’t understand the deal. It is perfectly okay for Rep. DesJarlais to secure abortions for his wives and/or mistresses. He’s a white man. He’s supposed to be able to do whatever he wants. White kids are supposed to be able to use whatever drugs they want while Black kids go to prison for it. Prisons are supposed to be incredibly cruel to torment the most minor Black offenders while enforcement of high-dollar crimes fades away.
A lot of conservative white women get abortions. A lot of hyper-conservative, super-religious white men need an abortion for a very special lady, at a very urgent moment. Under the the Republican Golden Rule, these essential services should always be available for whites with money to pay for them. Republican policies are supposed to target the “irresponsible,” you know, people of color and the poor. Trying to apply these rules to white people with money will go over like trying to make them wear a mask.
Republicans count on the secure disinterest that allows millions of affluent whites to treat politics like an irrelevant spectacle. White people often say things like “you should never lose friends over politics,” because the Republican Golden Rule reduces their political exposure to minor questions of tax rates and, well…pretty much just tax rates. None of the unseemly wrangling over this issue or that need distract them, because they’ve cut a deal for immunity from politics. Maybe the GOP can survive this glitch, but now they’ll have to do it without their most crucial advantage.
At the moment when the ’22 campaigns are getting started, Republicans will be descending into an internal knife fight over the party’s future. It won’t be an abstract question of which policies to pretend to pursue to win an election. This time it’s personal. What’s at stake is the very immunity from oversight that white men treasure.
How do Republicans continue to win after the grifters and racists no longer feel safe from the religious nuts? What happens to the Republican Party if the harassing, abusive, often destructive policies they impose on minority communities are equally applied to their own white donors? Thanks to a terrible miscalculation by Texas Legislators, we’re about to find out.