The more you read and hear about the religious right and the Republican Party, the harder it is to believe that Sullivan is wrong.
In the latest New Yorker, Michael Specter has a positively chilling story on how theoconservatives and Christianists have waged a quiet war against some critical vaccines, especially against Human papillomavirus or HPV. A vaccine exists against this virus that would drastically reduce the numbers of cervix cancer cases. The religious right opposes it as a mandatory childhood vaccination, because it removes a disincentive to having sex:'Religious conservatives are unapologetic; not only do they believe that mass use of an HPV vaccine or the availability of emergency contraception will encourage adolescents to engage in unacceptable sexual behavior; some have even stated that they would feel similarly about an H.I.V. vaccine, if one became available. 'We would have to look at that closely,' Reginald Finger, an evangelical Christian and a former medical adviser to the conservative political organization Focus on the Family, said. 'With any vaccine for H.I.V., disinhibition' - a medical term for the absence of fear - 'would certainly be a factor, and it is something we will have to pay attention to with a great deal of care.' Finger sits on the Centers for Disease Control's Immunization Committee, which makes those recommendations.'
Specter has a Q and A about the article here. These people would rather people die of AIDS and cancer than do anything to "encourage" sexuality. And they have the cojones to call the Democrats the "party of death."
To be sure, as a gay, HIV positive male, he has a dog in this race. However for me, as a female of, shall we say, "a certain age," I have no dogs or ponies in any of the major "culture war" races. You can stop research into an HIV or human papillomavirus vaccine or ban abortion and it probably wouldn't affect me personally. But that still wouldn't make it moral or right or decent.
The New York Times, today, has two pieces, here and here, on South Dakota's abortion ban. In the editorial, the Times points out that South Dakota's argument that it is in favor of banning all abortion except to save the life of the mother is a lot of bunk. South Dakota shows no such admirable concern for the life, safety or human dignity of the fetus once it is born and is a fully viable infant. Indeed, the state ranks as fourth worst in its care for poor babies, and one county with a large Lakota Native American population is dead last.
The only thing you can actually say about the Christianists, like militant Islamists, is that they are anti-sex. Always were. Always are. And always will be. It's not about saving lives, it's about telling people who don't share their beliefs how to live theirs. And then forcing them to do it.
I sincerely hope that Sullivan is right and that the U.S., at least, is waking up and that there will be blowback for nonsense like this. If the Supreme Court upholds this law, as the Times points out, other states will follow and abortion will no longer be legal, safe and accessible in most of the country. At that point, it will no longer be possible for moderates of either party to weave and bob around the issue. Once the right to a safe abortion is lost, I think it will take center stage again in a way it hasn't for most moderates and independents for a very long time.
The truth is, abortion has only been important to the most partisan and ideological on both sides of the political spectrum. The vast middle has tuned out and concentrated on issues of security, foreign policy, and the economy. They didn't need to refight the cultural wars and were interested in national security and bread and butter issues. As the Times also points out, there was a lot of complacency here. I had one person who has been blithely voting conservative for years because he's a free trader tell me that he didn't think Ronald Reagan (and others) really meant it about outlawing abortion. This person insisted that he just said it to get elected but would never really let it happen.
Might have been true of Reagan. But not so true of our current president, George Bush. Once that right is gone, so will the complacency be. And with his failing record on national security, his one trump card, there may indeed be a backlash against Republicans in general, including the moderates who let this happen. It was their watch too.