It’s Not Contraception – It’s the Election Strategy!
The Obama Administration through Secretary of Health and Human Services Kathleen Sibelius deliberately picked a fight with the Catholic Church and the Republican Party by requiring religious establishments to provide free contraception through their health insurance plans. The President, after an initial backlash, seemingly backed down somewhat by relieving the institutions of the requirement, but requiring their insurers to do so. The “compromise” is but a shell game since the actual effect is the same.
The Administration presented its proposal as a woman’s right to contraception, which trumped the First Amendment’s Freedom of Religion in polls. The Democrats then attacked Republicans for waging a War on Women by taking contraception away from them. The hypocritical histrionics reached new highs, even for Democrats. Senator Frank Lautenberg of New Jersey claimed Republicans were yearning to take women back to the Dark Ages.
The issue is not the right to contraception. Nor is it Freedom of Religion by religious institutions. These are critical values in our society, but they are not the issue.
A woman’s right to use contraceptives was protected by the Supreme Court in the famous 1965 case of Griswold v. Connecticut. The Church may remain opposed to contraception, but not the Republican Party.
The issue is the cynical campaign strategy of the Obama Administration.
Their strategic approach is to emphasize certain themes in appealing to three major constituencies: African Americans, Hispanic Americans, and women, while raising record campaign funds. They’ve effectively written off working class white males, and non-Hispanic Catholics.
The gender gap favored Democrats for decades, but it disappeared in 2010. President Obama must therefore revive it to win reelection.
The economy, especially rising gas prices, remains a ticking time bomb. The President must therefore shift the focus from the economy to social issues. They believe they can win on social issues. Axelrod is seemingly salivating about running against Senator Santorum on social issues, but the Senator may be the next Ronald Reagan of the Republican Party.
Hence, the attempt to create a new entitlement program for women, free contraception - if not from the government, than from insurers. Rush Limbaugh’s intemperate remarks played into the Democrat’s gameplan, giving it more life than it deserved. He turned Sandra Fluke into a cause célèbre, if not a martyr.
Why is the proposal cynical? The odds are that the courts will strike it down as violative of the First Amendment, but not until after the 2012 election. The Obama Administration lost a religious freedom case last year, with the Court unsympathetic to the Administration’s arguments.
A fundamental rule of politics is that voters vote economic issues when times are bad, and social issues when times are good.
These are trying times.