Yesterday, I reposted a piece at Talk to Action about how somethings don't change. It was partly about the wrongheadedness of pundit E.J. Dionne who has been one of the cheerleaders of the notion that the Christian Right is dead or dying; one of those who have declared certain immoderate clerics to be moderates; and one of those calling for common ground with the Catholic Bishops and the Religious Right in ways that have been more like capitulation than compromise.
But the world has changed around Dionne and his ilk. The Religious Right has advanced as far as it has in part because of its agenda, but also in spite of it, as recent wardrobe malfunctions have revealed. Indeed, they are now so frequent, they almost seem to be in fashion.
As Frank Cocozzelli writes at Talk to Action, the backlash to a mean-spirited campaign to overturn the marriage equality law in Maine has cost the Catholic Church in the state dearly, in longtime members, contributions, and parishes.
Similarly, the U.S. Catholic Conference of Bishops revealed how deeply out of touch it is with the Catholic laity across the country in the way it has handled its disagreement with the Obama administration over insurance coverage for contraception. Joe Conason writes at The National Memo:
While the Catholic bishops and their allies on the religious right insist that this is an argument over the First Amendment, their true, longstanding purpose now stands revealed to the public. They would begin by imposing their dogma on every woman unlucky enough to work for an employer who shares it – an agenda that is deeply unpopular even among the Catholic faithful, let alone the rest of the American electorate. Then they would impose it on everyone, as the theorists of the religious right suggest every time they deny the separation of church and state.A debacle that may signal an important change in the wider culture is the backlash against the Susan G. Komen Foundation's announcement that they would no longer make grants to Planned Parenthood to fund breast cancer screening programs for low-income women around the country. This effort, (part of a long-term campaign by the antiabortion movement to defund, damage, and ultimately destroy Planned Parenthood) was seen for the despicably political act that it was. It profoundly damaged Komen's image as an apolitical actor trying to prevent breast cancer and to find a cure. Komen was forced to publicly apologize and reverse itself. Karen Handel, the Vice President for Public Policy seen as most responsible for the institution's spectacularly bad judgement, resigned.
The bishops have nothing to lose except their flock, whose respect for the hierarchy has plunged anyway over its resistance to reform and its failure to punish abuses far graver and more sinful than contraception. If they had to stand for election, not many of them would be left standing. And if they had to face a referendum on this current matter, they would lose resoundingly to the president, according to the latest survey data. In a poll taken... for the Coalition to Protect Women's Health Care, Public Policy Polling found that 57 percent of Catholic voters endorse the Obama "compromise" that would ensure continued prescription birth control for women working in religious institutions, without requiring those institutions to pay directly for that coverage. Only 29 percent sided with the bishops, the religious right and the Republicans, while five percent actually think the religious institutions should pay for contraceptive coverage regardless of their doctrine.
This episode revealed much about the character of the leadership of the antiabortion movement, their supporters -- and the pols who pander to them.
Indeed, Mitt Romney, the formerly professed prochoice, moderate Republican governor of Massachusetts who is now trying to present himself as "severely conservative" to skeptical conservatives got caught up in the controversy. Asked by reporters if he agreed with Komen's decision to end breast cancer screening grants to Planned Parenthood, Romney said he did, and that there should be no government grants to Planned Parenthood either. The Huffington Post reported:
Romney has a long way to go to convince conservatives of his anti-abortion credentials. He emphasized in the interview... that he is a "pro-life individual" and was a "pro-life governor." Nevertheless, he sought Planned Parenthood's endorsement during his 2002 gubernatorial campaign, attended a Planned Parenthood fundraiser, and answered in a Planned Parenthood questionnaire that he supported state-funded abortions.Unfortunately for Romney, he announced that he agreed with Komen's decision to defund breast cancer screening programs even after Komen had publicly apologized and announced the restoration of the grant program. As far as I know, Romney has not joined Komen in reversing his view, thus completing his fashion statement.