One of the most head-scratching, or scary if you will, parts of this year’s election season has been the rise of the Tea Party: uber-conservative , religious, and mainly white voters and candidates that are booting “moderate” republicans in party primaries across the country. It has been a common theme that the Tea Party members are overwhelmingly male, but the women, led by Fox News contributor Sarah Palin, seem to be having the most impact and are winning the most support, which has been recently confirmed by a Quinnipiac University poll.
Some would argue the fact that women are so actively involved in politics and are winning primaries is a great thing for the women’s rights movement; the reality is that many of these women hold extreme anti-choice, anti-abortion, evangelical views, which obliterates any notion of progress for women.
So who are the Tea Party women? What do they stand for ? And what does the country stand to lose If enough of these extreme positions are instituted into law if enough Tea Party candidates are elected?
Peggy Drexler of Cornell Medical School writes on the Huffington Post on what the women of the Tea Party stand for, saying,
“Aggregate statistics don’t neatly translate to individual intent. But it’s fair to assume there aren’t many coming out of this base who will champion issues like gay marriage, choice, and single parent families. Gay marriage and choice are clearly high on Sarah Palin’s list of American evils. Single parent families get a pass for obvious reasons. But as Colleen Campbell quotes her speeches in a recent St. Louis Post-Dispatch editorial — single mothers are ‘strong enough and smart enough’ … to ‘handle an unplanned pregnancy,’ while continuing to pursue education and a career. In other words: when the going gets tough, the tough keep the baby.”
The entirety of her piece is a broad look at statistical analysis of the gender and ideological makeup of the Tea Party, and then she concludes with the opinion the Tea Party hates choice, equal marriage, and taxes.
But this doesn’t seem too far from what Republicans and conservatives represented in the past ten years. Indeed, the strong anti-choice message, the attempted infusion of a Christian God into politics and call for tax cuts have literally been the modern Republican platform for years. The Tea Party is far more extreme than that.
Take a look at Delaware Tea Party conservative Senate candidate Christine O’Donnel , who thinks abortion and contraception are anti-human and that condoms are fallible and evil. O’Donnel also believes masturbation is a sin, lust is a sin, and that women should willfully submit to the man in a marriage, becuase that is what God intended.
Or how about Sharron Angle, the Tea Party candidate who is running against Harry Reid in Nevada? She believes that women should not be allowed an abortion in any case, even rape or incest. Why? She elaborates: “ I’m a christian and I believe that God has a plan and a purpose for each one of our lives and that he can intercede in all kids of situations and we need to have a little faith in many things.” Keith Olbermann responds brilliantly to Angle’s looney, anti-choice, woman-hating stance, saying that becuase her Christian God has a plan for everything , there should be no protections for anyone, ever, becuase God will deal with it and if that person should die, be raped, or forced to birth her father’s baby, well I guess it is God’s plan. This is scary.
The Tea Party leader Sarah Palin, wouldn’t support an abortion even if her own daughter was raped.
South Carolina Republican Gubernatorial candidate Nikki Haley wants to insert personal into the political, saying she would outlaw abortions in her state if elected, sending abortion providers and women seeking abortions to jail. Because her husband was adopted, so its personal, and thus her life should be the model every other person should have to live by .
Rachel Maddow notes that male Tea Party members have gone so radical right on reproductive rights, claiming that all women should do is reproduce. Becuase of the Tea Party, these radical anti- abortion politics have taken over amongst the “mainstream” conservatives, not just confined to Tea Party candidates like Rand Paul and Sharron Angle.
The reason anti-choice, extreme anti-abortion ideologies have been so central to the political platform of many of these female and male Tea Party candidates has many causes. The first, I think, is the movement of the right wing to the far right wing- the party is attracting more extreme candidates that hold more extreme positions.
A far more sinister reason is, as Princeton professor Melissa Harris-Lacewell tells Rachel Maddow, that economic anxiety has caused fear and “the best way to reassert control is right in the middle of women- right in her uterus… they want middle class white women to have more white babies… and think these middle class white women are not producing of enough white babies …. Becuase they are equal in their marriages.” I tend to agree with Harris-Lacewell’s analysis on why anti-abortion politics have been so central and extreme to these people’s political platforms.
What happens to women’s reproductive rights when or if these Tea Party women are elected is frightening to imagine. There will no doubt be hundreds of bills introduced to further strip existing abortion rights on both the state and federal level. There will be more bills for parental notification, more invasive, vaginal ultrasounds. If the state legislature is conservative enough, a bill making abortion illegal and jail-worthy offense in South Carolina could be signed . Abstinence only education would see a boost in spending, reproductive education, services and grants would see a drop or outright cessation of funding.
Women’s reproductive rights will be dangerously compromised. The extreme views of these candidates have dire consequences for women’s rights and abortion rights, thus it is so imperative that we don’t succumb to the notion that women running for office as conservative, Tea Party members, are good for women in our country or the women’s rights movement.