The Republican party managed to win their largest House majority in decades thanks to incredibly disciplined focus on economic issues rather than social issues. They were able to use the country’s concerns about financial insecurity, slow growth, and deficit spending to great political success. Republicans were so uniformly disciplined on fiscal messaging that they even managed to incorrectly convince a plurality of the country that the new health care law would increase the deficit.
While this tight focus on almost exclusively fiscal matters helped them win back the House, the early signs are not good that they will be able to maintain such discipline going forward. One of the first major actions from the newly empowered party is a radical bill to appease social ultra-conservatives by redefining rape. From Mother Jones:
For years, federal laws restricting the use of government funds to pay for abortions have included exemptions for pregnancies resulting from rape or incest. (Another exemption covers pregnancies that could endanger the life of the woman.) But the “No Taxpayer Funding for Abortion Act,” a bill with 173 mostly Republican co-sponsors that House Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio) has dubbed a top priority in the new Congress, contains a provision that would rewrite the rules to limit drastically the definition of rape and incest in these cases.
With this legislation, which was introduced last week by Rep. Chris Smith (R-N.J.), Republicans propose that the rape exemption be limited to “forcible rape.” This would rule out federal assistance for abortions in many rape cases, including instances of statutory rape, many of which are non-forcible. For example: If a 13-year-old girl is impregnated by a 24-year-old adult, she would no longer qualify to have Medicaid pay for an abortion. (Smith’s spokesman did not respond to a call and an email requesting comment.)
While the PR damage caused by this individual action of absurd conservative overreach so far out from 2012 that it might not affect the election, it could be a harbinger of things to come.
If Republicans allow themselves to appear obsessed with fighting unpopular cultural issues instead of focusing on America’s more immediate concerns of jobs and the economy, it could turn off many potential supporters.