Some core Democratic voters who were thus far chronically unresponsive to stimuli designed to get them enthused about the upcoming midterm elections, have been energized by the Supreme Court’s decision in Hobby Lobby. The left continues to wring their hands over last Monday’s Supreme Court decision; their reactions ranging from dismay over the establishment of an American theocracy to the decrying the outlawing of contraception altogether.
While there has been a lot of consternation and garment-rending on the left over the Court’s decision in Hobby Lobby, there has been comparatively little discussion of any legislative remedy the Congress might adopt in order to reverse this decision. That’s about to change.
According to a report in The Hill, at least three bills are being crafted which are aimed at amending the 1993 Religious Freedom Restoration Act (RFRA), upon which the Supreme Court based the Hobby Lobby decision.
“Democrats want to lure Republicans into a fight over birth control with legislation to reverse the Supreme Court’s decision that ObamaCare may not require certain businesses to include contraception in their employee health coverage,” The Hill’s Elise Viebeck reported.
Democrats are expected to introduce the measures prior to Congress’s August recess as part of an effort to recalibrate the party’s election-year messaging. Their hope is to turn out female voters by casting the court’s decision in Burwell v. Hobby Lobby as a strike against reproductive rights.
And that’s a fight conservatives may welcome. No matter how justified, no matter how righteous, no matter how wrong-headed their opposition may be; Republicans will be stepping into a trap of Democratic design if they allow themselves to be cast as the party opposed to all forms of family planning.
In a piece from last week, I argued that the Republicans will lose the so-called War on Women if they refuse to acknowledge that young, single women’s concerns about the GOP are legitimate. The Republicans are ceding critical territory by laughing off their misguided belief that the Republican Party is a fundamentalist religious institution. Theirs is an impression which must be countered, even if that is a distasteful prospect.
Republicans also have the short-term imperative of blunting Democratic momentum ahead of the fall midterms which represent the last, best opportunity for the GOP to retake the Senate. From the NBC News First Read team, often an informative window into Democratic thinking on political and strategic matters, reveals that the president’s party is relying on women voters to halt the GOP horde’s advance at the big, blue gates.
Turning from the White House and Congress to yesterday’s big Hobby Lobby decision at the Supreme Court, we observed that Democratic candidates seemed more excited to talk about the Hobby Lobby case than immigration. Of course, one of main reasons is that the Latino vote will only be a factor in one Senate contest THIS November: Colorado’s. But women — whether they live in Arkansas, Iowa, Michigan, or Oregon — are going to be the key voting bloc this year, and Democrats see the Hobby Lobby case and contraception in general as wedge issues with female voters. Indeed, back in our March 2014 NBC/WSJ poll, 48% of men said that employers should be able to be exempt from covering birth control on religious grounds, while 46% of them said they should NOT be exempt. By comparison, nearly six-in-10 women — 59% — said employers should NOT be exempt, versus 35% who said they should. Overall in that NBC/WSJ poll, 53% of all respondents said employers should not be exempt, and 41% said they should be exempt.
And if Republicans get into a rhetorical war with Democrats over access to or the morality of various forms of birth control — from common contraceptives to emergency pharmaceuticals — it will play directly into Democratic hands by motivating their formerly dispirited female constituency. Republicans are far better served by arguing against Democratic overreach, for the rule of law, and in favor of religious freedoms once maintained by such arch-conservatives as Bill Clinton.
So far, Republicans have done a good job of failing to provide Democrats with a sound bite or course of action which plays into the War on Women narrative, but the party in power is going to push Republicans to their breaking point. Congressional Republicans would be better served by offering women a positive rather than a negative agenda on birth control which is a medical necessity for many women. Or, failing that, Republicans should hold their tongues on the matter entirely. They will be in a more advantageous position in the 114th Congress if they keep their principles in check… for now.