Todd Akin Returns, Shines New Spotlight on GOP War on Women
Todd Akin is back with a vengeance. In 2012, the Missouri Republican lost a winnable Senate seat for the GOP to vulnerable Democratic incumbent Claire McCaskill when he let slip: “If it’s a legitimate rape, the female body has ways to try to shut that whole thing down.” These immortal words served to tarnish a GOP already associated with insensitivity and ignorance when it came to issues of women’s rights and reproductive health. Understandably, Republicans distanced themselves from Akin following his little indiscretion, but their actions were too little too late; the GOP’s stance on social issues played a major role in its 2012 trouncing.
If he wasn’t such an insufferable, unrepentant misogynist, it would almost be tempting to feel sorry for Todd Akin. Following his infamous “legitimate rape” comment, many of his former allies, until then supportive of his radical social agenda, jumped ship. His crime: putting into words the radical principles that lie at the heart of the GOP’s war on women. Ever since Akin launched a tour to promote his new book, Firing Back: Taking on the Party Bosses and Media Elite to Protect Our Faith and Freedom, Republicans have been falling all over themselves to condemn the very views that many of them share. Karl Rove, ever the diplomat, encapsulated the sentiment of the GOP establishment and even much of the Tea Party. “We should sink Todd Akin,” Rove said at a fundraiser during the Republican National Convention, according to a Bloomberg News report. “If he’s found mysteriously murdered, don’t look for my whereabouts!”
Akin has not taken his exile lying down. Not surprisingly, he had some choice words for the Democrats and the media, specifically attacking the Clintons (apparently Bill Clinton is a “credible accused rapist”) and Politico (for misrepresenting his words, because Akin’s words are simply misunderstood). However, Akin also struck back at conservatives. On tour promoting his book, Akin lashed out at the GOP establishment that has spurned him and his ilk: “You’ve got Karl Rove and certain people in the Senate leadership, they don’t believe anymore in the process of what we call a primary election. They think that the people in primaries in various states are too stupid to pick the right person, so they’re putting a tremendous amount of Republican money in a primary.”
And so the GOP civil war rages on. Yet, recent events beg the question: are Republicans fighting a war over conservative principles, or merely rhetoric and image? Since the Tea Party’s emergence in 2010, the GOP has championed an endless number of policies that are well in line with Todd Akin’s values. Republican state legislatures have passed and attempted to pass personhood amendments and mandated invasive trans-vaginal ultrasound procedures for women seeking abortions. It wasn’t just lunatics like Todd Akin, but the entire GOP that celebrated the Hobby Lobby decision, despite the fact that, according to Planned Parenthood, 74% of Americans think insurance should cover birth control. Every conservative on the Supreme Court supported this ruling. Is Todd Akin fundamentally worse than Antonin Scalia, John Roberts, Clarence Thomas and Anthony Kennedy just because of one horrendous statement? GOP Congressional leaders expressed praise for the Hobby Lobby decision. Are they truly more moderate than Akin?
Try as they might, Republicans can never escape the specter of Todd Akin because his views are embedded in the soul of their ideology. Akin is not an anomaly in the GOP, but rather someone who confirms what many of the American people already suspect about conservatives: that they are out of touch, sometimes perversely so, with the American public on women’s issues. Todd Akin isn’t “back”; he’s never gone away.