It really started with an image:
The all-male, clerical-heavy line-up was speaking before Rep. Darrell Issa’s House hearing on the Obama administration’s new policy requiring contraceptive coverage in new health insurance policies, with a small exemption for churches that object. The photo and others like it quickly went viral, and for good reason: the all-male panel encapsulated many women’s sense that the pushback against the new rule was driven by certain men’s desire to control female sexuality.
The situation only intensified after Democrats asked Sandra Fluke, a Georgetown law student who’d been barred from Issa’s hearing, to testify at a Hill event of their own. Rush Limbaugh promptly went nuclear on her for having the temerity to suggest that birth control might be valid health care; “slut” was one of the nicer things he said (earning her a defense from her university president and a call from the President President). Meanwhile, contraceptive coverage became an issue in the Republican presidential primary, prompting a quicker-than-average Mitt Romney flip-flop, and a Republican-sponsored repeal of the rule rose in the Senate (it died 51-48).
Where you REALLY felt the outrage about conservatives and contraception was online: the internet exploded. Besides our own (accelerated) campaign launch at NWLC, here’s a small sample:
- The hashtag #BoycottRush popped up fast, with people calling out names of companies to avoid. Here’s a sample from our friend Steve Kleine: “Officially boycotting @dominos @legalzoom @proflowers @autozone @eharmony 4 Rush Limbaugh support. #boycottrush He has gone too far..again.”
- Online petitions went up quickly, too. This one on UltraViolet got 10,000 signatures in its first hour and had 25,000 a couple of hours later, and of course a bunch turned up on Change.org. An Act.ly petion specifically targeted mattress company Sleep Train, which pulled its ads from Limbaugh’s show as a result of the public online pressure.
- Not content to let the message spread virally, the DCCC bought “sponsored tweets” on Twitter to ride the wave (and no doubt to add names to its mailing list).
- In Massachusetts, liberal darling Elizabeth Warren sensed blood in the water and went after incumbent Republican Senator Scott Brown hard over the issue, in part by running online ads on contraceptive coverage.
- And of course, all of this is on top of lots individual spreading-of-the-word by bloggers, twitterers and other online activists.
Do conservatives have any idea what they’ve gotten themselves into? They’re basically having to defend a circa-1950 attitude that birth control equals sexual libertinism, implying that any woman on the pill is a slut on the loose — shouldn’t she be keeping that aspirin tight between her knees??? In the process, they’re driving female voters into Democratic arms…chastely or otherwise. I get the feeling these guys have wandered into a minefield and don’t quite know how to get out — whichever way they turn, BOOM! Keep it up, fellas….