Conservatives are overjoyed about the Supreme Court’s Hobby Lobby decision, which gives certain corporations the right to meddle in the reproductive affairs of their female employees. (Interestingly, no one seems to care much about Viagra or vasectomies.) But the reality is that the case is nothing more than a rear guard action for an unpopular movement in retreat.
That conservatives lack public support on the issue of contraception is an understatement. While the Hobby Lobby folks hyperventilate about birth control, Gallup found in May that 90 percent of Americans find birth control to be “morally acceptable.” That ship sailed decades ago.
As such, the Hobby Lobby decision is a deeply unpopular one, and one that will have an impact on November’s elections.
After all, Republicans are only favored in November because of (1) a heavily gerrymandered House, (2) a favorable Senate map dominated by red states and (3) poor off-year turnout rates among base Democratic voters. Regardless of the first two reasons, if base Democrats turn out, Republicans will be hard-pressed to make significant gains, much less take control of the Senate.
Key among those core Democratic constituencies are single women. On average, their turnout rates drop around 20 points in non-presidential years. In 2008, 60 percent of single women voted. In 2006, a banner year for Democrats, only 40 percent voted. Much of that is a function of age, because younger Americans vote at far lower rates in off-year elections than the broader electorate — a major problem for Democrats who desperately need young votes.
So in a sense, the Supreme Court handed Democrats a gift in the Hobby Lobby case. What better way to motivate young women, 81 percent of whom support the contraception mandate, than by giving their employers the power to get between them and their doctors, and cheering a blow against “consequence-free sex,” as Fox pundit Erick Erickson put it?
This is a Pyrrhic victory, at best, for the right. Conservatives have lost the culture wars. Americans have embraced marriage equality, sex is no longer stigmatized, Miley Cyrus twerks and even Mississippi rejected a personhood amendment at the ballot box. All that’s left is the attempt to carve out a theocratic niche apart from the American mainstream, a fight to preserve a shred of bigotry by restricting the freedom of those Americans unfortunate enough to be employees of the rightist remnant. It’s reminiscent of the sad Afrikaner separatists with their pathetic volkstaats in modern, diverse South Africa — an increasingly irrelevant reminder of past wrongs.
The reason Hobby Lobby exists is because the Affordable Care Act is firmly embedded in American life. It’s the law of the land and will stay as such. The retrogrades got their carve out? Good for them! ObamaCare still isn’t going anywhere. Meanwhile, single women are getting fired up for November. In the end, conservatives can cheer their small reward, which will come with a great deal of future pain.
Moulitsas is the publisher and founder of Daily Kos (dailykos.com).