Is the Media’s Tea Party Delusion Coming to an End?

Amanda Marcotte

It's time to admit that the Tea Party is less interested in some ideal of libertarianism that is rarely practiced in the real world and is indeed about promoting the patriarchy.

With the primary season coming to an end, finally we can say our long national nightmare of delusion has also come to an end.  No, not delusions about the President not being a U.S. citizen or about how Medicare doesn’t count as government-run health care—right-wing propaganda doesn’t stop chugging for anyone.  No, the delusion that’s coming to an end is the fervent mainstream media belief that the Tea Party represents a new kind of conservative movement, one less interested in promoting the patriarchy and more interested in some ideal of libertarianism that is rarely practiced in the real world.  Now that we have a full eyeball of the kind of candidates nominated when the Tea Party throws out Republican party favorites and brings in their own, we can safely say that the only thing really new about this conservative movement is the early republic-era costumes.

One glance through the newly minted Tea Party leadership, and it’s clear that putting a nose in every panty drawer still tops the list of conservative priorities.  And contrary to the earlier mainstream media claims that this year’s conservative movement is downplaying the talk about women’s rights, these leaders seem even more extreme than their predecessors.  Take, for instance, Christine O’Donnell, the surprise victor over moderate Mike Castle for the Republican nomination for Delaware Senator. Not only does O’Donnell take an extreme position on abortion, wanting a ban on the procedure with no exceptions for rape or incest, but she also made her name as an anti-contraception crusader.  In fact, her objections to non-procreative sex are so strong that she has even gone on the record opposing masturbation, causing an avalanche of jokes that indicates that the country’s opinions on this subject may have matured since the days Jocelyn Elders was drummed out of office for suggesting that masturbating is a topic worth being covered in sex ed.

O’Donnell may be the extreme example, but this season’s crop of candidates dubbed “Tea Party” candidates demonstrates a tendency to take traditional conservative opposition to abortion rights and to shoot it up with steroids.  As Rachel Maddow reported in August, Tea Party favorites Sharron Angle, Rand Paul, and Ken Buck beat their more mainstream Republican opponents in primaries with platforms that indicate they favor extreme abortion bans that would have no exceptions for rape or incest, or to save the health of the mother.  Since Maddow did that report, three more prominent Tea Party candidates beat the Republican favorite in Republican primaries: Christine O’Donnell, Joe Miller (who beat Lisa Murkowski for the Republican nomination for Alaska Senator), and Carl Paladino (who beat Rick Lazio for Republican nomination for New York governor.  All three of these upsets went to candidates who share this desire for an extreme abortion ban that would leave us in a situation where even rape victims, children impregnated through incest, and women who face massive disabilities if they give birth would be denied an abortion.

If it only happened once or twice that the Tea Party coalition threw out a favored Republican to put in their own candidate with extreme anti-choice views, one could chalk it up to coincidence.  Perhaps, you could argue, they voted for the Tea Party candidate over the mainstream Republican because they liked his/her views on economics and didn’t look twice at the abortion thing.  But now that this has happened over and over again, and the candidates seem to be embracing even more aggressive anti-choice language, the possibility has to be considered that the Tea Partiers are voting for these candidates because they like their extremist anti-choice views.

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More than any issue, the abortion factor has caused the mainstream media to drop the early narrative about the Tea Partiers being a libertarian uprising.  Now the narrative is more that the Tea Party is undertaking a purge of the Republican party, where anyone with moderate tendencies has a target on his back.  In the race to appear more hard-core-right-wing-than-thou, taking an absolutist stance on abortion can be a quick way for a candidate to establish bona fides.  And unlike with other stances where taking a hard line right wing stance can backfire by implicating the well-being of the actual voters, such as stances in favor of abolishing Social Security or deregulating the banks entirely.  Women of reproductive age are relatively rare amongst Tea Party supporters.  The ones that are there are often subject to the all-too-common belief that the need to abort a pregnancy is something that happens to other women, because of anti-choice stereotypes that paint women who have abortions as stupid or slutty.  Abortion banning becomes the go-to topic for proving your right-wing mettle, because it’s the perfect example of a policy choice that supporters can always believe only affect other people.

What does this mean for the future?  Possibly nothing, in terms of long term trends.  The current trending hard to the right for the conservative movement appears mostly to be a reaction to the election of Barack Obama and the changing demographics of a nation that made his election possible.  Those demographic changes show no sign of slowing down, which will eventually put a hard limit on right-wing power.  Even now, the mainstream Republican party is scrambling to stem the right-wing tide, out of a legitimate fear that candidates perceived as extremist can’t win elections, particularly in swing states like Nevada or Delaware, where Tea Party favorites have edged out Republican favorites for Republican Senate nominations.

But despite the demographic deadline facing the conservative movement, they can still massive damage on their way out the door. As the Center for Reproductive Rights documented, 2010 was a particularly bad year for reproductive rights, as many state legislatures passed increasingly strict regulations on abortion.  And even as the country as a whole moves more to the left, we’re also seeing increasing geographic polarization, making some areas of the country ever more right wing by the day.  For these areas, the crackdown on women’s rights may have just begun.   

News Politics

Clinton in Friday Speech: ‘Fight Back Against the Erosion of Reproductive Rights’

Ally Boguhn

Just after the former secretary of state ended her speech, the presumptive Republican nominee Donald Trump took the stage at another event and struck a different tone.

Hillary Clinton defended reproductive rights in a Friday speech, following the news that the former secretary of state had become the Democratic Party’s presumptive nominee. Soon after Clinton’s comments, Donald Trump took the stage at a different event and vowed to protect “the sanctity and dignity of life.” 

In her speech, Clinton detailed her support of access to safe and affordable abortion and contraceptive care.

“It’s been a big week, and there’s nowhere I’d rather end it,” Clinton told the crowd while speaking at an event for Planned Parenthood Action Fund in Washington, D.C. Planned Parenthood Action Fund, the political arm of Planned Parenthood, endorsed Clinton in January, offering the Democratic candidate “its first endorsement in a presidential primary in the nonprofit’s 100-year existence,” according to the New York Times.

“Today, I want to start by saying something you don’t hear often enough: Thank you,” she said, offering her gratitude to the organization for caring for its patients “no matter their race, sexual orientation, or immigration status.”

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Clinton continued: “Thank you for being there for every woman, in every state, who has to miss work, drive hundreds of miles sometimes, endure cruel medically unnecessary waiting periods, walk past angry protesters to exercise her constitutional right to safe and legal abortion. I’ve been proud to stand with Planned Parenthood for a long time, and as president I will always have your back.”

Clinton then pivoted to discussing presumptive Republican nominee Donald Trump.

“When Donald Trump says, ‘Let’s make America great again,’ that is code for ‘Let’s take America backward,’” she said. “Back to a time when opportunity and dignity were reserved for some, not all. Back to the days when abortion was illegal, women had far fewer options, and life for too many women and girls was limited. Well, Donald, those days are over.”

Citing the upcoming Supreme Court decision in Whole Woman’s Health v. Hellerstedt as proof of the importance of nominating a new justice to the Court’s vacant seat, Clinton called on Congress to “give Judge [Merrick] Garland the hearing he deserves.”

Clinton went on to outline her vision for reproductive rights in the country should she be elected, noting: “If right-wing politicians actually cared as much about protecting women’s health as much as they say they do, they’d join me in calling for more federal funding for Planned Parenthood.”

Calling to “fight back against the erosion of reproductive rights at the federal, state, and local levels,” Clinton pushed for a host of related priorities, such as ensuring clinic patients and staff can safely access clinics; investing in long-lasting reversible contraception; acting to combat the Zika virus; and repealing the Hyde Amendment, which bans most federal funding for abortion care.

Just after Clinton ended her speech, Trump addressed the Road to Majority conference, hosted by the Faith & Freedom Coalition and Concerned Women for America, and struck a very different tone. “Here are the goals … and I wanted it to come from me, from my heart. We want to uphold the sanctity and dignity of life,” Trump told the crowd.

The Republican went on to reiterate his promise to nominate only “pro-life” justices to the Supreme Court should he be elected, before turning to attack Clinton. “She will appoint radical judges who will legislate from the bench, overriding Congress, and the will of the people will mean nothing,” said Trump before claiming Clinton “will push for federal funding of abortion on demand until the moment of birth.”

Though Clinton has championed reproductive rights during her presidential campaign, she told Fox News in March that she would be “in favor of a late-pregnancy regulation that would have exceptions for the life and health of the mother.”

News Politics

With Primary Wins, Clinton Is First Woman to Become Presumptive Nominee of Major Party

Ally Boguhn

Celebrating her victory at a rally in Brooklyn Tuesday night, the former secretary of state pointed to the historic nature of her campaign. "Thanks to you, we've reached a milestone: the first time in our nation's history that a woman will be a major party's nominee," declared Clinton.

Former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton declared herself the Democratic Party’s presumptive nominee for the 2016 presidential election after a string of Tuesday night primary victories and a survey of superdelegates conducted by the Associated Press (AP).

Celebrating her victory at a rally in Brooklyn Tuesday night, Clinton pointed to the historic nature of her campaign. “Thanks to you, we’ve reached a milestone: the first time in our nation’s history that a woman will be a major party’s nominee,” declared Clinton. “Tonight’s victory is not about one person. It belongs to generations of women and men who struggled and sacrificed and made this moment possible.”

Going on to praise rival Democratic candidate Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-VT) for “the extraordinary campaign he has run,” Clinton pointed to the shared goals of the two campaigns. “Let there be no mistake, Senator Sanders, his campaign, and the vigorous debate that we’ve had about how to raise incomes, reduce inequality, increase upward mobility, have been very good for the Democratic party and for America.” 

Clinton went on to pivot to the general election, criticizing presumptive Republican nominee Donald Trump as “temperamentally unfit to be president and commander in chief.” Clinton then spoke of the road ahead: “The end of the primaries is only the beginning of the work we are called to do,” she said. “But if we stand together, we will rise together, because we are stronger together.”

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Tuesday’s presidential primaries boosted Clinton’s delegate lead over Sanders, with wins in California, New Jersey, New Mexico, and South Dakota. Sanders won both Montana and the North Dakota caucuses. NBC News reported that night that, projecting a win in California, Clinton had secured more than half of all pledged delegates in the Democratic primary:

Based on initial vote reports from California, NBC News has allocated 140 delegates to both Clinton and rival Bernie Sanders. That gives Clinton 2,043 delegates, more than half of the pledged delegates up for grabs throughout the primary season.

NARAL Pro-Choice America President Ilyse Hogue, whose organization endorsed Clinton in January, reiterated the organization’s support for the former secretary of state in a Tuesday night statement. “Secretary Clinton’s victory tonight is a victory for all women because she is the model of a true champion for reproductive freedom,” said Hogue. “NARAL will be out in force to make sure Hillary Clinton is our next president—not Donald Trump.”

Clinton has been a vocal supporter of reproductive rights while on the campaign trail, though the Democratic candidate has also signaled her support for restrictions on some later abortions.

The former secretary of state reportedly spoke of the historical significance of a potential win Tuesday night during a campaign stop in California, prior to reports that she had become the party’s presumptive nominee.

“My supporters are passionate. They are committed. They have voted for me in great numbers across the country for many reasons,” said Clinton Monday according to the Washington Post. “But among the reasons is their belief that having a woman president would make a great statement—a historic statement—about what kind of country we are, what we stand for. It’s really emotional.”

Tuesday also marked the eight-year anniversary of Clinton’s speech conceding the Democratic nomination to Barack Obama, which similarly mentioned the progress her campaign had made for women. “Although we weren’t able to shatter that highest, hardest glass ceiling this time, thanks to you it’s got about 18 million cracks in it and the light is shining through like never before,” said Clinton that night, urging her supporters to back her rival in the race for president.

AP first projected Clinton as the presumptive nominee Monday after conducting a “count of pledged delegates won in primaries and caucuses and a survey of party insiders known as superdelegates,” ultimately concluding that the Democratic candidate had the required 2,383 delegates needed to secure the nomination.

Sanders and his supporters swiftly condemned the media for calling the race before Tuesday’s primaries results were in. “It is unfortunate that the media, in a rush to judgment, are ignoring the Democratic National Committee’s clear statement that it is wrong to count the votes of superdelegates before they actually vote at the convention this summer,” said Sanders spokesperson Michael Briggs in a Monday statement.

“Secretary Clinton does not have and will not have the requisite number of pledged delegates to secure the nomination,” continued Briggs. “Our job from now until the convention is to convince those superdelegates that Bernie is by far the strongest candidate against Donald Trump.”

As the New York Times’ The Upshot blog explained, this is not the first time a count including superdelegates was used to declare a presumptive nominee. “The news networks projected that Mr. Obama was the presumptive nominee in the 2008 Democratic primary based on the same rules for tabulating superdelegates,” noted writer Nate Cohn Tuesday.

Politico reported last week Sanders would need “to persuade nearly 200 Hillary Clinton superdelegates to bolt from her camp” in order to win the nomination—a difficult feat given that thus far no superdelegates have made that switch and only about 30 changed candidates in 2008.

Even as Tuesday night’s results came in, Sanders pledged to continue his fight for the Democratic nomination. “Next Tuesday we continue the fight in the last primary in Washington, D.C. … And then we take our fight for social, economic, racial, and environmental justice to Philadelphia, Pennsylvania,” said Sanders during a rally in California.