I think Dana Milbank is kind of an idiot. He is the ultimate Washington Wanker. He’s a moderate who is great at spouting what all the upper middle class Washington pundits think. You know the stuff: economically conservative, and socially liberal—the beliefs that are totally consistent with their class interests. But even while they are just pushing the policies that are best for them, they think that they are being objective and advocating for what is best for the nation as a whole. Milbank is that kind of loser.
But he does have his moments. In February, he called Bill O’Reilly on his shameful pre-Super Bowl interview with President Obama. And then Monday, he offered up the greatest headline I’ve read in weeks, Conservatives to Women: Lean Back. It runs through the absolutely pathetic Heritage Foundation forum. “The advocacy group held a gathering of women of the right Monday afternoon to mark the final day of Women’s History Month—and the consensus was that women ought to go back in history.”
It appears to have been a truly ridiculous event. The basic idea is that women are happier and wealthier and more conservative when they are married. Now I don’t know about the happier issue. But it is true that married women are wealthier and more conservative. But the argument has things backwards. It is like saying, “Most rich people own boats, so if you buy a boat, you’ll be rich!” The truth is that older women are more likely to be married and older people tend to be richer. And at this time, the older generation tends to be conservative. (It is not true that people get more conservative as they get older, however.) So the big push that if women would just get married they’d vote Republican is just stupid.
But at least it isn’t harmful. But telling women who aren’t in a position to get married that doing so will solve all their problems is harmful. I don’t doubt that being in a good marriage is better than being single for most people of both sexes. But being in a bad marriage is far, far, far worse than being single. And that would be the result of such advice. The truth is that women can decide for themselves if they want to get married. They don’t need to be “encouraged” into doing it.
The whole thing is entirely typical of modern conservatism. Social problems are complex, but conservatives just want to throw simple solutions at them. People are poor? Conservatives say if you get rid of food stamps, that’s just the kick in the butt poor people need. There is widespread poverty in minority communities? It must be young black men don’t have enough billionaires to look up to. And here, single women don’t understand the beneficence that is Ayn Rand? They just need a good Romantic Hero to rape and then marry them! (To be fair, unlike Rand, they don’t specifically endorse rape, although they do provide some apologetics for it.)
Milbank summed up the forum, “Essentially, they’re saying that Republicans aren’t the ones who need to change—women are.” That does seem to be the big problem with these events. And it is clear that the Republican women are a big part of the problem. He finished his article by noting that there were very few women at the event. John Hilboldt of the Heritage Foundation started the forum by saying, “Wow! Where are all the ladies?” To this Milbank made the perfect observation, “It’s a question Republicans may be asking for a long time.” Yes they will.
When I was looking for images, I found the following on a conservative website. It is amazingly vile. For one thing, it makes an equivalence that no liberal is making. The argument here is akin to saying, only the Japanese have ever been at war because they are the only ones who ever had a nuclear bomb dropped on them. Another thing is that it wants to say, “See, those Muslims are the ones that abuse their women; not us.” Of course, even if you accept that framing of the issue, American Christian men do that to American women. So what exactly is the point? Also: notice the slut shaming. That Sandra Fluke just wants to have sex and make us all pay for it! This all goes back to Rush Limbaugh; if he hadn’t started all of that creepy ranting, no one would talk about her in this way. And to top it off, they’ve changed the debate—no doubt because of Limbaugh’s widely mocked lack of understanding about how hormonal birth control works. But the issue has nothing to do with condoms unless you are the Pope.
Two things to note. First: there is a lot more about this that is disgusting; don’t take my comments to be exhaustive. Second: this is the same argument that Richard Dawkins made against women in the atheist community who tried to point out the rampant sexism in the movement. So it ain’t just conservatives.