You might have believed that Mitt Romney’s campaign for the presidency was somewhat competent until the afternoon that he called for Todd Akin (D-MO) to quit the Senate race.
At first, it seemed like a brilliant move — Mitt’s very own Sister Souljah moment, where he turned against the extremes of his party to make a stand for decency. Akin had humiliated the party by touting the palaver of fundamentalist email forwards as actual science with his now-infamous claim that victims of “legitimate rape” cannot get pregnant.
Here was Mitt’s chance to join the moderate voices in his party like Senator Scott Brown (R-MA) and his own party chairman Little Lord Reince Priebus in shutting Akin down — thus convincing women that he really isn’t as scary as liberals would like them to believe.
Akin heard the full-throated plea of his party nominee to step aside and then went on Sean Hannity’s radio show and said, “Why couldn’t he run his race and I’ll run mine?
That Romney went out on a limb and proved to the country that he has no sway with the extremists in his party proved that he was a candidate with no discernible “Souljah.”
Republicans continued to call for Akin to step down when there was still a chance of getting another Republican on the ballot in the race that could decide the Senate.
Then came the final deadline for Akin to leave the race. The congressman was defiant, and chose to remain. Rick Santorum and Newt Gingrich — the guys who almost beat Romney — rushed to Missouri to join Mike Huckabee – the guy who could have beaten Romney — in supporting Akin.
And they weren’t alone. On Friday, Reince Priebus told a reporter that he “absolutely” supports Akin and may even send him money — completely reversing his stand of only a few weeks ago.
What changed? Had Akin moved to the center and become more rational?
Actually, he’d embarrassed himself and his party twice in the days before Preibus’ comments. Once by saying his opponent, Senator Claire McCaskill (D-MO), wasn’t being as “ladylike” as she’d been in her last campaign. Then he argued employers should be able to discriminate against women because that represents “freedom.”
But will the GOP support him?
Akin’s beliefs aren’t only offensive to women. He is the personification of every bad idea Republicans have had in the last decade. He believes Social Security and Medicare are unconstitutional; he thinks climate change could be a good thing, and has said that same-sex marriage threatens “civilization.” This is the man who could swing the U.S. Senate in many ways that affect the political fate of hundreds of millions of Americans for the foreseeable future.
And he could easily win. In Missouri, which has become closer to its neighbor Kansas politically than Illinois, Akin’s beliefs aren’t that far outside the norm. He has a better chance of being elected than Christine O’Donnell and Sharron Angle, even though Claire McCaskill basically handpicked him as her opponent because she knew what kind of nonsense he believes.
What has happened to the party of Lincoln, Eisenhower and even Richard Lugar (R-IN) — a typical Republican in every way, except that he was willing to work with the president on issues like decreasing our nuclear arsenal? For this, Lugar lost his primary to extremist Richard Mourdock.
They have become victims of their own success in attempting to create an alternative media where bullying, know-nothingness and contempt for compromise are the core values.
Rather than facing their demographic problems and broadening their message, they try to prevent Democrats from voting and belittle the people they think won’t vote for them.
This is how you get Senator Scott Brown trying to fend off a challenge from liberal hero Elizabeth Warren by attacking her for believing her family’s assertion that she is part Native American. Brown’s staffers mock her with war chants. Karl Rove organizes a robocall to attack Warren’s ancestry.
Republicans have decided the only votes they can win are from people who think post-2001 Dennis Miller is funny. And you almost can’t blame them.
They won huge in 2010 with the most garish, fact-free campaign in recent memory. By inventing the Tea Party, they ignored their recent failures and pretended that they were defending Medicare. This landslide let them shape Congress for a decade, making it nearly impossible for Democrats to win it back.
It seems the biggest mistake the Democrats made in 2010 was not nationalizing the election. Look at what happened to party identification, according to Huffington Post’s Pollster, right as Mitt Romney became the party’s nominee:
Either Romney isn’t very popular or the party itself is turning off voters en masse. Both are probably true.
Republicans should be scared of answering for each other’s increasingly unjustifiable beliefs.
Elizabeth Warren had a nearly perfect moment at the close of her debate with Scott Brown. She pointed out that the race for Brown’s seat could easily decide control of the Senate:
What that would mean is if the Republicans take over control of the Senate, Jim Inhofe would become the person who would be in charge of the committee that oversees the Environmental Protection Agency. He’s a man that has called global warming “a hoax.” In fact, that’s the title of his book.
Scott Brown may want to run away from the Akins and the Inhofes. But he can’t deny that when he wins, he helps put them in power. And that’s something so-called swing voters need to know.
The GOP can’t quit Akin. But now they can’t hide him, either.