One area Republicans are stil moderate
I’m a little wary of this story about how Sarah Palin turned a blind eye when rape victims in Wasilla were forced to pay for their own investigations. Even if she is responsible—and she’s so firmly anti-feminist it isn’t hard to see that she could be—it’s all too easy for the campaign to argue that it was an internal police matter that simply wasn’t brought to her attention. The most damning evidence against her is that the Democrat who took her office after she left repealed the policy.
Regardless of what happens and how much culpability Palin has in this situation, it’s an opportunity to highlight one issue where the Republican party has so far not completely caved to the far right—violence against women. There’s real tension there. The mainstream Republican party has supported feminist initiatives to support women escaping from domestic violence and rape victims, if quietly and begrudgingly at times. The reauthorization of the VAWA met with huge bipartisan support. The only area where the far right has gained ground in their war against women who’ve been victims of violence is by using reproductive politics as a stalking horse—anti-choice arguments have been used to deny rape victims basic health care after the rape, cementing far right goals of ensuring that even rape victims are punished for being women with unintended pregnancy. And of course, people like Sarah Palin have pushed for forcing rape victims to bear children by rapists with their support of bans on abortion at all times for all reasons. But on domestic violence and just the topic of whether or not rape is wrong and the rapist is the criminal, not the victim, I don’t see Republicans falling hard to the right on this.
The far right has a laundry list of demands to restore a man’s right to beat and rape a woman. “Men’s rights” activists demand that the government defund battered women’s shelters, treat all rape victims like they’re criminals themselves, and prosecute rape victims if the state fails to get a guilty verdict against the assailant—a move that appears to be designed to make rape legal because filing charges could land a victim in jail, so it’ll never happen. Obviously, they don’t demand that victims of other crimes be held criminally liable for the state’s inability to make a legal case. If someone breaks into your house and steals your stereos, MRAs aren’t demanding that you get thrown in jail if the perpetrator isn’t caught. They also object to common sense measures to prevent abusers from gaining access to their victims, such as restraining orders and court-supervised visitation for any children that the relationship between the abuser and the victim might have created. Even further to the right, you have people like Phyllis Schlafly arguing that men should have blanket permission to rape their wives.
What’s going to be interesting is teasing out where Sarah Palin falls on this spectrum. Is she safely with the mainstream Republican party, that knows that openly supporting wife-beaters under the guise of “fatherhood” and “family values” is immoral at best, or at least politically incendiary? Does she believe, along with the wack-a-doodles, that rape should become de facto legal by making it impossible to prosecute? If she did in fact know about the problem in Wasilla where women were being discouraged from pressing charges because they, unlike every other victim of a crime, were being charged for the basic right to government protection from crime, then we have a better idea of how far to the right she really leans. She’s in the camp so wacky that mere zygote-worshippers and Confederate sympathizers look relatively liberal.