Missouri Republican candidate Rep. Todd Akin is now world famous and regretting it. He has gone into hiding where he is undoubtedly trying to extract his foot from his mouth where it is wedged all the way down to his gullet. Akin is of course the Republican who has now become infamous for saying that pregnancies were rare in the case of "legitimate rape" because "if it's a legitimate rape, the female body has ways to try and shut that whole thing down."
Now, political candidates often say the stupidest things on the campaign trail. And this could have just been dismissed as a storm in one Senate race's tea cup, a bit like George Allen's macaca moment during the 2006 Virginia Senate race. Allen lost that election but is now running for that seat again. But macaca was just Allen's problem. Akin, unfortunately is the entire Republican Party's problem.
It's the A-word
Akin talked about rape but it was in the context of abortion. Republican candidates would like the support of pro-life groups but don't want to talk too much about the A-word on the campaign trail. It's an issue that divides their own party even though the candidates usually have to pass the anti-abortion litmus test. Mitt Romney has quickly distanced himself from Akin's remarks calling them "insulting, inexcusable and frankly wrong" and wants to move on. But the cat is out of the bag.
Rape was the one exception that all sides had sort of agreed on as being off limits and now even that is threatened. There is already a flurry of posters that have jumped on this controversy as a handy rallying tool like this one.
THERE'S ONE THING WOMEN'S BODIES CAN SHUT DOWN.
AND IT'S CALLED THE REPUBLICAN PARTY.
Vote this November as if your life and rights depended on it. Because they do.
In the long run Akin doesn't matter so much, but Paul Ryan, the man who would be vice president, does. And the media attention is shifting not to Ryan's bold vision for the American economy but to what's being called Ryan and Akin's "anti-choice bromance." Democrats are already circulating lists of what the two have co-sponsored that limits a woman's choice with the clear implication that Ryan and Akin are brothers under the skin. "Paul Ryan does not believe in his heart of hearts that abortion, if banned, should have a rape exception," said Nancy Keenan, president of NARAL. Ryan co-sponsored the "No Taxpayer funding for Abortion Act" which brings up the concept of "forcible rape." That's back in the media glare.
Yesterday once more
Many Republicans want Akin to bow out of the race. The Democrats, not surprisingly, don't. "He was nominated by the Republicans in Missouri," Obama said. "I will let them sort that out." As long as Akin is around the Democrats can keep beating up on the Republican Party as a whole.
Democrats love it because choice as an issue does not galvanize independent voters as much as it did during the contraception wars. Even though the Supreme Court has become more conservative and successive Republican administrations have constricted the funding for abortion more and more, few believe that a woman's right to choose is really threatened. A woman's right to choose feels like yesterday's battle. Even Akin's Democratic opponent Claire McCaskill hinted at that when she talked about her 84-year-old mother's reaction.
"I was sitting with and visiting her the other day," McCaskill said. "She said, 'Sorry honey.' I said, 'What are you sorry about?' She said, 'I thought we took care of this. I thought we won.' ... I think that some people in the Republican Party, including Congressman Akin, would like to take us back to that age."
It's yesterday once more.
Akin to Akin
The Republicans might like to pretend Todd Akin is just a loose cannon outside the mainstream. But he's not alone. Democrats are gleeful because it gives them a chance to paint the Republican party as being in the Tea Party's thrall. The anti-abortion language with its support for a "human life amendment" to the Constitution in the GOP platform comes under scrutiny. To add to the GOP's woes, its former presidential candidate Mike Huckabee, who built a reputation for himself as the kinder, gentler, sunnier conservative, has added his two cents. He said on his radio show that "forcible rapes" are "horrible tragedies" but have produced some remarkable human beings like the late gospel singer Ethel Waters. So now the party has leaders who want to tell the electorate about the "upside" of rape. "The problem isn't Akin. Its the central position of a party controlled by fundamentalists who believe women have no rights," writes Jodi Jacobson.
Rape is Rape
Obviously the Republican Party and its Tea Party surrogates have not learned the bitter lesson Clinton learned when he famously tried to parse the definition of "is" during the Monica Lewinsky scandal. There are some things you just cannot parse without tying yourself up in knots. Rape is one of them.
"Rape is rape," said Obama. "And the idea that we should be parsing and qualifying and slicing what types of rape we are talking about doesn't make sense to the American people and certainly doesn't make sense to me. So what I think these comments do underscore is why we shouldn't have a bunch of politicians, a majority of whom are men, making health care decisions on behalf of women."
The Republicans have long been the masters of the culture wars hyper-ventilating on issues like same-sex marriage to get out their vote. And Democrats have been at the receiving end especially because they are too lily-livered to really take up those issues on head-on. Now the culture war has come to bite the Republicans in the ass.
Akin can fall on his sword and do his mea culpa as The Onion suggests.
You see, what I said was, "If it's a legitimate rape, the female body has ways to try to shut that whole thing down." But what I meant to say was, "I am a worthless, moronic sack of shit and an utterly irredeemable human being who needs to shut up and go away forever."
Akin might go away forever. But his party will feel the heat of his moronic statement for some time to come.
Another version of this blog originally appeared on Firstpost.com.