If you think it’s just liberals who think the Republican Party has gone over the edge just check The Washington Post opinion page where Fred Hiatt, the right-of-center editorial page editor, joins the growing ranks of those in the middle of the ideological spectrum ridiculing the increasingly nutty pronouncements coming from the GOP presidential candidates.
It really is difficult to believe that there is actually anyone out there who would vote for any of these clowns for president. Yet the reality is that their race to prove who can make the stupidest and most outrageous statement about the economy, or Iran, or President Obama, or just about anything else, is driven by a GOP base that is no longer capable of seeing reason – so blinded are they by their ideological prejudices. And it’s not just Mitt, Newt, Rick and Ron.
We’ve all had a fun week watching GOP Governor McDonnell of Virginia backpedaling furiously from his previous pledge to sign a bill enthusiastically passed by the Republican-controlled legislature that would mandate an ultrasound for any woman seeking an abortion. The legislation required that certain details regarding the fetus be determined which, in the case of first trimester pregnancies, would necessitate a vaginal probe being inserted. Since most abortions are performed in the first trimester of a pregnancy, that would constitute the majority of women wanting abortions in Virginia.
The legislation passed even though information on the invasive procedure was already circulating as the bill was voted on. In other words, Republicans who rail non-stop about government intrusion and interference in our lives were voting for a bill that would require a vaginal wand be inserted in a woman as a condition of her obtaining an abortion. Oh, and to add insult to injury, she’d have to pay for it!
After a week of being lampooned on Saturday Night Live and Comedy Central and attracting the unwelcome attention of the mainstream media, McDonnell and the bill’s GOP authors backed off to regroup. It didn’t take long for the Virginia House to redraft the bill deleting the probe-in-the-vagina requirement; nice of them. However, what’s left is still noxious. Women in Virginia will still have to undergo a mandatory ultrasound examination which they must pay for and then wait 24 hours before going through with the abortion. By any reasonable standard it’s an unconscionable government intrusion into what should be a private matter for any woman.
Maybe we should give Virginia’s GOP politicians some credit for rethinking dumb ideas, however. They’ve shelved, at least for this session, a bill that would define life as beginning at conception. If that isn’t a can of worms, I don’t know what is – but it says so much about Virginia’s GOP legislators that even the voters of Mississippi, the most conservative state in the country, rejected the notion by a sizeable majority.
In fact the GOP seems to have adopted an unconventional strategy for winning this year’s election: attack women’s rights.
In a year when most Americans are concerned primarily with the economy, Republicans have targeted not only abortion rights – almost a given these days – but even guaranteed access to contraception is in the crosshairs, as we saw in the recent clash between the requirements of the Affordable Care Act and the Catholic Bishops. The Republicans, who hate the ACA anyway, were only too happy to join the bishops in opposing the inclusion of contraception coverage for all but strictly religious institutions. And we’re not just talking about Brother Santorum here, whose vision for America appears to look like something out of The Handmaiden’s Tale. No, we’re talking about virtually every GOP pol and right-wing pundit who voiced an opinion.
Behind all of this is a Republican base that is so extreme that GOP presidential hopefuls are reduced to vying with each other to make the most outlandish accusation, allegation or characterization levied at President Obama. Even the guy in the field who still seems to have a limited grip on reality, Mitt Romney, has been telling whoppers from the get-go, such as the falsehood that Obama went around the world apologizing for America.
The rest of us, though, can be grateful for one thing. The GOP base is driving their presidential candidates and legislators so far to the right that, with any luck, come November they’ll go over an electoral cliff.