In response to yesterday’s post about Sandra Fluke, many of my smart and thoughtful friends had clever critiques of my argument. I’d like to address them now and give a bit more context for my opinion.
My secret crush Ophelia had this to say:
Here’s why I think Fluke’s important: So much of modern politics is done through dog whistles, that sometimes it’s nice when the whistlers finally slip up and say, explicitly, what they’ve believed all this time. The GOP, especially, is notorious for its denial of intent and reframing, but Rush’s words were just too egregious to be defended and it feels like vindication. It’s like pictures of an affair for the cheated on spouse; you may have known it was happening all along, but now your partner can’t invalidate your concerns anymore and has to answer them, one way or another.
RedJenny, my bro through thick and thin, said this:
This blew away all the bullshit smokescreens about religious liberty and not wanting to address birth control and women’s health at all. No one can really deny now that this is about women’s health and sexuality, thanks a little to Ms. Fluke and a lot to Rush Limbaugh.
Darth Thulhu said, in part:
If the Democrats put up other religious authorities, no matter who, Republicans win. The debate is suddenly about religious liberty, not about women’s health care, because every one-hand-other-hand lazy piece of MSM dreck will quote one priest on one side and on the other and report it as a debate between different clergy about religious liberty. Republicans outright win in framing the media narrative. The end … Putting up a Woman Who Is Not a Priest who attends a Catholic university makes the burning point that needs to be made: any woman seeking health care, anywhere, is the full equal to these prattling priests … It they do let her speak, the media narrative isn’t “one group’s thoughts on religious liberty versus another group” but rather “one sect’s thoughts on religious liberty versus all female student’s thoughts on personal liberty”. The contraception/health care view is one full half of the lazy media narrative. Democratic Victory.
All of these arguments seem predicated on the idea that the Dems were playing n-dimensional chess – that is, that they selected Fluke precisely because they assmed she wouldn’t be permitted to testify, and they could use her exclusion to overtake the media narrative. At worst, I assume the argument runs, a compelling story gets told before a Congressional committee and most likely gets some sweet airtime. At best, she is barred from testifying and it becomes a media firestorm. In this narrative, Limbaugh’s comments are the amazing, unanticipated cherry on the delicious media takeover cake.
I don’t think this is an implausible narrative at all. Politics is played in ways I honestly find too complex to bother having investment in, and if the Dems thought their actions through and executed them with this unusual degree of precision, more power to them. But even if that’s the case, I’m still unsatisfied. Why? Because the media narrative don’t mean shit next to the giant pile of laws that are trying to be passed infringing on my right to control my body. And those are what I want my legislators to focus on defeating. Maybe controlling the media narrative has more power to do that than I’m giving it credit for, I don’t know. But it makes me uncomfortable.
Moreover, though – and here’s where I go a little bit off the rails from many folks – I don’t want us to score political points at Congressional hearings by upsetting the apple cart. I want us to beat those woman-hating motherfuckers at their own game, because we can. We are smarter. We have better arguments and better thinkers and better speakers on our side, and we can beat them with whatever rules they lay down. You wanna make it about religious liberty? Fine. We got that. Let’s get some liberal female clergy up there, demolish everything they say, and move on to what we wanna say.
There is no game we can’t beat them at because on this issue, we are right and they are wrong. And since that is the case, I don’t want us to play partisan games. I want us to take their weapons, snatch them out of their hands, and turn them on their owners.
In this, I am the most stereotypical liberal on earth: I think the person with the best argument should usually win. But I don’t think that’s all idealism. One thing our brilliant President has consistently had on his side is his ability to verbally reduce anyone who tries to tangle with him to bits. I don’t believe he only makes it work because of his rhetorical skills, I believe he makes it work because when he does it he has the better argument.* We have the better argument. Let’s fucking use it.
* I think it’s a shame that we don’t get to see him go toe-to-toe with his intellectual equals who disagree with him. I would greatly love to see that debate.