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Reading Time: 9 minutes Cover of October 2018 edition of Church & State magazine. (Church & State)
Reading Time: 9 minutes

Hi! Last time we talked, we were discussing Republicans’ bizarre and grotesque view of rape as just “another form of conception,” leading to their attempt to force women to gestate against their wills any pregnancies that result. Today I’ll show you just how far this regressive worldview gets. (You didn’t think it just extended to destroying women’s bodily liberties, did you? Oh, no. The rabbit hole beckons yonder, and it goes deeeeeeeeeep….)

(Credit: Nick Fisher, CC-ND license.)
(Credit: Nick Fisher, CC-ND license.)

It’s not rape itself that Republicans love so much, though they do seem quite fixated on this detestable crime, but more the utter destruction of women’s independence, self-sovereignty, and freedom. When they talk about forcing women to endure pregnancies resulting from rape, Republican politicians are not just talking about the actual rape or pregnancy, or even really about the women involved–which is why ultra-conservative, ultra-anti-choice Republican Trent Franks was recently so incredibly dismissive of them, acting as if tens of thousands of impregnated rape victims annually weren’t even worth his time to consider; even if there were a million, one suspects they still wouldn’t be numerous enough to matter to this fanatic because they are totally not the point.

Mr. Franks and his cronies, when they gleefully rush into the Team Rape party van, are communicating to Republican voters a host of values that go along with this repulsive mindset, including the idea that women’s bodies belong to men, that women’s consent can be obliterated and overridden by men at any time and for any reason, that women must give their bodies to anybody who needs them at any time for any reason and for any length of time desired, and that women simply cannot be trusted to make their own decisions so men must always stand by to pull the reins out of their hands for their own good.

The more draconian the Republican’s view of abortion, the more likely that Republican buys into Christianists’ worldview and shares their goals, while a Republican who doesn’t appear to toe the abortion line well enough may well be suspected of not being a true member of the tribe–and may not work as hard to bring about the theocracy they want.

As Donald Trump is showing us in spades lately, toxic Christians don’t even care anymore if the Republican in question actually sincerely believes a thing being said. All that matters is how good a job of pandering that politician can do. To achieve their goals of theocracy, right-wing Christians will get into bed with absolutely anybody.

And here the rest of us are, harshing their buzz.

They’re Dimly Realizing That We Can Totally Hear Them.

For the longest time, Republican politicians and right-wing Christian leaders alike thought that the party had a stranglehold on its one established and firmly-situated voting bloc: extremist Catholics and fundagelical Protestants of a variety of denominations, almost all white, misogynistic, bigoted, fanatical, mostly lower-to-middle-class, racist, poorly-educated, and extremely angry about their fading dominance.

Such Christians have been eagerly rushing off to vote the way they’ve been commanded and constantly spinning in outraged circles over this or that manufactured crisis and conspiracy theory, all at the direction of politicians who know how easy it is to manipulate and mislead groups of people who, let’s face it, proudly and smugly call themselves sheep.

Outside of that group, though, Republicans’ appeal is very, very limited. That’s a big problem.

Actually, it’s two big problems. Here is the first:

1. This bloc is detested by just about every other bloc in the country.
For the most part, Republicans are well aware of the antipathy other people feel toward them, their ultimate goals, and their party’s candidates.

Republican voters’ response is to insult and harangue any opposition, viciously abuse them, try to silence them, and make sure they all know how much Republican voters hate them and look forward to turning them all into second-class citizens in their future Happy Christian Society, so they can punish them for this dissent. As persuasion tactics go, their chosen one is shockingly ineffective, but these are, after all, people who think that threatening people with eternal punitive torture for noncompliance is a great way to evangelize a religion whose core virtues are peace, forgiveness, and love.

2. Republican politicians, however, dare not do anything to anger their remaining adherents.
When Sarah Palin threatened to flounce from the Republican Party a few years ago, Democrats cheered–but more sensible Republicans knew that if right-wing Christians flounced as a whole from the party and formed a third party, they would have even less chance of landing a Presidency than they already did. Ms. Palin did not make good on her threat, alas, but even as recently as a couple of months ago, Donald Trump was hinting about the idea while other big names were openly talking about defecting to a new third party if Mr. Trump won the nomination. That threat is becoming very popular with the more childish and short-sighted members of the party as a way of strong-arming others into giving them what they want, much like how Ted Cruz giddily celebrated the disastrous government shutdown he orchestrated. All that matters is that they get what they want, and to hell with anybody else.

This ultimatum-throwing is not surprising to see in a party that is now a three-ring circus with big-business plutocrats on one side, war-hawks (who are almost all actually chickenhawks) screaming and red-faced on the other, and politicians pretending to be enraged Christianists by pounding their chests and bellowing about evolution, “religious liberty,” and abortion in the center ring–all for an audience of heavily-white, conservative Christians who will decide who to nominate based on how convincingly they pander to these regressive interests.

Courting any other groups would involve saying and doing things that would, without question, absolutely destroy the already-tenuous allegiance of that audience in the circus tent. The best Republican politicians can do is make mouth-noises about courting other demographics without actually doing anything, but so far those demographics’ voters are not as easy to fool as “sheep” are.

The Worst Part.

They don’t actually even own the entire territory they’ve staked out for themselves.

We discovered in the 2008 elections that quite a few people in the right-wing Christian camp were actually voting Democratic. Seriously. They might have been saying one thing, but once they got into the privacy of a voting booth, they were doing something else entirely. (Mitt Romney even at his most popular didn’t own 100% of the evangelical demographic in the last election.)

The fury of Christianists like this one might well have something to do with why so many Democrats who are Christian stay kinda quiet about their intentions to vote that way. Any Christians who dare say in their out-loud voices that they vote (or will vote) Democratic knows what they will endure from their tribe. So they don’t talk about supporting Democratic candidates; they just do it.

Fixing the Problem.

When Republicans examine the problem, which is that they actively disgust most of the country’s voting blocs and don’t even totally own the one bloc they are courting so desperately, they must know they have two options before them.

First, they can start getting more people to vote for their candidates. That would involve shouting “damn the torpedoes!” and doing what is necessary to heal the party even if it means cutting away some gangrenous growth and flushing it down the toilet. It’d definitely mean doing more than just making pretty mouth-noises about change.

Alas, they’re nowhere near that point of desperation yet. Their post-2012 election report repeatedly stressed the importance of persuading the groups that currently despise them, but again, none of that really changed anything about how Republicans communicate and behave because they cannot, at this point, change those things lest they lose the people they already have. That group views compromise as a dirty word, tantamount to kneeling in front of Lord Satan himself. So even if they wanted to substantively court other groups, they can’t.

So they’re concentrating more on stopping people from voting for the other party’s candidates.

It’s so weird that a party that claims to idolize the Constitution as much as Republicans do is doing everything in its power to strip from American citizens their most basic rights, up to and including their right to cast votes for the representation that will be ruling their lives and directing their country.

But that’s exactly what’s happening. If they can’t get non-Republicans to vote for them, then they will stop non-Republicans from voting for anybody else.

Most people are already aware that the first prong of this attack has been well-underway for years in the form of bizarrely regressive attacks upon black people’s voting rights, but they might not realize just how extensive these attacks are. Under the guise of “protecting against voter fraud,” which sounds exactly like “protecting women’s health and safety” and “protecting religious liberty” and means the same things, Republicans in states with a lot of black people (who skew heavily Democratic in voting) are enacting laws that effectively act as poll taxes and tests: demands for identification that black people are less likely to possess, weird polling hours that people with offbeat work hours (like poorer people, who, let’s face it, are more likely to be minorities thanks to systemic racism in America) can’t reach, and a host of other rules and laws that don’t make a lick of sense until one realizes that one is looking at the wholesale disenfranchisement of an entire demographic of American citizens.

As a bonus, these rules also disproportionately impact young people, who, during their college years particularly, face many of the same hurdles to casting votes that black people do their entire lives–and who, like black people, tend to vote Democratic. If young people and black people voted more Republican, then Republicans would be paying for voters’ Uber drivers with blowies if need be to get these folks to the polls. They need every bit of help they can get. But because these groups do not vote Republican and can only hurt the party if they can actually reach a voting booth, Republicans must ensure that they cannot.

These attacks on Americans’ voting rights are largely succeeding. With one exception, the other groups are small enough that Republicans can afford to alienate them to gain more traction with Republican voters.

Ah, but that last group is the next big problem for them right now. The members of that group have remained largely unscathed by these rules, yet they are more numerous than all the rest of the non-Republicans–and worst of all, they can hide in plain sight, even existing in the same household as a nice white Republican bigot-for-Jesus.

Cherchez Les Femmes.

When Barack Obama became President, it was women voters who largely handed him the keys to the Oval Office. He is widely regarded as “the most feminist president in history”, and this appellation is talking about a lot more than his stance on women’s issues like equal pay and reproductive justice. He’s stressed the importance of listening to women voters at nearly every appropriate opportunity, including State of the Union addresses.

Democrats are quite right to make appeals to women a big part of their overall strategy. Women are, after all, the majority of registered voters! These appeals work, too. Some years ago, Gallup discovered a significant gender gap between men and women of all races in party identification, with way more women than men in all race groups identifying as Democratic.

More importantly, that poll also discovered that this gender gap even persisted through changes in women’s marital status. Married women are more likely to be Republican than single women are, yes. But even within that group, married women lean more Democratic than married men do. At the time of the poll (2009), these findings were a big surprise because at the time, conventional wisdom held that the gender gap lessened as women got older and got married–which means, to Republicans, that these women were settling into their “god-given” roles and conforming to the life scripts that Republicans envisioned for them.

Women’s intractable Democratic-ness is a huge, huge problem for Republicans. The voting restrictions that have succeeded so well in driving minorities and young people from the polls don’t work nearly as well on women. Only one tactic is having any success: punishing people who change their names in any way, as Texas is testing out for Christianists (despite still being contested legally). You are probably already thinking, “What, you mean like women overwhelmingly do after marriage or divorce?” And yes, you’d be right–that’s exactly who this law is affecting, and it’s hard not to think that this is exactly who the law is meant to affect. Such women are finding it impossible to vote without jumping through significant hoops to “prove” that they really are who they say they are.

In case these laws fail to gain traction, another favorite tactic emerging from the dank underbelly of Christianism is simply indoctrinating women not to vote at all, or threatening them with various penalties if they do.

Some years ago, when I learned how even Christian women tended to vote Democratic, I called it then: their owners and masters needed to either persuade them to vote the “right” way or else dissuade them from voting at all. It sucks being right, sometimes.

When David Barton, the pretend-historian beloved of the Religious Right, declared in 2014 that women shouldn’t vote because his god hates that, he was only following a trend that had been laid down already by his buddies, in words that were filtering down already to Christian women themselves (like this poor soul). Extremist Christian pastors had been saying the same exact thing for a while by then–and this particular extremist’s wife had written several years before that about how she doesn’t vote because Jesus-reasons–and notice how many Christian women responded very positively to it and joined her in her rousing little pretendy funtime game of Who Can Be the Most Self-Effacing Christian Doormat. I’ve seen Gorean lifestylers with healthier relationship boundaries.

The leaders of this movement know they won’t ever talk all women into joining them, so they’re going to do everything possible to drive them away from the polls so they can’t do any damage. Yes, Christian leaders would rather lose the votes of women who are Republican than be hurt by the votes of women who will vote Democratic–because if they can talk all Christian women into not voting at all, then the strategy will still end up working to their favor. (What, you think they’d be going this route if they thought that on the balance they’d end up getting a net positive from Republican women voters? They might be deluded about the supernatural, but c’mon, they’re not idiots.)

Keep an eye on this fight in Christianity, because I think it’s going to get a lot more heated as we get closer to the election.

And the worst part? It sure sounds like a lot of Christian women are being fooled into giving up their most essential and primal American right.

I hope these women figure out what a load of hooey they’ve been deluded into buying before they get victimized by the same people who are taking their rights away in the name of “protecting” them. I learned the hard way that the only people who ever demand that we give up our personal power are people who want to take advantage of us, but I wouldn’t wish that experience on anybody.

ROLL TO DISBELIEVE "Captain Cassidy" is Cassidy McGillicuddy, a Gen Xer and ex-Pentecostal. (The title is metaphorical.) She writes about the intersection of psychology, belief, popular culture, science,...

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