Last week we reported that two Republicans, both critics of Pres. Clinton, were outed as adulterers: Rep. Helen Chenoweth of Idaho (who slept with her former business partner–presumably in the workplace) and Rep. Dan Burton of Indiana (who admitted having fathered a child in an extramarital affair). Both are arch-conservatives who openly espouse “family values,” but whose actions show they secretly believe that a little cheating on the side is okay.
To top it all off, last week news broke that the leader of Clinton’s impeachment review, House Judiciary Committee Chairman Henry Hyde (R-Illinois), has admitted that he had an affair with a married woman in the 1960s. Fred Snodgrass, the ex-husband of Hyde’s lover, told the Associated Press: “It’s ridiculous. He had an affair with a young woman with three children. At least the president didn’t do that.” Snodgrass went on to call Hyde a “super hypocrite” and broke into tears as he told of how Hyde’s affair ruined the Snodgrass marriage.
Following in Chenoweth’s footsteps, Hyde denied that he had done anything wrong and pompously replied: “The statute of limitations has long since passed on my youthful indiscretions … After Mr. Snodgrass confronted my wife, the friendship ended and my marriage remained intact.” Hyde neglected to mention that he had lied to Mrs. Snodgrass during their affair by telling her he was single at the time. He was also just beginning his career as a state representative, and his “youthful indiscretions” continued until 46 years of age (he’s now 70).
These revelations about ultra-conservative Republicans are funny, but they’re also revealing. We can now infer that years of railing against “satanic feminism” and immorality may be inspired by a weird dynamic of guilt, repression, and projection within the Christian-fundamentalist mindset.
For example, punishing welfare recipients by launching a campaign against teenage welfare mothers of color may be understood as the response of guilty filanderers to their own racist, pedophilic wet dreams. The bombing and/or attempts to close down abortion clinics and make abortion (indeed, any form of contraception) illegal, may be read as a repetition/compulsion syndrome brought on by a need to erase their “youthful indiscretions” from memory. Of course, they could just be a bunch of sexist bigots. But the fact that they get away with this stuff also says a lot about our own values, actions (most of us have had our own “indiscretions”), and resulting feelings of guilt. People make mistakes, break promises, give in to desires, and do stupid things; the sin is to not acknowledge those mistakes, to lie about them, cover them up, and try to forget about them. In reality, they never go away; the more they’re repressed, the more they become obsessions. So begins a vicious cycle of denial, repetition, shame, and the use or abuse of power to deflect the blame onto somebody else.
I don’t want to be accused of psychologizing politics or foreign policy, but here’s a perfect example of deflecting blame or projecting guilt onto someone else: the Senate’s foreign operations appropriations bill. Reactionary House Republicans have attached a rider to the bill called the Global Gag Rule. Yes, you guessed it: the rider would prevent any group operating overseas from accepting U.S. funds if they even mention abortion to their clients.
Now let’s be frank about this. No U.S. funds have been spent on abortions overseas since 1973. None. On the face of it, this rider seems geared to stop family planning clinics from offering abortion services at all (which, by the way, they already pay for with their own money). But it reality, it’s meant to withhold necessary operating funds from most family planning clinics. It would kill contraceptive aid to the countries where it’s needed most, at a time when pregnancy-related mortalities are the leading cause of death for women in developing nations. If that’s not designed purely to punish women of color, then I don’t know what the objective is.
It’s been proven time and again that the combination of contraception, education, and employment opportunities for women reduce unwanted pregnancies, lower the number of children per family, and lower the abortion rate. Now we can assume that, by closing off women’s access to all three of these things, right-wing members of the Republican Party may be acting out their repressed desires to commit adultery and to make every woman a “sex slave”–a collective fantasy that makes Clinton’s assignations with Monica seem wholesome by comparison.
Or they could just be stupid sexist bigots. You decide.