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Monday, December 09, 2019 {{ new Date().getDay() }}

So, Todd Akin is back and he’s talking rape again.

You remember what happened last time. The would-be Missouri senator torpedoed his campaign two years ago after suggesting in a TV interview that if a woman is a victim of “legitimate rape,” she is unlikely to get pregnant because her body “has ways to try to shut that whole thing down.”

Those comments, he now wants you to know, were perfectly reasonable. In his new book, Firing Back, Akin informs us that some rapes are not “legitimate” because some women falsely accuse. And when he spoke about a woman’s body shutting “that whole thing down,” well, he was referring to the possibility rape-related “stress” would inhibit her ability to conceive.

As its title suggests, Firing Back is about settling scores. Among its targets: “evil” Democrats, “biased” media and “spineless” Republicans who joined the chorus of condemnation his quote engendered, unwilling to stand up for an “unapologetic conservative.”

For the record, the conservative in question was in fact quite apologetic when the “legitimate rape” controversy brought international opprobrium down upon him. He released a statement asking forgiveness and claiming he misspoke. I opined at the time that his real problem was not that he misspoke, but that “he spoke all too clearly.”

Looks like he agrees. Because one of the major takeaways from this book is Akin’s retraction of his apology. He shouldn’t have done it, he says now. By apologizing, he validated “the willful misinterpretation” of his words.

Akin has certainly picked an interesting time to dredge this back up. In recent months, his party has embarked on an effort to re-brand itself. Its slogan might be (but isn’t), “Try the new GOP, now with 25 percent less crazy!”

Of course, “crazy” (read: Tea Party) has been the GOP’s sine qua non — indeed, its energy source — for years now. Call it the politics of pitchforks or just the politics of anger, an ideology defined less by ideas than by overweening resentment, simplistic solutions, rhetorical arson, and unrelenting opposition to any and every thing Barack Obama does, down to and including breathing. It made political stars out of the unlikely likes of Michele Bachmann, Sarah Palin, Ted Cruz, Christine O’Donnell, Herman Cain and Akin himself.

But that’s so 2012. Having seen the hated president sail to re-election and sensing opportunity in the coming midterms, the grown-ups in the party are busily trying to disentangle themselves from the lover’s embrace they not so long ago cherished. “I don’t care what they do,” snapped House Speaker John Boehner about the Tea Party back in December. A recent Huffington Post analysis found the GOP’s establishment wing pouring money like Kool-Aid into primary races against Tea Party challengers.

“Can the GOP Be a Party of Ideas?” asks a recent New York Times magazine story. Let us hope it can. That would be a welcome thing.

But crazy will not be denied. Like a stalkerish ex who can’t take “Get the hell away from me!” for an answer, crazy keeps popping up at the most inopportune places and times. Here’s the party trying to recast itself in a more serious vein, trying to prove it is not divorced from reality. And there’s Sarah Palin talking impeachment. There’s Chris McDaniel talking election fraud. There’s Dick Cheney, talking.

And there’s Todd Akin retracting an insincere apology for one of the more profoundly stupid and offensive comments in recent political memory.

The GOP can’t seem to get out of its own way. It’s enough to make you feel empathy for the grown-ups — all four of them — in the party as they try without success to end this toxic relationship. Apparently, Neil Sedaka was right.

Breaking up is hard to do.

(Leonard Pitts is a columnist for The Miami Herald, 1 Herald Plaza, Miami, FL, 33132. Readers may contact him via email at lpitts@miamiherald.com.)

Screenshot: YouTube

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Many Democrats are getting nervous about the upcoming presidential election. Ominous, extensively reported articles by two of the best in the business—the New Yorker's Jeffrey Toobin and The Atlantic's Barton Gellman—outline Boss Trump's plot to keep control of the White House in 2021 no matter how the American people vote.
Trump is hardly making a secret of it. He's pointedly refused to commit to "a peaceful transfer of power."

"Well, we're going to have to see what happens," is how he answered the question. He added that after we "get rid of the ballots"—presumably mail-in ballots he's been whining about for weeks--"there won't be a transfer, frankly. There'll be a continuation."

Of course, Trump himself has always voted by mail, but then brazen hypocrisy is his standard operating mode. If you haven't noticed, he also lies a lot. Without prevaricating, boasting, and bitching, he'd be mute. And even then, he'd still have Twitter. He recently tweeted that the winner "may NEVER BE ACCURATELY DETERMINED" because mail-in ballots make it a "RIGGED ELECTION in waiting."
Gellman gets this part exactly right in The Atlantic: "Let us not hedge about one thing. Donald Trump may win or lose, but he will never concede. Not under any circumstance. Not during the Interregnum and not afterward. If compelled in the end to vacate his office, Trump will insist from exile, as long as he draws breath, that the contest was rigged.
"Trump's invincible commitment to this stance will be the most important fact about the coming Interregnum. It will deform the proceedings from beginning to end. We have not experienced anything like it before."
No, we haven't. However, it's important to remember that Trump makes threats and promises almost daily that never happen. Remember that gigantic border wall Mexico was going to pay for? Trump has built exactly five miles of the fool thing, leaving roughly two thousand to go.
His brilliant cheaper, better health care plan? Non-existent.
On Labor Day, Boss Trump boasted of his unparalleled success in strong-arming Japan into building new auto-manufacturing plants. "They're being built in Ohio, they're being built in South Carolina, North Carolina, they're being built all over and expanded at a level that we've never seen before."
Not a word of that is true. Two new plants, one German, another Swedish have opened in South Carolina, but construction began before Trump took office. Auto industry investment during Barack Obama's second term far exceeded Trump's. His version is sheer make-believe.
But back to the GOP scheme to steal the election.
First, it's clear that even Trump understands that he has virtually no chance of winning the national popular vote. He's been polling in the low 40s, with no sign of change. To have any chance of prevailing in the Electoral College, he's got to do the electoral equivalent of drawing to an inside straight all over again—winning a half-dozen so-called battleground states where he defeated Hillary Clinton in 2016 by the narrowest of margins.
At this writing, that looks highly unlikely. The latest polling in must-win Pennsylvania, for example, shows Trump trailing Joe Biden by nine points. That's a landslide. Trump's down ten in Wisconsin, eight in Michigan. And so on.
So spare me the screeching emails in ALL CAPS, OK? Polls were actually quite accurate in 2016. Trump narrowly defeated the odds. It can happen. But he's in far worse shape this time. Furthermore, early voting turnout is very high, with Democrats outnumbering Republicans two to one.
Hence, The Atlantic reports, "Trump's state and national legal teams are already laying the groundwork for post-election maneuvers that would circumvent the results of the vote count in battleground states."
The plan is clear. Because more Democrats than Republicans are choosing mail-in voting during the COVID pandemic, Trump hopes to prevent those ballots from being counted. Assuming he'll have a narrow "swing state" lead on election night, he'll declare victory and start filing lawsuits. "The red mirage," some Democrats call it.
"As a result," Toobin writes, "the aftermath of the 2020 election has the potential to make 2000 look like a mere skirmish." With Trump in the White House urging armed militias to take to the street.
Mail-in votes take a long time to count. Things could definitely get crazy.
True, but filing a lawsuit to halt a Florida recount was one thing. Filing suits against a half dozen states to prevent votes from being counted at all is quite another. Public reaction would be strong. Also, winning such lawsuits requires serious evidence of fraud. Trumpian bluster ain't evidence.
The Atlantic reports that GOP-controlled state legislatures are thinking about sending Trumpist delegations to the Electoral College regardless of the popular vote winner—theoretically constitutional but currently illegal.
Fat chance. If that's the best they've got, they've got nothing.
Anyway, here's the answer: Vote early, and in person*.

[Editor's note: In some states, receiving an absentee ballot means that a voter can no longer vote in person* or may have to surrender the absentee ballot, including the envelope in which it arrived, at their polling place. Please check with your local election authorities.]