I don’t know if Foster Friess, the billionaire supporter of Rick Santorum, is representative of all of Santorum’s supporters, but I get the feeling he is. Which is great, because if Santorum wins the nomination, that means that all Barack Obama has to do is role tape of this sort of bad crazy and he’s sure to win:
“Here we have millions of our fellow Americans unemployed. We have jihadist camps being set up in Latin America, which Rick has been warning about, and people seem to be so preoccupied with sex. I think it says something about our culture,” Friess said. “We maybe need a massive therapy session so we can concentrate on what the real issues are.”
He continued: “On this contraceptive thing, my Gosh it’s such [sic] inexpensive. You know, back in my days, they used Bayer aspirin for contraception. The gals put it between their knees, and it wasn’t that costly.”
Friess’s ties to Santorum go back a few years. He donated to Santorum’s miserable 2006 campaign to no avail. I think his money is going down the drain this time around, too, but it’s his money and if he’d rather spend it trying to prop up a losing candidate with seriously antiquated ideas about sexual equality, he’s welcome to it.
For that matter, the culture wars represent a losing battle for the right, regardless of the money they burn to wage them. It’s a question of dying ideas and the dying demographics who hold them. I’m all for keeping an eye to tradition, and making sure that as society evolves we don’t throw the baby out with the bathwater, but part of evolution is to cut off limbs. If we’re to really grow as a culture and a people, we have to get past the notion that somehow women are inferior or that they shouldn’t have control over their own destiny. And we need to get beyond the idea that sex is icky, too.
For conservatives or people like me who actually do value a certain brand of conservatism, this means keeping an eye on how to run a properly limited government – not extend ourselves so far overseas, not fall too deep into debt waging wars and locking up nonviolent offenders. It means modesty instead of hubris. There is much to be said for a conservatism of doubt and a conservatism that urges caution and skepticism toward power. That’s not on display on the right anymore, but it isn’t to say that it couldn’t be. Certainly Ron Paul strikes me as the most tempermentally conservative presidential candidate we’ve seen come out of the GOP in a long time.
Now that death panels are a thing of the distant past, the real threat to liberty in this country is apparently the pill, something that we’ve had for over half a century and that a majority of us thought was a fairly settled debate. Of course, since the right is adamantly opposed to providing life-saving universal access to healthcare we instead get yet another front in the culture wars.
Today, the White House did the right thing for women, public health and human rights. Despite deep concerns, including my own, based on what transpired in the past under health reform, the White House has decided on a plan to address the birth control mandate that will enable women to get contraceptive coverage directly through their insurance plans without having to buy a rider or a second plan, and without having to negotiate with or through religious entities or administrations that are hostile to primary reproductive health care, including but not limited to contraception.
Under this plan, every insurance company will be obligated to provide contraceptive coverage. Administration officials stated that a woman’s insurance company “will be required to reach out directly and offer her contraceptive care free of charge. The religious institutions will not have to pay for it.”
This is the right move. A smart, effective way to get past the objections on the right. And it pushes us one tiny step closer to shedding employer coverage altogether.
A solid 56 percent majority of voters support the decision to require health plans to cover prescription birth control with no additional out-of-pocket fees, while only 37 percent are opposed. It’s particularly noteworthy that pivotal independent voters support this benefit by a 55/36 margin; in fact, a majority of voters in every racial, age, and religious category that we track express support. In particular, a 53 percent majority of Catholic voters, who were oversampled as part of this poll, favor the benefit, including fully 62 percent of Catholics who identify themselves as independents.
It will be interesting to see how Republicans respond to this latest move by the president. The reason it’s an issue at all is simple: just as the economy starts to heat up, Republicans panic and pick a fight over something bound to whip up the fervor of the angriest of culture warriors: no death panels this time, no, this time it’s contraception. But actually that’s not quite right either. That’s just a code word for abortion.
Of course, we’re not talking about a mandate to cover abortions, we’re talking about a mandate to cover birth control. Some people on the fringe of this debate equate the two, but a huge majority of Americans disagree. A majority of Catholics disagree, for that matter.