The Akin Issue: A Mouse under Republican Feet
The recent Todd Akin debacle is reminiscent of an item from the last round of senatorial elections. Back in June of 2010, I wrote about some of the ugly tactics of the Harry Reid campaign that appeared to follow the advice of a leaked Democratic Senatorial Campaign strategy memo. That memo urged its candidates to aggressively "trap" and "pin down opponents" as "extremists." The issue raised against Reid's opponent, Republican Sharron Angle, was the "birther" controversy. The Huffington Post aided Reid with an article provocatively titled "Sharron Angle, Birther? Nevada Senate Candidate Hasn't Confirmed She's Not a Birther."
In the Missouri senatorial race, the "Democrat-Media Complex" (Andrew Breitbart's term) released a little "pin down" mouse into the GOP house, and the reaction of the establishment elephants was not attractive. In fact, Republicans and even much of the conservative "new media" jumped on their desks, blogs, and podiums in fear and, on the way, ran over Akin's back.
To a Democrat strategist, Akin was a perfect target as an "extremist." Akin's strong and well-known personal religious beliefs place him on the far right end of the GOP spectrum. Even better -- Akin's so-called "extremist" views against abortion painfully shine a light on religious "social issues," a splinter between two factions of Republicans -- the socially liberal and socially conservative ends of a group grounded by economic conservatism. And there's nothing a Dem strategist would like more than to turn this splinter into a crippling fracture.
Democrats, unless Bush-blame, "fairness," and more government handouts are considered a viable economic strategy, talk about nothing but "distracting" social issues. In the Democrat-Media-complex-contrived "War on Women," Akin should have been better prepared to answer such an expected question more articulately. Although the chatter focused on the rape part of his clumsy statement, it was obvious to most of us that Akin was attempting to explain his position: it is the rapist who should be punished, and not the baby. In Akin's consistent opinion on abortion, a baby is precious no matter how conceived.
The question lobbed at Akin, which would have come sooner or later, wasn't intended to spark that important conversation on abortion. Nor was it simply an aid to the McCaskill campaign. It was intended to reveal and agitate the divide in the Republican Party at large. Because it's no secret that Romney was not the first choice of candidates by many Christian conservatives.
Am I giving the Democratic political machine too much credit? It seems to me that conservative pundits and the Republican establishment give that machine way too much credit for its power -- as they reacted, instead of rightfully offensively, defensively by immediately throwing Akin to the dogs. Why not issue support of Akin while still acknowledging the gaffe part of his sentence? Many conservatives even called for Akin's resignation to his face on live radio broadcast. Sean Hannity, one such person, said he did so because of the reality that is today's environment -- in other words, because the Democrats control the show. But to many, Hannity's response looked more like a lapdog roll-over-and-play-dead. Some of us would rather show some teeth.
If Akin's gaffe was simply the icing on the cake of a poor record or other problems, such a reaction would be understood. But it seems that there was no cake to ice. Akin has a long and strong record of public service, support, and Republican teamwork. To many religious conservatives, it uncomfortably appeared as though more than a single unfortunate sentence landed Akin on the ground. To them, it seemed that Akin's religious stance on social issues resulted in not just mainstream media ridicule, but also "R" tire marks on his forehead.
Which is more than the "D" campaign could have hoped for.
Of course, opinion polls and the mainstream media tell us that Akin's comments so turned off the "mainstream" as to make him unelectable. Yet it is the same obviously biased mainstream media that defines and describes this "mainstream" -- the same "mainstream" that is surprised every single time another state overwhelmingly upholds the traditional view of marriage. Speaking on the Akin debacle, Rush Limbaugh noted how "the media creates a false impression of just how many people do support Democrats and liberals in this country." Those of us who've been paying attention know there's no such thing as an unbiased anything, polls and pollsters included, and we're well aware of which party pulls the strings.
Squeaky wheels (whether they still have landlines, lack caller ID, or simply enjoy spending a lot of time at home answering telephone solicitations) may get the media, pollsters', and politicians' grease, but it was thousands of quietly energized and unorganized pairs of shoes that showed up at the recent Chick-fil-A protest. Was the show of support merely for free speech, or did it have something to do with the content of the speech itself? On CNN, Tim Stanley noted the potential strength that the protest foreshadowed and wondered that "something more complex is taking place: Economics and culture are becoming synonymous."
Might a large swath of the population believe that those two ideas are more than "becoming synonymous" -- that culture actually lays the very foundation of the economy? In the masterpiece Witness, Whittaker Chambers, the inspiration for many great conservative thinkers including Ronald Reagan, penned the famous quote: "Economics is not the central problem of this century. It is a relative problem that can be solved in relative ways. Faith is the central problem of this age."
The GOP party line contends that our economic house must be put in order first, leaving the social issues that make up our moral house as a secondary priority. Some within the party wish to put the moral house in order first. And many of the rest of us don't understand why there are separate houses to begin with -- rather rooms within the same house that can be addressed simultaneously. Politicians like Mitch Daniels famously recommended a GOP "truce" on social issues, but to many conservatives, such a stance appeared more as a wave of surrender. Were religious conservative views on the touchy moral issue of abortion wrapped up in the white flag and thrown under the bus along with Akin?
The GOP and conservative pundits tell us repeatedly that this election is all about the economy and the "stark choice" that the two tickets represent. But these same voices seemed to tell Missouri voters that their choice is instead simply a vote for or against a politician with some awkwardly worded views on pregnancy after rape. We saw little attempt to refocus the "distracting" conversation back to Akin's own record on the economy -- or, for that matter, McCaskill's record.
But the mouse that the Democrats and the media sent to our house, instead of merely scattering and scaring the elephants, has the potential (if only Republicans have the guts to realize it) to motivate and consolidate the powerful silent majority. In 2008, this group began to look up from their grindstones and out from their front porches to see a country being transformed into a place they no longer recognized. They're inspired by the candidate who stands up to the mainstream media and promises, instead of transformation, a restoration. The Dems are surely aware of the strength of this force, as they caught glimpses of it on the mall in the massive Tea Party protest of 2009, the 2010 election results, and again at Chick-fil-A. And the Democrat machine would like nothing better than to de-motivate that swath come November 6.
It seems that the Romney campaign, based on its lack of a response to the Chick-fil-A protest and now on the call for Akin to step down, is banking on the unwavering support of religious conservatives -- a support unswayed no matter how far the campaign bends backwards to avoid offending socially liberal constituents who might be persuaded to cast a vote its way. The focus is the economy and the undecided, independent, or unmotivated voters -- the "knuckleheads" who apparently have been living in a twilight zone, unable to see the disastrous economic cliff that lies ahead.
Let's hope that's all this kerfuffle represented. Missouri voters, as they have in the past, will very likely continue to back Akin. And people who were willing to wait in line for two hours for a chicken sandwich are but a sampling of the crowds who will gladly show up at the polls to save their country, no matter what happens in the next few weeks.
Tim Stanley offered this advice: "If Mitt Romney can effectively establish the link between economics and culture, and then motivate conservatives to turn out in big numbers, then the Chick-fil-A moment could prove prophetic."
Perhaps Romney could also take some advice from the Democrat playbook to "pin down" the "abortion extremist" Obama. How about a line like: "Does Obama want babies killed if born after botched abortions? He hasn't said he doesn't." But that line is not just a sick or cleverly worded contrivance by Obama's opponents. Because on the floor of the Illinois Senate, Obama actually said something to that effect.
Just a clumsy gaffe, from the same man who stated that he wouldn't want his daughters "punished" with a baby? Akin, gaffe and all, doesn't want any baby punished. Let's stop punishing Akin.