Lauren Boebert blows up the GOP's biggest talking point

Here are some inconvenient facts that upset the dominant narrative about the color line and poverty in America

By Chauncey DeVega

Senior Writer

Published March 20, 2023 6:28AM (EDT)

Rep. Lauren Boebert (R-CO) wears a 'Make America Great Again' hat as she leaves the U.S. Capitol (Drew Angerer/Getty Images)
Rep. Lauren Boebert (R-CO) wears a 'Make America Great Again' hat as she leaves the U.S. Capitol (Drew Angerer/Getty Images)

Republican Rep. Lauren Boebert of Colorado has found herself in the midst of some family drama that will potentially have life-long implications. Her son, aged 17, has impregnated his girlfriend – who is also a teenager. Their child is due next month.

Showing no shame or embarrassment for this ostensible violation of "conservative" "Christian" "family values", Boebert proudly announced at the recent Conservative Political Action Committee conference that she is going to be a grandmother and recounted a conversation with her young son.

"He said, 'well didn't you make granny a 36-year-old granny,'" she said. "I said, 'yes I did.' He said, 'well then it's hereditary.'"

Boebert also told the audience that, "But one of our biggest fears was not what are you going to do? What are people going to say? Our biggest fear is: Are they going to choose life?....And they did. And we're so proud of them for making that sacrifice and being selfless in that position to say there's something greater here....There's something special about rural conservative communities — they value life. If you look at teen pregnancy rates throughout the nation, well, they're the same in rural and urban areas. However, abortion rates are higher in urban areas, and teen mom rates are higher in rural, conservative areas because we understand the preciousness of the life that is about to be born."

Boebert's grandchild will be the third generation of out-of-wedlock births in her family. She has been correctly criticized for being a hypocrite of the first order who moralizes about other people's families and lifestyles but failed to instill the same values she holds up as sacrosanct in her own son. Others have highlighted how the Boebert clan is very obsessed with guns but comparatively much less interested in teaching their son about proper contraceptive use. In total, the Boebert family's drama is the stuff of a bad Lifetime movie or Netflix series or perhaps even a sequel to JD Vance's bestselling book and movie Hillbilly Elegy.

So, of course, Boebert's announcement was met by no small amount of liberal schadenfreude, mockery, jokes, and punchlines from comedians. But beyond the jokes and humor, the Boebert family drama and their pride in so-called (white) rural conservative communities is actually a much bigger story about American society.

For a range of reasons, red state America is experiencing a relatively high rate of out-of-wedlock and other unwanted births. 

Single and teen mothers do not have adequate support or resources in rural red state America (and the country more broadly). Many red state leaders have also bought into the dogma and untrue belief that religious organizations and charities can replace the government in terms of providing an adequate social safety net. There is also more stigma and a lack of support for single mothersComprehensive sex education programs are also lacking in red states. Instead, because of the influence of White Christian fundamentalists, abstinence-only programs are common in those areas of the country. High-quality sex education is a matter of public health and human dignity. Moreover, the research shows that abstinence-only programs are not effective and in fact actually lead to higher rates of out-of-wedlock births, teen pregnancies, STIs and STDs. Such negative outcomes are also correlated with diminished life chances and life opportunities such as higher rates of poverty and a lack of intergenerational class mobility.

Boebert's "rural values" and the type of double standards and contradictions about race and gender such language embodies is why the American people do not have a real social democracy.

Boebert and other Christofascists are working diligently to take away women's reproductive rights and freedoms all over the country with the goal of imposing a regime of forced birth and force pregnancy where contraception is illegal. If put in place, such policies and laws will mean more unwanted children being born into families and communities that do not have the resources to properly care for them.

In a recent piece at the Pennsylvania Capital-Star, Heather MacDonald summarizes how:

In a state that has proven that straightforward sex education and birth control drop abortion rates, Boebert has denounced sex ed and called for the defunding of Planned Parenthood. Boebert's faux affinity for the preciousness of life does not extend very far, certainly not to transgender children, gay adoptive parents, or pregnant teens not ready to become a parent. 

Boebert herself was a teen mom, as was her mother before her. Boebert dropped out of high school to raise her child and was eventually able to obtain her GED in 2020 when she was in her 30s.

Her son is now the 3rd generation of teenage parent in the same family. These are the lingering effects of early parenthood laid bare. 

After winning re-election in November by less than 550 votes, Boebert has done nothing but double down on hatred in the name of religious morals that are clearly malleable for the in-crowd only.

A teen mom becoming a member of Congress is the exception not the rule, and despite her personal experiences, Boebert is creating a dangerous and false narrative that teenage pregnancy showcases "values." The selective morality on display is hypocrisy of the highest kind.

As a member of Congress, in addition to her almost $200,000 a year salary, she will have access to a pension and health insurance. It is very easy and convenient for Boebert to signify, brag, and pander to her audience about white rural conservative values when she does not have to experience the real negative consequences of what said values mean for real people.

As has been extensively documented, the Republican Party continues to use the Southern Strategy. GOP officials regularly deploy racist stereotypes about "black welfare queens" and "urban poverty" and "ghetto culture" as a way of encouraging white racial resentment and outright racism to get and keep political power. The idea that lazy and undeserving Black people are "stealing from white America" and are "takers not makers" who don't believe in hard work" and only want "handouts" is a centuries-old lie and fiction that continues through to the present.  

By comparison, Republicans deploy a narrative that depicts poor and working-class white people as being especially noble, patriotic, and "real Americans" who are more deserving of government assistance (but never "welfare" because that language is verboten as applied to "respectable" "hardworking" white people). Alternatively, when judged to be politically advantageous, those same elites will quickly erase the white poor and working class, ignoring them as inconveniences whose very existence highlights the inherent inequalities of capitalism and other structural failings of American society.

Here are some additional inconvenient facts that upset the dominant narrative about the color line and poverty in America: White people constitute the largest group of poor people in America. Red states receive a disproportionate amount of support from the federal government and blue states. In fact, White people are the greatest beneficiaries of "welfare" in American history.

Boebert's thinly coded racist language of "rural conservative values" is one more example of how racism hurts white people.

To that point, new research by psychologists Dr. Erin Cooley and Dr. Jazmin Brown-Iannuzzi shows that white people are actually very protective of welfare and other government supports for other white people, while simultaneously stigmatizing Black people. These new findings echo other research which has repeatedly shown that many white people change their assessment of a given individual's behavior and morality based on perceived racial group membership where Black people are judged more harshly than white people for doing the same things. Other research shows how white poor and working-class people who use food stamps and other welfare programs rationalize their behavior as somehow being morally superior and different as compared to other people who receive the same benefits.

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Contrary to racist and white supremacist stereotypes about lazy and government-dependent Black and brown people, White America (and Whiteness itself) was in many ways created by white welfare programs.

The most obvious example is white on Black chattel slavery and land theft and genocide against First Nations where white people as a group benefitted from a particular type of "white freedom" where wealth, income, and other intergenerational upward mobility was literally built on stolen land and stolen labor. The post-World War II era federal home loan programs (and the GI Bill more broadly) de facto discriminated against Black and brown veterans and their families. The American middle class was created through white suburbanization and a massive expansion in the economy. By law and intent, Black and brown Americans were largely excluded from those benefits and the American Dream.

What economists and other experts have described as "the submerged state" (which consists of such programs as mortgage, education and other tax credits and subsidies) is another example of white welfare that disproportionately transfers money and other resources to white Americans as compared to Black and brown Americans

Ultimately, Boebert's "rural values" and the type of double standards and contradictions about race and gender such language embodies is why the American people do not have a real social democracy that would include such things as national healthcare, free college education, affordable housing, strong unions, a living wage, and long-term unemployment insurance.

As it has since before the founding of this nation, white racism and white supremacy hurts white people too. Boebert's thinly coded racist language of "rural conservative values" is one more example of how that dynamic works.

By Chauncey DeVega

Chauncey DeVega is a senior politics writer for Salon. His essays can also be found at He also hosts a weekly podcast, The Chauncey DeVega Show. Chauncey can be followed on Twitter and Facebook.

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Commentary Culture Wars Health Lauren Boebert Race Racism Republican Party Southern Strategy White Privilege