The thing about Mike Huckabee is that the uproar he occasioned over federal provision of contraception reveals the depth and extent of modern America’s moral/cultural dysfunction.
Will we get around to talking about it once the uproar dies down? Not likely. The matter is too hot — meaning too fundamental. It speaks to personal identity questions never heretofore raised in American life and unresolved for that very reason.
Let us recount. In a weekend speech, the TV host and former Arkansas Republican governor assailed the idea that women depended on the government for access to “a prescription each month for birth control,” being unable otherwise to “control their libido or their reproductive system.” “Libido” is a Freudian word I believe I have heard only in a movie, one starring — was it Tony Randall? Can’t remember and don’t care. It means, according to the American Heritage Dictionary, “sexual desire … Manifestation of the sexual drive.”
Vesuvius erupted, at all events. According to bloggers and pundits, Huckabee had insulted women — the very reverse, he insisted to Fox News’ Megyn Kelly, of what he had meant. He had meant to signal opposition to “Democrats’ treating women as though they are somehow incapable of being able to function unless the Democrats and particularly the government comes in to rescue them.”
She said, he said, she said in return … on and on. The Huck — one of American politics’ outstanding speakers — can take care of himself. The matter is larger than a televised contretemps.
It has come to this? That life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness means the federal provision of birth control? And that, if you insist otherwise, you should avoid dark alleys on the way home?
This would have been, to the founding fathers, a remarkable claim and not simply on account of their — by modern standards — small-government convictions.
There was first the matter of sex — a private matter, a religious matter — not a part of public policy at all. The liberty claimed nowadays regarding contraception was a liberty practiced by man and woman, husband and wife, with obeisance only to God.
The modern view goes far beyond that understanding. The modern view, stemming from the invention of birth control and the federal legitimation of abortion, is that mutuality of intention in sexual matters is off now — a dead letter. The choice of the woman — married or single — is sovereign. As Planned Parenthood’s Cecile Richards said, in excoriating Huckabee’s remarks, “(Birth control) allows women to take control of their health and economic security and to take personal responsibilities for their family-planning decisions.” With the government’s help and protection.
The founding fathers could never have foreseen such a split between man and woman — such a unilateral takeover of reproductive power by one sex (for all the tendency of people like Richards to see the takeover as payback for centuries of male domination). Equal rights, the way feminists of Richards’ character define the term, lose the “equal” part. With — let us just say — dramatic implications for the culture of their country.
The matter demanding to be talked about, rather than Huckabee’s vocabulary, is how we’re to deal with the cultural breach between those who think science has slain the old norms about personal rights and those who reply, “baloney.” A political figure of the latter sort expresses him infelicitously — as his enemies see it — and out come the long knives to carve up his male carcass. Not only do women deserve what they want in the way of contraception, but the government’s duty is to ensure it is provided! That’s the way we’re to see things now! And those who don’t like it can keep their mouths shut! So the Huckabee controversy instruct us.
Wow! Are we the same nation — the same culture — that came into being two and a half centuries ago? Hardly. Which is fine by Cecile Richards & Co., who like the nation and culture we’ve latterly turned into. Only don’t mention it! Don’t talk about it! Got that?
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