Huckabee and the war for women’s votes: Missing the mark, badly

Mike Huckabee/wikimedia

WASHINGTON, January 26, 2014 — Mike Huckabee is right. The Republicans are fighting a War For Women, or more appropriately, a War For Women’s Votes. Make no mistake. This war is not on behalf of women; it is a war to gain their voting power. And so far, the GOP is  not doing a very good job of winning it.

Even before Huckabee brought the female libido into the discussion at the Republican National Committee meeting last week, he was desperately trying to convince everyone that Republicans respect women as much as men and that their stand against reproductive choice empowers women.

On Huckabee’s Fox News show on January 18, almost a week before the RNC meeting, Huckabee laid out his ideas in plain view. Because the show was for a general audience as opposed to the devoted RNC followers, his language was a bit less colorful than it was when tailored to the GOP audience. Rather than insinuate that women need to control their sex drive to avoid pregnancy, he pointed out that they are “far more complicated than their libido.” It would be nice to give Huckabee credit for recognizing that, but before we do, lets take a look at that televised monologue.

Before getting directly into empowering women through denying choice, Huckabee points out that the anti-abortion group would prefer being called pro-life. The point, in Huckabee’s nimble semantics, is that because some still use “anti-abortion,” that makes the other side “pro-abortion,” only in favor of choice “so long as the choice is to end the life of a baby.”

If you are having trouble following the bouncing logic, there’s a reason.

There are many, many women in the pro-choice movement who cannot conceive of ever having an abortion. There are many who have, in fact, brought babies into this world knowing full well that those children had physical or mental challenges. Those women know what a personal choice they faced. They reviewed their options, including their medical advice, and they made their choice.

And they respect their fellow women enough to allow them to make their own choice.

And that is the point. Pro-choice allows choice. Pro-life does not.

Huckabee goes on to scoff at those in his party who “can’t defend the life position” and includes himself in the group that can. Of course he can defend his position. Everyone who takes a position can defend it. And everyone has a right to that position, the same as they have a right to their own religion. Freedom of religion guarantees that no one can force their religious beliefs on another; freedom of choice does the same. No one is forcing anyone to have an abortion; no one should be able to force anyone to have a baby.

It is also interesting to note that many who say they do not want their tax dollars funding birth control or abortion due to their religious views are also the ones who want to cut welfare and other support programs. Have the baby you can’t afford and the two of you can live on the street.

Maybe that’s harsh. But if Huckabee can take “pro-choice” beliefs to “must abort” beliefs, we can take Republican “pro-life” and social program cuts to homelessness. Which is more far-fetched?

Huckabee goes on to say that Democrats “reduce women to beggars for cheap government funded birth control,” and that they treat women as “victims of their gender…the opposite of a appropriate respect for women as equal in worth as well as value as men.”

Women are not victims of their gender. They may be victims of many things, including rape, income inequality, and lack of childcare and healthcare, but they are not victims of their gender and no one, including the Democrats, is saying they are. Providing someone a choice does not make them a victim; forcing a choice on them does.

Serrin Foster of Feminists for Life and Marjorie Dannenfelser, CEO of the Susan B. Anthony Fund are highlighted by Huckabee as women who should be appreciated because they “want no part of being miniaturized and marginalized as incapable of responsibility for their unique and noble abilities as women.”

But he is missing the big picture. A woman’s unique and noble abilities extend far beyond child-bearing. Don’t miniaturize and marginalize them. If Huckabee needs more examples of the unique, noble qualities of female scientists, mathematicians, executives, artists, philanthropists, etc., we will gladly provide him with them. In fact, we can give him binders full of them.

Huckabee asserts that “real power for a woman is to give life, not to take it.” Does this mean that a woman who cannot give life is not powerful? Of course not, because this is not the only power women possess. This is not the power that female artists evoke in their work or that female executives exercise in the board room. Or is Huckabee suggesting that board-room power is not “real power” for  women?

Apparently, Huckabee’s nimble semantics are contagious. Let’s give him the benefit of the doubt and interpret his comments as saying those powers are not nearly as important as the power of giving life.  In truth, giving birth is a beautiful, amazing miracle, but it is not power. Any woman who has given birth knows very well that she has no power over what is happening, Lamaze or no Lamaze.

The problem that Huckabee and many in the Republican higher-ranks have is that they are so focused on power that they have a basic lack of respect for those who disagree with them. Denying women a choice because you may not agree with what they choose does not empower them; giving them a choice does.

Yes, Huckabee stated that there is more to women than their libido. The problem is that he still doesn’t get it. Huckabee stating that women are as equal in worth and value as men is as believable as Miley Cyrus screaming that she’s all grown up.

If you have to scream it from a wrecking ball, you’re not quite there yet.

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