It's been a gratifying few days for a lot of us who have long known that Uber was a great and identifiable symbol of the free market fighting statist regulations and crony capitalism. And for conservative Republicans it's been even better, as Uber's popular support is suddenly making Democratic Party leaders like Hillary Clinton and New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio look like villains and dinosaurs.
Uber is a winning issue for the GOP and free market supporters precisely because it's not some abstract idea or philosophy. It's a real company that happens to be darned popular. Restricting a popular service like Uber is turning de Blasio into a modern day Boss Tweed, and even angering New Yorkers who identify as liberals. And Hillary Clinton's open questioning of Uber makes her sound clueless and unhelpful to people across the economic stratosphere.
Uber is an easy one for most Republicans and conservatives to embrace. None of what Uber stands for challenges the GOP base's core economic or social issue beliefs. And while some Democrats embrace it, Uber and other popular "sharing economy" standouts are not linked to the party as a whole.
But if Republicans, and especially Republican presidential candidates, like Uber then they're going to love something else that's very popular and is easily identifiable for the voters. I'm talking about the pill.
Okay not so much the birth control pill itself, but the idea of selling the pill over the counter. Like Uber, an OTC-available pill is an extremely popular idea that people of all economic levels and most political persuasions support. It should get more support from Republican opponents of surgical abortion and to be fair, presidential candidate Bobby Jindal and GOP Senator Cory Gardner from Colorado do support it. But more Republicans in Congress and especially on the presidential campaign trail should start invoking an OTC pill when they talk about free market and capitalist ideals. There at least four good reasons why:
1) Sex sells
You can't win the White House if you don't win the nomination first, and have you noticed how crowded the Republican field is? Of course you have. And it's really hard to get any attention when so many other people are running and one of them is Donald Trump making headline grabbing comments all the time. The candidate who talks about how getting access to the pill is an important issue for conservatives to support will simultaneously shock and entice the mainstream media into covering it.
2) Closing the gender gap
The GOP's weakness with women voters is all about abortion. Supporting OTC birth control is a great way to still be opposed to abortion but also show pro-choice female voters you're not totally tone deaf. It also helps close the gap with younger voters.
3) Hillary will have to say: "me too!"
I'm pretty sure Hillary Clinton supports the idea of an OTC pill. I mean, I think I'm sure. You can never be sure with Mrs. Clinton's positions on most anything, especially issues related to government regulation. Either way, you can just see her campaign staffers fuming as a Republican candidate steals even a little of the women's reproductive rights agenda from her. It might also force some of the more moderate Clinton supporters to wonder why Clinton and the Democrats are always pushing more regulations and laws for "our own safety" when that's exactly the false rationale behind keeping the pill prescription only.
4) It still works with the GOP base
Most people across the religious spectrum agree that contraceptive birth control is morally preferable to surgical abortion. Many core Republican primary voters will prefer abstinence, but will they cause a damaging revolt against a GOP contender who says he wants to reduce the number of abortions? I doubt it. That's especially true now that the pro life movement is ensconced in the Planned Parenthood fetal body parts scandal. Anything that cuts down on surgical abortion is going to look really good right now to GOP voters. This could finally be a way for Republican pro life candidates to carry over their primary advantage to the general election.
But Republicans need to move fast. Just today, three Democrats in the House introduced a bill to make oral contraception available over the counter. That means this issue could get away from the GOP unless some Republicans in Congress co-sponsor that bill or a presidential candidate or two joins Gov. Jindal in at least publicly supporting the idea.
Uber has already been a big disrupter in the transportation business. Now it's disrupting the political arena. But the Republican candidate who wants to disrupt the political status quo is going to have to go beyond the street and take the battle for freedom to drug store.