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Robert Reich: Why Republicans Are Obsessed With Pedophilia, Gender Identity, Gay People, And Abortion – OpEd


CEOs from America’s largest oil companies appeared this week before a House committee probing why they’re raising prices at the pump while raking in record profits and spending huge sums buying back their shares of stock. (Last year, Chevron, Exxon, BP, and Shell spent more than $44 billion on buybacks and dividends, and plan to spend $74 billion this year — money that should be used instead to lower prices at the pump.) It’s price-gouging and profiteering, and we’re all paying for it.


Republicans, meanwhile, are focusing on sex. I’ll explain why in a moment, but first consider the extent of the Republican sex obsession.

In her recent confirmation hearings, Judge Ketanji Brown Jackson was barraged with questions from Republican senators about her alleged lenient treatment of child pornographers. It was a baseless claim, but that didn’t matter to the Republicans who kept hammering her. In four days of hearings, the phrase ‘child porn’ (or ‘pornography’ or ‘pornographer’) was mentioned 165 times, along with 142 mentions of “sex” or related terms like “sexual abuse” or “sex crimes.”

On March 28, Florida’s Republican Governor Ron DeSantis signed a bill banning kindergarten through third-grade public school teachers from talking about sexual orientation or gender identity, calling it an “anti-grooming bill” and accusing opponents of wanting to groom young children for sexual exploitation. (When the Walt Disney Company, Florida’s largest employer, came out against the measure and promised the company would donate $5 million to LBGTQ organizations, DeSantis called Disney’s opposition “radical” and suggested that the Florida legislature cancel Disney’s special status in Florida that essentially makes it a local government.)

In late February, Texas’s Republican Governor Greg Abbott ordered state child welfare officials to launch child abuse investigations into reports of transgender kids receiving gender-affirming care. Last May he signed into law a ban on abortions after about six weeks of pregnancy, and gives private citizens the right to sue anyone who helps someone obtain an abortion.

Oklahoma’s Republican House voted overwhelmingly to make performing an abortion a felony, punishable by up to 10 years in prison. The measure now heads to Oklahoma’s Republican governor, Kevin Stitt, who has signaled he’ll sign it into law.


The Republican Party, once a proud proponent of limited government, has turned itself into a font of sexual innuendo and legal intrusion into the most intimate aspects of personal life. Protecting children from predators is a worthy aim, to be sure, but the GOP is obsessing about all aspects of sex. Why?

First, it’s part of their culture war, and culture wars sell with voters (and the media) eager for conflict and titillation. A culture war over sex sells even better. It lets Republicans imply that Democrats are somehow on the side of sexual “deviants” who endanger the “natural order.”

Also, by focusing on sex, Republicans can court both the evangelical right and the rightwing extreme QAnon vote (with its the loony “Pizzagate” conspiracy claim that Hillary Clinton was a pedophile).

Most importantly, a culture war over sex allows Republicans to sound faux populist without having to talk about the real sources of populist anger — corporate-induced inflation at a time of record corporate profits, profiteering and price gouging, monopolization, stagnant wages, union busting, soaring CEO pay, billionaires who have amassed $1.7 trillion during the pandemic but who pay a lower tax rate than the working class, and the flow of big money into the political campaigns of lawmakers who oblige by lowering taxes on the wealthy and big corporations and doling out corporate welfare.

Oh, and by focusing on pedophilia, gender identity, gay people, and abortion, Republicans don’t have to talk about Trump and January 6.

Democratic politicians, wake up! You have a critical opportunity between now and the midterm elections to reframe the national conversation as it should be framed — around abuses of economic power by corporations and the super rich. Those abuses are worsening. They affect the everyday lives of all Americans.

If you fail to do this, Americans will continue to be inundated with Republican “culture war” messages intended to deflect the public’s attention from how badly big corporations and the super wealthy are shafting them. Americans won’t understand how these economic abuses all relate to record amounts of income and wealth at the top, and what must be done to reverse this imbalance (break up monopolies, enact a windfall profits tax, raise taxes on large corporations and the super wealthy, strengthen labor unions, reform campaign finance, stop corporate welfare, and so on). And some of you will lose your jobs in the midterm elections — allowing Republicans to take over the House and Senate.

Robert Reich

Robert B. Reich is Chancellor's Professor of Public Policy at the University of California at Berkeley and Senior Fellow at the Blum Center for Developing Economies, and writes at Reich served as Secretary of Labor in the Clinton administration, for which Time Magazine named him one of the ten most effective cabinet secretaries of the twentieth century. He has written fifteen books, including the best sellers "Aftershock", "The Work of Nations," and"Beyond Outrage," and, his most recent, "The Common Good," which is available in bookstores now. He is also a founding editor of the American Prospect magazine, chairman of Common Cause, a member of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences, and co-creator of the award-winning documentary, "Inequality For All." He's co-creator of the Netflix original documentary "Saving Capitalism," which is streaming now.

4 thoughts on “Robert Reich: Why Republicans Are Obsessed With Pedophilia, Gender Identity, Gay People, And Abortion – OpEd

  • April 9, 2022 at 8:05 am

    “Democratic politicians, wake up! You have a critical opportunity between now and the midterm elections to reframe the national conversation as it should be framed…
    If you fail to do this, Americans will continue to be inundated with Republican “culture war” messages intended to deflect the public’s attention from how badly big corporations and the super wealthy are shafting them.”

    THIS IS CRUCIAL! and I am so glad you spelled it out. Now please, how can we make this happen? Why are Democrats so terrible on messaging and so silent when we have much to say that makes a good difference for the country? It is infuriating. And though we all recognize the lack of cohesive messaging, nothing seems to change. I am truly frustrated by it year after year.

  • April 9, 2022 at 8:36 am

    Thank You Secretary Reich for your candor, wisdom and wit. Sex is the new smoke the ‘Repugnantians’ place before the mirrors to ignore the real concerns ailing so many Americans; or hide behind as they pass laws that benefit only the few, connected; wealthy and powerful. Justice Brown-Jacksons confirmation hearings were a disgusting; and disturbing travesty. She presented a ‘master class’ in judicial temperament and restraint. If only our elected officials were equally dignified, the ‘people’s work’ could get done; and the ‘culture wars’ could at least reach an armistice.

  • April 9, 2022 at 4:10 pm

    If you are honestly trying to interpret this, then I think you misread the current situation.

    First, abortion has always been an issue since Roe vs Wade. So that’s not new and not relevant. But identity, gay rights, pronouns,etc. have all exploded in recent years. So push back because the left are trying to radically changing the norm, very vocally. Republicans are not in favor of that narrative, so they are focused on it also. Remove the liberal narrative and the Republicans response goes away. As an example, until recently Disney was considered a safe haven for children, yet they have now shown they are deliberately trying to push a progressive narrative on children. If you are opposed to your children being exposed to that narrative at such an early age, then push back is inevitable.

    Personally I do not feel most Republicans care if someone is LGBTQ plus, whether they want to identify as another gender, use pronouns, etc. They just don’t want it pushed on them or their children. I work amongst individuals across all spectrums. If you do your work well, play nice and leave out politics I don’t care what you do in your off hours.

    If, on the other hand, you’re really just trying to justify the push back politically, then it really doesn’t matter does it. And when you bring up January 6, it makes me think this is the case. No Republicans care about that. If most Republicans don’t believe the election was fair, why would they think January 6 was the insurrection Democrats portray it.

    • April 11, 2022 at 2:56 pm

      What planet do you live on? What kind of “progressive narrative” is Disney trying to push? Please, I wish that people that responded had half a brain that they might try and educate themselves instead of spouting nonsensical party lines. But nooooo. You and your ilk blindly push the tired ridiculous stance of how the liberals are ruining and ruling everything. Ha ha.


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