Kicking off Republican National Committee’s Winter Meeting January 23 in Washington, D.C., 41-year-old Chairman Reince Priebus hoped to turn a new leaf heading into next November Midterm elections. Rallying the GOP’s conservative base, Priebus got more than he bargained for when 57-year-old former Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabe, now the host of Fox News’ “Huckabee,” went off-the-rails, accusing Democrats of treating women as “helpless” because they receive government contraception benefits. RNC’s long love affair with the pro-life cause harks back to before 1973 when the Supreme Court legalized abortion in its landmark decision Roe v. Wade. Since then, the GOP has worked feverishly through Christian conservatives to repeal the ruling, insisting the Party platform views abortion as equivalent to “murdering innocent life.”
Huckabee tossed his hat back in the ring Thursday night, championing the pro-life cause, encouraging women “to be something other that victims of their own gender,” a veiled reference to finding other ways than contraception and abortion to control unwanted pregnancies. Returning to the pro-life cause, Huckabee hoped to preempt the GOP’s fiscal conservatives, what’s know today as the Tea Party. Huckabee’s pro-life diatribe hoped to distinguish him from the Tea Party, too fixated on Obamacare to see what’s really important to the GOP. “Democrats want to insult the women of America by making them belief they are helpless without ‘Uncle Sugar’ coming in a for providing for them a prescription each month for birth control because they cannot control their libido or reproductive system without the help of the government—then so be it,” Huckabee told fellow Republicans.
Since the late President Ronald Reagan took office Jan. 20, 1981, the religions right has had a firm place on the Republican platform, making the plight of the unborn a central part of GOP politics. Fiscal conservatives introduced the Tea Party wing of the GOP back in 2008, largely embodying Libertarian politics of Rep. Ron Paul (R-Texas). Paul’s fiscal conservatism was popularized by the more charismatic former Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin, whose anti-Obama speeches whipped crowds into frenzies during the general election campaign. Picked by Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.) as his running mate, Palin articulated what’s become the Tea Party’s anti-Obama mantra, attacking Democrats as the party of big government. Today’s Tea Party, led by RNC’s Priebus, is indistinguishable from Palin’s anti-Obama message, accusing the president of turning the U.S. socialist.
Huckabee’s incoherent shot across the bow hopes to get the RNC’s attention that religious conservatives, attributed with giving former President George W. Bush two terms in office, still count in the GOP. Since 2008, the Tea Party has dominated Republican politics, losing the last two elections. With 2016 looming, the GOP hopes to position itself against expected Democratic presidential hopeful Hillary Rodham Clinton. While early polling suggested that New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie might run best against Hillary, his recent GW Bridge scandal puts his bid for president in doubt. Whatever battles exist between religious and fiscal conservatives, the RNC hoped to rally behind a less ideological candidate like Christie. With his future now in doubt, Huckabee seized the opportunity to reestablish religious conservatives as a viable option as the 2016 presidential race takes shape.
Reacting to Huckabee’s insulting comments about woman, Priebus feigned that he wasn’t sure what former Arkansas governor meant. “I don’t know what he was talking about. Sort of a goofy way of using some phrases. Not the way I would have phrased it,” said Priebus. Reince knows that Huckabee was making a pitch to religious conservatives that he’s their man. After years of preaching to the choir on Fox News, Huckabees lost touch with mainstream thinking about abortion and birth control. “Chairman’s comments were prepared weeks ago. As you maybe aware there have been several things regarding tone that have come up recently and the chairman has been vocal about this for some time,” said RNC spokeswoman Kristen Kubowski., minimizing any Party conflict. After all the blowback, Huckabee tried to undo the damage, insisting that he’s really pro-women’s birth control rights.
Huckabee’s comments mirror the pro-life movement that once again confuses birth control with abortion. “I’m not opposed to women having access to it [birth control], I’m opposed to Democrats treating women as though they are somehow incapable to being able to function unless the Democrats and particularly the government comes in to rescue them,” said Huckabee, digging himself in deeper. Huckabee’s remarks reflect the religious right’s disdain for taxpayer dollars going for birth control or abortion. Hoping for a facelift heading into the Midterm elections, the GOP wanted to present a more inclusive image to women and minorities. Huckabee’s remarks, while offensive to progressive-minded women, show just how out-of-touch religious conservatives are with mainstream voters. If the GOP has any chance of getting back to the White Housel, it’s not with Huckabee.
About the Author
John M. Curtis writes politically neutral commentary analyzing spin in national and global news. He’s editor of OnlineColumnist.com and author of Dodging The Bullet and Operation Charisma.