As the GOP scrambles to recover its image in the eyes of women voters, it seems that the prevailing strategy is for Republican politicians to repeatedly jam their feet into their mouths. In an attempt to shrug off the slew of anti-abortion, anti-contraception, pro-mandatory transvaginal probe legislation that’s been sweeping the nation, Republican National Committee Chairman Reince Priebus dismissed the GOP’s war on women as a fictional media dingleberry. He also compared the GOP’s very real, very disturbing attacks on women’s rights to a “war on caterpillars.”
“If the Democrats said we had a war on caterpillars and every mainstream media outlet talked about the fact that Republicans have a war on caterpillars, then we’d have problems with caterpillars,” Republican National Committee Chairman Reince Priebus said in an interview on Bloomberg Television’s “Political Capital with Al Hunt” airing this weekend. “It’s a fiction.” [Bloomberg]
Of course, by labeling the war on women “fiction,” Priebus is trying to distance the GOP from its own actions and turn the discussion into a liberal-media-said/conservative-media-said game. But how dumb does Priebus think American voters are? Anyone can type in a cursory Google inquiry and find the flood of bills limiting women’s rights that have been introduced in state legislatures over the past three months, let alone the record number of anti-abortion bills passed last year. Priebus must mean, then, that these actions are insignificant enough in the eyes of the national interest that they are practically imaginary. Or, we’re imagining them.
Priebus’ comment resembles classic “gaslighting,” a term psychologists use to describe a form of mental abuse in which one person consistently manipulates another into self-doubt by lying or obscuring obvious information. The word comes from the 1938 play Gas Light, in which a husband tries to prove his wife is crazy by dimming the gas lights in his home, and then denies that they are dimmed whenever his wife notices that they are. “Gaslighting” is an intentional attempt to discredit another person’s view of reality. This is essentially the same tactic employed when conservative pundits criticize Trayvon Martin supporters and then argue that racism is no longer even an issue. Here, Priebus is arguing that critics of the GOP’s position on women’s health are imagining things.
Sorry, Priebus. Dismissing or gaslighting the fact that Republicans have been pushing an anti-woman agenda in legislatures across the country isn’t going to work. Caterpillars (read: women) are pissed, and sanely, rightly so.