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Message to GOP: Ban the Term "Legitimate Rape"

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Like a painful canker sore that never seems to go away, thoughtless political dialogue continues to fester and foil rational discourse of important issues of the day.

For Republicans, a prime example is the perfunctory use of the idiotic term "legitimate rape" in the abortion debate by some zealous social conservative candidates and officeholders in their religious quest to outlaw abortions.

The continued backlash that results from the candidates and office holders using it is destructive to the GOP's viability and credibility as a political party, particularly with women. Beyond that, it makes Republicans seem as though they are devolving into an off-base, regional party that has deviated from moderate and conservative ideals and philosophies.

To win future elections, including the race for the White House in 2016, and to rebuild the party, national and state officials must bring this irrational discourse under control. Right now, the GOP has a real problem with a minority of zealous social conservatives who cast a very negative, intolerant shadow on party politics and the Republican image.

One suggestion: Let the Republican National Committee give whackjobs that utter such scornful language a choice. Make them sign a "vow of tolerance and understanding" to forego the use of the term "legitimate rape" and other misogynist terms -- or ban them from all partisan activities associated with their work or candidacies, including participating in GOP caucuses. In fact, ban them from running and voting in Republican primaries.

If 95 percent of Republicans in Congress can line up to take Grover Norquist's "Taxpayer Protection Pledge" to oppose increases in income tax and reductions or eliminations of deductions and credits without a matching reduced tax rate, it's time for them to take a similar pledge to keep their derisive and dogmatic evangelical rhetoric in check.

As President Obama again takes the presidential oath of office next week, a defeated Republican Party in turn must do some serious soul searching. It must look to rebuild a political party that is now neither in tune nor popular with the majority of the American people.

One important and immediate step would be to crack down on, even banish, radical social conservatives whose idiotic statements and intolerant social beliefs continue to cost the party critical votes, particularly with women and young voters.

That awful "legitimate rape" line of reasoning surfaced again last week when it was reported that Rep. Phil Gingrey of Georgia, an OB-GYN, stated to a Chamber of Commerce group that former GOP Rep. Todd Akin was "partially right" in postulating that a woman could not conceive after a "legitimate rape."

His comments ignited yet another mainstream backlash, perpetuating the damaging perception of a GOP that is misogynist, out of touch and even cruel in intent. For example, Jesse Ferguson of the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee said it was "alarming and telling" that the head of the GOP Doctors Caucus shared Akin's views.

Yep, the presidential election is over, but that War on Women by Republicans endures.

The GOP lost two crucial Senate seats last election when Todd Akin of Missouri and Richard Mourdock of Indiana made those idiotic statements about "legitimate rape" which claimed a woman can stop herself from getting pregnant during a rape. With the Democrats seizing on these words to exploit their claim of a GOP war on women, this issue hurt presidential candidate Romney, too, by sidetracking his economic message -- ultimately contributing to his meager support from American women.

The GOP must recognize and address a more basic problem in order to be viable in the future. It's that the party seems dominated by a powerful fundamentalist Christian minority obsessed with social issues that are too divisive to most Americans. And that makes Republicans easy pickings for Democratic strategists to attack successfully over and over again.

It's essential for the party to tone down the rhetoric of its abortion attack. Republican strategist Kevin Madden, in an interview concerning Gingrey's remarks, said it best. "This is actually pretty simple. If you're about to talk about rape as anything other than a brutal and horrible crime, stop."

But it's more than that. The RNC must make it an immediate priority to address this Evangelical loose cannon issue.

It's time for some tough love to cure the social conservative diarrhea of the mouth ailment that is too common in GOP ranks. A good start is that the words "legitimate rape" should cease to be heard from any Republican politician.

Published in Florida Voices on January 14, 2013.

Steven Kurlander is an attorney and communications strategist/Writer. He is a columnist for the Sun Sentinel and Florida Voices and a blogger for the Huffington Post. Read his blog at www.stevenkurlander.com and email him at kurly@stevenkurlander.com