Republicans are scurrying to get away from Todd Akin as fast as they can, because he is a political fool to say things many conservatives believe but don't want the public to know they believe. He's done it repeatedly -- on calling liberals "Godless", on student loans, and now on abortion and rape. But no matter how fast they scurry away from him, the Republicans have to take responsibility for Todd Akin and his beliefs, because he has had a welcome place in their political party for a long time.
First, we should just note that Todd Akin has been a member of good standing in the House Republican caucus since being elected to Congress in 2000. He has two very important, hard to get committee assignments, Paul Ryan's Budget Committee and the Armed Services Committee. He is the chair of a sub-committee. He also serves, ironically, on the Science, Space, and Technology Committee, where as a climate change and evolution denier, and a self-proclaimed expert on women's reproductive science, he is right at home with today's Republican party. In a Republican party where the party committees and other establishment forces do everything they can to take down primary candidates they don't like, Akin sailed through the primary. Up until the National Republican Senatorial Committee dumped him earlier today, he had been one of the top Senate candidates in the country being helped by them.
In terms of his voting record, he certainly wasn't an outlier either. He has voted with the Republican caucus between 96% to 99% of the time in recent years. His 91.67% voting record with the American Conservative Union over the last year was less conservative than Paul Ryan (96%) and many other Republicans. His position on abortion is shared by 234 other Republican House members, the vast majority of congressional Republicans. His bill to narrow the definition of rape was co-sponsored by Ryan and 215 other Republican house members.
After his absurd and repugnant statement, Todd Akin is thankfully persona non grata in the Republican party, as he went too far even for them. But this Republican party proudly embraced an extremist like Akin as a congressman for 12 years who got great committee assignments and was one of their top Senate candidates. They agree with and embrace his scary ideas on abortion and narrowing the definition of rape. They put him on their budget committee and his ideas contributed to the Ryan budget. They knew how extreme he was, and they welcomed him with open arms anyway.
This election is about many issues and factors, but most fundamentally it is a debate about values. The Republicans have enthusiastically embraced the ideas of Ayn Rand, who believed that selfishness is a virtue and that compassion weakened society (and who incidentally wrote rhapsodically about heroes who violently raped women.) They have embraced the ideas of Dick Cheney, who violated 230 years of American tradition dating back to George Washington and said our government should not hesitate to torture people. They have been excited beyond belief to embrace the budget ideas of Paul Ryan, who wants to end the guarantees of health care and nursing home care for seniors, the poor, and the disabled in order to shovel more tax breaks to millionaires. And yes, they have embraced the ideas of Todd Akin, even as they run away from him today as fast as they can.
Stan Greenberg and James Carville wrote these words in one of their recent memos: "In focus groups and surveys, what evidently drives voters most sharply and permanently away from Paul Ryan and Mitt Romney is their concern over budget priorities they regard as simply immoral. Even we were surprised at how strongly voters feel about this distinction. They take a moral approach to evaluating the proposed cuts in the Ryan budget. And they reject the budget on deeply principled and unmovable grounds." This election, perhaps more than any other in our lifetime, is about the moral choices we must make as a country. Will voters embrace the morality of Bain Capital, the Ryan budget, Todd Akin, and Ayn Rand? Or will they vote for the values of taking care of our seniors, of equal rights for women, of the Golden Rule, of America as one people that take care of each other and help each other? It couldn't be a bigger choice. I think that every day Republicans are reminding people why voters don't want to choose that set of values.
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