The 21-19 vote in the Republican-controlled Senate — mostly along party lines — came after Gov. Robert F. McDonnell asked legislators to soften the bill following protests on Capitol Square and mocking on national television, including “The Daily Show with Jon Stewart” and “Saturday Night Live.’’

Oh, by the way, there was an amendment offered on the floor to mandate insurance coverage of this medically unnecessary diagnostic procedure. It was rejected along party lines. As Senator Saslaw said to the Republicans just prior to voting,

"I wish you all voted the way you campaigned."

Democratic Messaging Inaction

As the debate surrounding the contraception ruling continues at the federal level, and the Virginia legislature continues its march of marginalizing women’s rights, I can’t help but be reminded of an earlier post about the failures of Democratic messaging.

There doesn’t seem to be much of a frame to the messaging coming from Democrats on these types of issues. Well, aside from the general “Republicans are crazy / We warned you, now look what happened” theme. But on a more serious note, what I hear from the liberal movement in general right now is:

  1. This is an assault on women’s rights
  2. Republicans as a whole are still the socially conservative culture warriors from the 80s-90s
  3. This is antithetical to their small government approach
  4. As a progressive, I have fought and will continue to fight against these things

Sometimes, I’ll hear number four explicitly, but more often than not that is implicit in the outrage.

The problem is that none of this calls back to a larger meta-platform of the Democratic party or the Progressive movement in general. Instead, it either falls into the categories of why you shouldn’t vote Republican, or sometimes addresses the specific problem of healthcare access. The latter gives no reason to vote for Democrats, while the latter is more policy than ideology. This is the equivalent of a company’s decisions being driven entirely by their next quarter’s profit margin. It is shortsighted, and will result in a great deal of missed opportunities.

Even as crazy as this issue sounds, because it ties directly back into the Republican party’s ideology, they are able to hold the line where they need. At the federal level, this is about the belief in small government. Small Government wouldn’t impose mandates on morally objecting religious organizations, just as Small Government wouldn’t try to takeover the healthcare system or destroy our economy via the environmental extremists at the EPA. Small Government gives you freedom and prosperity.

This is obviously an oversimplification of the issue, but the Democrats have an opportunity here to really win over some very concerned independent voters at the state and federal level, as well as build intensity in Democratic-leaning voters. But to make those changes last beyond the next election cycle, they’ve got to tie it into a larger narrative. They’ve got to tie it into an ideology.

I would love to hear a Democrat come out in support of the President on the contraception ruling because they support equal opportunity for all, and for many, birth control is out of their grasp. Without coverage, they can’t afford it. And we all deserve the opportunity to plan our families, we all deserve the opportunity to be healthy, and we all deserve the opportunity to make these decisions ourselves.

And any church or company or political group’s power to say otherwise should stop at that line of opportunity. Because when you deny any people these basic opportunities, you’re denying them the very things that make America the kind of place we all want to live, work, and raise those families.