I was surprised at first by the ferocity and duration of the controversy surrounding Missouri Rep. and Republican Senate candidate Todd Akin’s embarrassingly boneheaded remarks about the female reproductive tract’s alleged powers of discernment. The excoriations you’d expect to hear in response to an aging white male wax scientific about “legitimate rape” have been in ample supply from both parties. Even the insufferable Sean Hannity called his comments “a terrible mistake” on his show Tuesday night, and the next co-president of the United States, Mittens Romney, earlier that day called upon Rep. Akin to leave the race.
But then I got to thinking about why this is such a huge flap. Why should anyone be surprised that a republican has some seriously backward views? Obviously his comment about rape was as stupidly incorrect on the facts as it was ignorantly dismissive of the horrors, but stunning ignorance is a stock-in-trade of the modern republican party. I guess that’s the point really: Akin’s mumbling struck a nerve precisely because he’s again revealed the ugly truth of the far-right pro-lifers which have increasingly become the standard bearers of the republican mainstream. They’re so tragically or willfully misinformed in order to cling to their manifestly bogus stance on reproductive rights that it was inevitable one of them would detonate a land mine on camera sooner or later.
What’s really interesting (read: disgusting) is how transparently political the fallout has been. Whenever some bumpkin jams his foot in his mouth, the elites get nervous and distance themselves in double time. But this time it’s late in the election cycle and the GOP would love to get their hands on the Senate, in which the Dems currently enjoy the narrowest of majorities (though it should be noted that the Senate’s two independents, Bernie Sanders and Joe Lieberman, have historically caucused with the democrats). It’s also a presidential election and everyone knows the republicans aren’t the favourites: reminding America (many of which are victims of sexual assault) how inexpressibly lousy conservative republicans are won’t help the Romney-Ryan ticket. But Akin allowed today’s evening deadline concerning withdrawl from the race, mandated under Missouri law, to pass without incident despite the calls to leave and despite the shrinkage (is that in poor taste?) of his lead over democratic incumbent Claire McCaskill.
The situation is somewhat complex but mostly juvenile. The republicans of Missouri put Akin on the ballot at the 7 August primary and it seems unlikely that the party could field another candidate in time to successfully oppose the democrat. His resignation from the contest now could only guarantee McCaskill the seat. As already stated, it’s clear that vocal condemnation of Akin is a calculated national strategy: to wit, Paul Ryan, the next president of the United States, apparently called Akin personally to entreat him to leave the race. No one can blame Ryan for being more concerned with the overall partisan composition of the Senate than he is with the fate of Missouri’s federal voice — who really cares what the ironically named Show-Me State thinks anyhow? — but this can’t be seen by Rep. Akin as anything but a naked attempt by the party to shut the whole thing down and get out of (Senate) minority child support. So good for Akin: not pulling out, staying the ‘course, giving his last ounce, not taking no for an answer.
But my final analysis is less exciting. That deadline has passed. Akin is about to leave the national news cycle, especially since since the Republican National Convention is soon to convene in Tampa, weather permitting:
His objectively anachronistic and manifestly poisonous misstatement about a set of organs with which he is at best casually familiar and at worse unable to identify on a labeled diagram ins’t unique to Akin, and that isn’t news to anyone. Former child star and national laughing stock Kirk Cameron has flocked to the Representative’s defense. Republicans have been saying insane things about this and other topics for years; google it yourselves if you question the premise since I won’t waste my life hyperlinking evidence of it.
The point is this isn’t a useful talking point for the democrats going into the general election. The idea that this helps to damn the GOP presidential ticket is hogwash: that ticket was sunk in Chicago in November 2008, barring another high-profile terrorist attack in the next three months. Republicans are almost certainly already planning to regroup in 2016 when they won’t need to unseat a relatively popular incumbent. Put another way, nobody wants to be Mittens (now or ever, yeesh). And Akin doesn’t make a difference in any other Congressional races since, let’s face it, no one remembers anything more than three weeks before a local election, if that. “Oooh, one republican is laughably inept at concealing his hateful social views for political gain! That doesn’t make a difference in this economy.”
So… let’s let this one go? Either we already know why we hate republicans, or else we don’t. But I think we do.