Republican Party’s legitimate difficulty over Todd Akin: Re-cap and overview, part 1
Returning to the topic of Rep. Todd Akin’s senate race in Missouri, the real sticking point for Republican Party movers and shakers is not Akin’s mistaken science, his comforting notion that a woman’s body will ward off pregnancy in a sexual assault. The real sticking point, for top Republicans including presidential nominee Mitt Romney, is Akin’s genuine belief that abortion is wrong in all cases.
(Certainly, Akin’s belief appears to be genuine, and short of proclaiming self a mind reader, it can be taken to be sincere.)
The fact that I do not agree with this view is beside the point. The point is that many voters and contributors on whom the upper levels of the GOP depend to keep office do agree with it. The official Republican Party platform adopted at the 2012 Republican National Convention–along with threatening to cut the mortgage interest deduction–holds with this view.
Those religiously conservative voters who hold this view are the people being stiffed by the national GOP, up to and including Romney.
So much for lip service. The Republican candidate for office who most strongly comes out with the anti-abortion party line in 2012–openly, candidly, unequivocally–happens, by some fluke, to be exactly the candidate that almost every well-placed Republican operative tries to exile beyond the pale. Akin’s remarks highlighted a view that many Republicans–especially those in Washington–do not hold. Worse yet, Akin’s remarks interfered with top Republicans’ ongoing strategy of keeping that view quiet.
The adverse reaction to Akin’s remarks by wounded important people in the wounded top echelons of the GOP was swift, widespread and unequivocal.
Let no one be accused of exaggerating the reaction. Quick recap:
The day of Akin’s interview, then-presumptive nominee Mitt Romney promptly, if tersely, distanced himself from Akin’s comments.
The similarity between Akin’s no-exceptions position and that of Romney’s running mate, Paul Ryan, coming swiftly to light, the Romney campaign seems to have decided that just rejecting Akin’s views was not going to be enough. The next day, Romney came out to condemn Akin’s words as “inexcusable.”
The next day, he went farther yet, expressing a public hope that the Missouri congressman would leave the race.
Romney, be it noted, was not exactly going out on a limb here, separated from the rest of the party establishment. Other nominees suggesting that Akin should drop out include Sen. Scott Brown of Massachusetts, strongly challenged by Elizabeth Warren. (Brown faces the key difficulty that Warren would make a better senator.)
Reportedly joining in against Akin was incomprehensibly well-paid radio host Rush Limbaugh, though Limbaugh back-pedaled afterward. As the deadline for Akin to drop out without penalty approached its last hours, establishment pressure on Akin mounted.
The August 21 deadline, as we know, came and went with Akin remaining in the race on the eve of the RNC. Rep. Darrell Issa (R-Calif.) joined the throng asking him not to. There aren’t many occasions when Issa can chastise someone for ill-considered speech, but he stepped up to the plate this time. Must have been something of a shock to some of Issa’s supporters back home.
Coming to the convention, Romney seized air time in interviews to reiterate his opposition to Akin.
Top GOP operative Mary Matalin went even farther. As previously written, Matalin said emphatically on air that the Republican Party will fund a write-in candidate against Akin in Missouri, if Akin stays in the race. As of last writing, Akin has not dropped out, though Matalin has not yet retracted her statement.
Matalin’s king-of-the-hill moment didn’t last long. Funding a candidate to run against Akin was tumbled off by Karl Rove’s expressed desire to murder him. In a gathering for wealthy supporters and party strategists, Rove’s fancy turned to homicide. He later apologized to Akin. Rove was at the convention. Akin was not.
So much for pro-life.
It is fair to take Akin’s remarks to be sincere. It would be fair to accept Rove’s remarks as sincere.
And this, gentlemen and ladies, is what the Christian right gets from the national Republican party: It is okay for rightwing pro-lifers to show up and vote; it is okay for them to contribute money in small amounts; it is okay for them to keep Wall Streeters in power. Position to get money, money to get position, all fueled by some vague notion of status.
But when one politician gets so out of line as to state openly the party’s no-exceptions position on abortion–makes clear that yes, that’s what the party stands for–the full weight of the party comes down on him.