We’re not even a month into 2014 and it already feels like déjà vu all over again.
Within a week’s time we’ve seen a veritable greatest hits of GOP base-stirring plays: the resurrection of the No Taxpayer Funding for Abortion Act in Congress (because that was so much fun in 2011); a bitter firestorm set off by an entirely unnecessary legal brief defending Nevada’s ban on same-sex marriage; and now we’ve witnessed Silver State punchline Sharron Angle walk out of the desert, like a tumbleweed blowing in the wind, carrying with her the Holy Grail of GOP smear-sticks, a Voter ID ballot initiative.
And boom goes the dynamite.
Sirens, do not be fooled by this fuckery. This is a coordinated effort — at the federal and state level — to disorient us and get us thinking defensively.
Time-sucking bills, like HR7 (aka No Taxpayer Funding for Abortion Act) appear like reproductive rights bogeymen every couple of years to distract our focus and to fill conservative campaign coffers. Just like in 2011, when the debate about that year’s No Taxpayer Funding for Abortion Act was not only exposed as a red herring — because federal funds ALREADY do not cover abortions — but it exposed the heartless ideology that hardcore conservatives really feel about rape and rape survivors, something that we know all too well these days. Meanwhile, make no mistake, that even if HR7 had a snowball’s chance in Florida, President Obama has already promised to veto it. It’s a non-starter, folks. There’s nothing to see here but slut-shaming, victim-blaming, and some dicks in a legislative circle-jerk who want to convince themselves that there’s some kind of Joker-style silver-lining to rape.
Not satisfied to stick to just jerking around women, you can bet the Nevada GOP (and Gov. Brian Sandoval, who is running for re-election) was behind the little stratagem last week to get (Democrat) Attorney General Catherine Cortez Masto to file a brief defending Nevada’s same-sex marriage ban. In the brief to the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals asking to uphold the Silver State ban on same-sex marriage, Cortez Masto invokes the oldest of old-school smear-campaigns against gays and lesbians — that marriage is not to be used to promote incest and bigamy. As it turns out, Cortez Masto didn’t even have to file the brief, as Jon Ralston explained in his Sunday op-ed:
I was fascinated, though, that nearly all of this blowback was directed at the attorney general, as if those who had supported her were feeling an acute sense of astonishment and betrayal. (And the contrast to what the newly elected Virginia attorney general did, although not directly analogous, was hard to ignore.) I know gay marriage supporters are furious with the man who Cortez Masto represents and whose name is on the lawsuit, but many of those had low expectations for the Republican, Catholic governor.
And the fingerpointing game those two played after the brief was field was something to behold, with Cortez Masto’s by-the-book, tunnel vision apparent just as Sandoval’s preternaturally careful political calculator could be heard clacking away.
I won’t repeat most of what they said, but the bottom line was this: Cortez Masto says she had no choice but to file the brief because she had an obligation to represent the state. But when I asked if the state could just have decline to file a brief against the appeal, she was unsure of the rules of the Ninth Circuit, checked and her spokeswoman told me they could, indeed, have demurred.
Then this happened: Sandoval’s spokeswoman told me the attorney general never told the governor he had the option to not file a brief. As if he would have taken that. And he used to be a FEDERAL JUDGE and an ATTORNEY GENERAL.
These transparent maneuvers, though, did not hold a candle to what happened after the progressive scorn raised down on Cortez Masto and at 5:15 PM on Friday (when the flip flop could be lost) when the news release went out that the attorney general was reconsidering her brief.
Why? Because of a case that also had been decided this week that involved excluding a gay juror. Cortez Masto used that as a fig leaf to say she was rethinking her position, saying the state’s “arguments are no longer tenable in the Ninth Circuit.” And her spokeswoman told me the attorney general; actually supports gay marriage but had to do her duty.
That one was a GOP three-fer. They got to stir up the base by raising the issue of marriage equality in Nevada; get a little mud on one of Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid’s (rumored) favorite Dems; and the Republican governor gets to have some sound-bites about how his hands are tied and it’s “up to the people.” I can practically hear someone in a backroom cackling: Muhahahaha!
But it’s not over until the fat lady (or at least a kind of lady) sings, amiright? Twinkling with remnant Tea Party luster — like Nevada’s own version of Sarah Palin (Lord how I hate that she is from my hometown!) — one-time Reid challenger Sharron Angle appeared this week as if summoned Beetlejuice-style. You could almost hear it in the wind on her heels as she filed a voter ID ballot initiative — Did someone say “stir up the base before the mid-term elections?” It would almost be adorable how she thinks she matters … if it weren’t for the fact that voter ID laws are scary stuff and gaining traction as a GOP strategy to disenfranchise whole segments of society (including women — even Republican women). This isn’t liberal hyperbole. Republican strategists ADMIT that this is by design! So, don’t believe the totally unfounded and demonstrably untrue myth of voter fraud. This is about doing very bad things to the democratic process. Full stop.
So the trick here for those of us who are about preserving rights, respecting autonomy, and believing that all people should be treated equally under the law — and I feel this is not a party-defined belief system but a morally defined philosophical one — is to stop trying to win at a game that is rigged against us. We don’t have to play by the rules of this shell game the Republicans are plying us with. (Click on this Steve Sebelius post for a long list of Republican fuckstickery.)
We don’t have to play that game at all. After all, the only thing that game is going to do is fuck us.