Jeb Bush thinks that unwed mothers should be publicly shamed for exercising their personal agency and making the choice to raise a child outside the confines of church-sanctioned monogamy- or at least, that’s what his 1995 book, Profiles In Character, says quite clearly:
One of the reasons more young women are giving birth out of wedlock and more young men are walking away from their paternal obligations is that there is no longer a stigma attached to this behavior, no reason to feel shame. Many of these young women and young men look around and see their friends engaged in the same irresponsible conduct. Their parents and neighbors have become ineffective at attaching some sense of ridicule to this behavior. There was a time when neighbors and communities would frown on out of wedlock births and when public condemnation was enough of a stimulus for one to be careful.
Jeb Bush apparently begins we need to return to a 15th century vision of morality, where the community bands together to impose social control on the people, to force them to kowtow to archaic social conventions and strip them of the ability to make decisions for themselves- to rob them of the freedom to choose how they wish to live their lives. Instead of the government interfering in people’s lives, it’s clear that conservatives like Bush feel that the Church and society at large should be telling people what they can and can’t do. Perhaps that’s why the “small government” Republican hypocrites resent the federal government so much- because Obama’s government has been working tirelessly to expand people’s ability to make their own life choices- to have or not to have a baby, to be able to marry whoever one might desire, to live their lives without being discriminated against for their choices.
For his “evidence”, Bush points to Nathaniel Hawthorne’s 1850 novel, the Scarlet Letter, in which the main charachter is forced to wear a large “A” on her clothes, painting her as an adulterer and giving random strangers an excuse to pass judgement on her for her choices. It’s quite telling that Bush is choosing to use such blatant misogyny as a evidence of a “historical basis” to justify his vision of a patriarchal male society where female sexuality is repressed and punished.
He’s put this into practice more than once before; as Governor, he refused to veto a bill “that required single mothers who did not know the identity of the father to publish their sexual histories in a newspaper before they could legally put their babies up for adoption”. During his 1994 campaign, he famously said that women on welfare “should able to get their life together and find a husband.”
Jeb Bush’s track record on abortion rights and women in general just paints him as another run-of-the-mill conservative desperately chasing a delusional vision of a society organized according to 1980s white Christian maleness, where a person’s freedom to choose is repressed and punished, and female sexuality demonized. We can expect nothing less from Jeb Bush, or even any of the other Republican presidential candidates, who have all expressed such similar sentiments in their own primitive fashion. It makes it more imperative than ever that the American left rises up and sends a strong message during the next election- the message that we reject that worldview, that we believe in the right for every person, no matter who they are, has the right to make their own choices that determine the path of their own lives; the right of self-determination for our own destinies.
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Opinion columnist and former editor-in-chief of Occupy Democrats. He graduated from Bennington College with a Bachelor's degree in history and political science. He now focuses on advancing the cause of social justice and equality in America.