Progressives for days likened Republicans to the Taliban to deflect criticism of President Biden’s botched withdrawal from Afghanistan.
Conservatives have begun to push back.
The hashtags #RepublicanTaliban and #GOPTaliban surged on Twitter as leftists sought to equate the Republican Party with the radical Islamist group on issues such as abortion and religion.
“The Taliban extremists are here in America just with a different name,” tweeted Pulp Fiction actress Rosanna Arquette on Sunday. “[T]he GOP right-wing extremists who support destroying democracy are the Terrorists in America and will continue to terrorize America until they are stopped and pay for their crimes against Americans Jan 6th.”
Those repudiating the comparisons included The Federalist publisher Ben Domenech, who said Thursday that media figures are doing whatever they can to avoid talking about “the disaster that is this administration.”
“They’re pushing a narrative and they will do anything in defense of that narrative, and the narrative right now is that it’s everybody’s fault but Joe Biden’s about what’s going on in Afghanistan, and also that the GOP is worse than the Taliban,” Mr. Domenech said on Fox News.
The last time the Taliban ruled Afghanistan after seizing power in 1996, women were required to wear burqas and prevented from working; girls were barred from school; television, music and movies were banned; and executions by stoning were carried out in public.
“OK, well, you can live under GOP rule and you can live under Taliban rule,” Mr. Domenech said. “Compare that for me and then come back, because I know that one of them is going to actually destroy your life, and the other is going to cut your taxes.”
The Republican-Taliban narrative also emerged in news outlets and on network TV.
The MSNBC website featured an op-ed Wednesday by columnist Dean Obeidallah headlined, “Afghan women’s rights are threatened — but the GOP isn’t their champion,” with the subhead, “The Taliban aren’t the only ones trying to impose their will on women’s bodies and choices.”
MSNBC host Joy-Ann Reid tweeted Saturday that the takeover has resulted in a “real-life Handmaid’s Tale” and then drew a U.S. parallel.
“A true cautionary tale for the U.S., which has our own far religious right dreaming of a theocracy that would impose a particular brand of Christianity, drive women from the workforce and solely into childbirth, and control all politics,” Ms. Reid said.
Cracked CBS late-night host Stephen Colbert: “Why should our soldiers be fighting radicals in a civil war in Afghanistan? We’ve got our own on Capitol Hill.”
There are a lot of similarities between the Taliban and the right wing of the Republican Party. Scary.
— Stan Van Gundy (@realStanVG) August 15, 2021
Conservative columnist Jonah Goldberg on Wednesday offered a reminder that the comparison has been trotted out before.
“The return of ‘The GOP is just like the Taliban’ talking points really brings me back to the old days,” tweeted Mr. Goldberg. “Still, if the only thing you have to say about the Taliban right now is ‘the Republicans are just as bad’ you might consider that you just don’t have anything worth saying.”
In his op-ed, Mr. Obeidallah cited recently passed pro-life laws in Arkansas, including a near-total ban except in medical emergencies to save the life of the mother, which was temporarily blocked last month by a federal court before it took effect.
“That law was enacted not by the Taliban in Afghanistan, but in Arkansas,” Mr. Obeidallah said. “Gov. Asa Hutchinson signed the GOP-controlled Legislature’s ban on abortion in all circumstances — except to save the life of the woman — in March. This law also makes it a felony to help a woman get an abortion — even in the case of rape or incest.”
Mr. Hutchinson said the bill was intended as a direct legal challenge to the 1973 Roe v. Wade decision. He also signed a bill in April requiring women seeking an abortion after 20 weeks under the rape-or-incest exception to file a police report.
“Look, nobody is saying the GOP and the Taliban are equally bad,” Mr. Obeidallah said. “But in just the past few months, we’ve seen Republicans champion measures to deprive women of freedom over their own bodies, as well as oppose laws to protect women from violence and ensure that women are paid the same wages as men. And they’ve done so, at least in part, to impose their religious beliefs on all others.”
MSNBC just published an atrocious op-ed comparing pro-life lawmakers to the Taliban
Clearly, the author is out of touch with the reality of how barbaric and backwards U.S. abortion laws are
— Susan B. Anthony List #HydeSavesLives (@SBAList) August 18, 2021
Marjorie Dannenfelser, president of the pro-life Susan B. Anthony List, blasted the op-ed, saying that the U.S. is also one of seven nations allowing “abortion on demand for any reason up to birth,” as is the case in some states, along with China and North Korea.
“MSNBC does the nation a great disservice in allowing this piece to run, which exploits Afghan women, ignores their values, and smears pro-life Republicans who are fighting every day in Congress to defend the lives of American women and their unborn babies from the extreme agenda of the abortion lobby,” Ms. Dannenfelser said in a statement.
She said that pro-life lawmakers “are to be commended for their courage in challenging this extreme status quo — and they should be emboldened by the truth that the majority of Americans are on their side, eager to humanize our laws.”
• Doug Ernst contributed to this report.