The Republican Party Deserves the Todd Akin Mess

The Republican Party has been using the religious right to their advantage and deserve the liability the expression of such views has become.

By + More
FE_120823_toddakin.jpg
In this Aug. 16, 2012 file photo, Missouri Republican Senate cadidate, Rep. Todd Akin, R-Mo., talks with reporters in Sedalia, Mo. This is the convention prelude of the Republicans' dreams _ their nightmares, that is. Mitt Romney wanted to preside over a made-for TV gathering showcasing his economic credentials and GOP unity. Instead, he's heading to Tampa with the national debate focused on rape and abortion and with the divisions within his party on full display.

I am going to get in trouble for this. 

For years many of my Republican friends have admitted to me that they couldn't give a damn about social issues—abortion, gay marriage, or the Ten Commandments being posted on schools and public buildings. They are contemptuous of the religious right and find many of them "wackos."  In short, the religious right has driven them crazy for years.

But these are political people and they know they need the religious right to activate the Republican base. Ever since the late 1970s and the rise of Jerry Falwell and Pat Robertson, Republicans have made sure they were inside the tent. They were not Ronald Reagan's cup of tea but he brought them in, as did the Bushes.

[See a collection of political cartoons on the Republican Party.]

But, more and more, the Michele Bachmanns, Paul Ryans, Todd Akins are the Republican Party and some political pros have begun to worry. In fact, a leading voice of the anti-tax conservative movement, Grover Norquist, is known to have contempt for the right wing social activists. He has admitted when his guard was down that he thinks the issues are "nuts."  But he has also said that it is so easy just to push these hot button social issues and boy, off they go, in full gallop!

The problem now—as illustrated by Rep. Todd Akin, a sincere and true believer in these issues, his church, and a strict religious moral code—is the "regular Republicans" who have used these religious activists now want to jettison them or at least keep them quiet. I debated Todd Akin at Harvard a number of years ago—we disagreed heartily but I found him to be a very committed and consistent social conservative. He was not a cynic; he was not going through the motions. He was a believer and he lived his values.

[Take the U.S. News Poll: Should Todd Akin Drop Out of His Race After 'Legitimate Rape' Remarks?]

Now, the Republican Party operatives find themselves so wedded to this faction after exploiting it for nearly 30 years that they don't know what to do when the mechanisms of the party have been taken over by the far right. The Republican Party platform for the last three cycles, including this year, makes no exception for terminating a pregnancy caused by rape and incest. It does not even allow for the life of the mother. Women (and men) are not supposed to notice? The party embraces "personhood" amendments and refuses to support the morning-after pill, again even if a rape is involved. "De-fund Planned Parenthood" is their battle cry.

And no one at this Tampa convention has the guts to speak up. All they do is condemn Todd Akin—because, really, he presents a "political problem." But they are as quiet as church mice when it comes to amending the Akin anti-abortion platform plank.

[See a collection of political cartoons on the Catholic contraception controversy.]

Some of these religious conservatives should be hopping mad. They are being played. They are being used by presumptive GOP presidential nominee Mitt Romney. No one in his Boston headquarters wants the public to know that his VP pick Rep. Paul Ryan has been locked at the hip with Todd Akin. Their views are exactly the same on these issues, one slip of the tongue on rape not withstanding. They want the religious right's money, they want them to work on their campaign, they want them to turn out at the polls, but they want them quiet, behind the curtain. They have no intention of overturning Roe v. Wade, they know that the train has left the station on gay and lesbian rights, they know that tolerance and diversity will rule the day, but they won't change their party platform because the far right that they used over the past three decades has taken over their party. They do not want the public to know where they stand on these issues, because they know their deficit with women could be 20 points. They could lose the suburban vote, they could further anger young voters, they could be unmasked as the right wing, extremist party that their 2012 platform says they are.

In short, they want Todd Akin and others to leave the limelight right now because that light shows what we all know—the Republican emperors of Romney-Ryan have no clothes. (And we're not talking about skinny-dipping in the Sea of Galilee!)

  • Read Leslie Marshall: Todd Akin Proves There Is a War on Women
  • Follow the Thomas Jefferson Street blog on Twitter at @TJSBlog.
  • Check out U.S. News Weekly: an insider's guide to politics and policy.