News this morning that Bart Stupak is retiring from Congress, rather than face a primary from his left, and teabaggers on his right.? Two months ago, Bart Stupak probably thought he was the most powerful man in Congress.? Now, he’s done.? I think this is a big moment.
Stupak attempted to play a very 90’s style of politics by inserting abortion into the health care reform debate.? Hard to blame him.? Stupak is a product of the culture war of the 1960’s and the resulting politics of the 1990’s, a grudge match between the left and the right whose battlefield seemed to always be a caricature of Yazger’s Farm in Woodstock, driven by conservative Republicanism.? Wedge issues were the only issues, Bart Stupak declared himself the vanguard of the biggest wedge issue in American politics, and if he could be in a position to scupper major legislation with his wedge, Stupak was going to do it.
The country, however, has changed.? And it’s changed because we have elected, rather purposefully, a president who is not a culture warrior.? Barack Obama is not going to make a big deal out of wedge issues, ever.? So when Bart Stupak rolled out his big guns, there wasn’t anyone from the White House on the battlefield willing to burn the whole thing down.
That left Bart Stupak out on a limb, with a lot of explaining to do.? Turned out Stupak’s take on the fictitious existence of federal funding for abortion in the health care bill was a total concoction. Upon the altar of this fiction, Stupak was prepared to sacrifice the most important legislation of his entire career in Congress.? Or so he claimed.? When the heat got too hot, the White House rolled their eyes, handed him a meaningless executive order which underlined what already existed in the bill, and Stupak finally did the right thing, voting for the bill, which he could have done in the first place without making himself a false idol to falsehoods.
That’s when Stupak paid the price of feeding his hardline anti-abortion constituency’s paranoia.? When you give paranoid culture warriors succor, by encouraging them to believe a total lie, they expect you to continue the lie in perpetuity.? They are not going to come around to reality when you do.? Out on a limb that Barack Obama cut off, Stupak fell into a seething pit of his own making.
This is how the vapid, fictitious politics of culture warriors may play out in the Obama era.? Barack Obama is simply not interested in your genitalia obsession, folks.? It’s hard to fight with a guy who constantly has bigger fish to fry, and is going to just hand you the stupid little crumb you’re clamoring after because he can’t be bothered with your obsession.? When that happens, when you “win” your meaningless “concession”, the crazies who you’ve fed lies your entire career will not be pleased.
And that is a very lonely place to be standing, as Bart Stupak has learned, very quickly.