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by Peterr

Why Todd Akin Stayed, and Why it Troubles Paul Ryan

4:14 am in Conservatism, Elections, Religion by Peterr

Mitt Romney doesn’t get Todd Akin. “Don’t you see what you’re doing to the Party? Don’t you see what you’re doing to The Cause? Get out of the race, so we can get a winning candidate in place!”

And Akin said, “No.”

Roy Blunt, Missouri’s junior senator, doesn’t get Todd Akin, and neither do Kit Bond, Jim Talent, Jack Danforth, or even John Ashcroft, former GOP senators from Missouri all. “Please, Todd, for the sake of our state and our party, get out of the race.”

And Akin said, “No.”

Karl Rove and the others behind the SuperPACS that have been pouring money into Missouri don’t get it, and neither does John Cornyn or the people at the NRC. “We’ll pull our funding and tell your donors not to give to your campaign. We’ll univite you to the Republican National Convention. Get. Out. Of. The. Race. NOW.”

And Akin said “No.”

Maybe Iowa’s favorite son, Rep. Steve King, can explain it to them. He gets Akin, as his (pre-rape comments) endorsement of Akin makes clear:

Congressman Todd Akin is my friend, he is running for the United States Senate and he is the man that will always stand on the principles that we believe in.  Too many people bend or sway in the wind or they get drawn into the mesmerizing idea that somehow someone can guide you up through a leadership channel if you just go along to get along.  He is not going to put up a vote for the sake of going along to get along and neither will I.  We have a sacred obligation to all of you, that’s to keep our oath of office.  That’s to protect and defend the Constitution of the United States.

That’s Todd Akin, as local politician and reporters from around St. Louis know all too well, like Kevin Horrigan:

For nearly a quarter of a century, we had him mostly to ourselves. He was that little barbecue joint that nobody else had discovered. He was a secret fishing hole we didn’t have to share. We never knew what he would say next, but whatever it was, we knew that there was a good chance it would be ridiculous.

There was never anything as outrageous as the magical women-don’t-often-get pregnant during “legitimate rape” claim that now has him in hot water. But if he started talking about Sunday blue laws or the evils of sex education or the dangers of the state licenses for day-care centers or any of the other social issues that came before the Missouri Legislature in the 1990s, Todd would safely go off the deep end and only the Akinmaniacs would notice.

He was kept pretty well bottled-up during his 12 years in the Missouri House. In those days, Democrats still controlled the House and moderation wasn’t yet a sin within the GOP. Todd’s views were so extreme that most mainstream Republicans rolled their eyes when he got up to talk.

He didn’t care. He was a man on a mission.

A man that will always stand on principle. A man on a mission. That’s what Romney and the GOP senators from Missouri and the PTB in the RNC and the political operatives in the GOP don’t get. Or perhaps they get it, but were hoping they could get him, just once, to back off and tone it down.

Good luck with that.

From Akin’s perspective, he can end up in one of three ways. First, he could become a hypocrite. He could give up his principles, give up his mission, and give up his candidacy, which to him would be tantamount to giving up his faith. “When things got tough for God’s prophets in the Old Testament, or the early Christians under Roman persecution, some of them bailed on God. I’m not going to do that.” To leave the race like this would set the stage (in Akin’s mind) for years of nightmares: “how many abortions could I have prevented, if I had just remained firm, remained faithful, and remained strong?”

His second possible outcome is to become a martyr. “I held firm to my convictions, I remained faithful, and whatever happens in the election happens. If I lose, I lose — but I didn’t lose my faith.” In becoming a martyr, he will be a hero to the Fundy Faithful, and they will tell stories about him for generations to come. “When faced with choosing between his faith and what is ‘prudent’ and politically popular, Akin didn’t flinch. Sure, he went down in flames at the polls, but that didn’t matter to him. What mattered to him most was keeping the faith. And he kept it.”

His third possible outcome is to become a senator. By remaining faithful, Akin will proclaim to the Fundy Faithful in Missouri that he is putting this race in God’s hands. His prayer is that they will rally around him in numbers that will amaze the pundits, astound the GOP establishment, and send God-fearing people across the country into a religious frenzy of delight.

A hypocrite, a martyr, or a senator. Akin refuses to accept the first mantle, and will be perfectly happy with either of the other two.

And that probably makes Paul Ryan very sad.

It’s not because Akin might lose to McCaskill, costing the GOP control of the Senate. It’s not because the focus on Akin might derail the careful planning for next week’s Republican National Convention. It’s not because the focus on Akin might spill over into the presidential race, forcing Romney and Ryan to talk more about social issues than the deficit, the budget, and the economy, and perhaps costing them the White House.

It’s because Akin chose what Ryan did not.

Robin Marty of RH Reality Check lays out quite clearly who Ryan is, as she wades through years of his statements and votes:

Rep. Paul Ryan is against abortion, no exceptions. Paul Ryan would allow an exception for rape. Ryan doesn’t believe in birth control. Ryan only has three children, he must believe in birth control. Ryan is pro-life “from conception to natural death.” . . .

[snip]

We may not be entirely sure where Ryan stands at this moment, but anti-choice activists have absolutely no doubt that Ryan is in fact their “pro-life” hero. CatholicVotes announced their endorsement of the Romney/Ryan ticket, saying, “Paul Ryan will be the first pro-life Catholic to appear on a Republican presidential ticket since Roe v. Wade. Paul Ryan understands his faith. He understands Catholic social teaching, and prays and works to apply his faith to the practice of politics, including his economic and budget proposals.”

Exactly what are those social teachings?  Well, it comes as no surprise that CatholicVote does not believe in abortion in any instance, including for victims of rape.  “The rapist… is forever guilty of rape. The child conceived as a result of the rape was not guilty of the crime. The child did no wrong. The child ought not get the death penalty for his father’s rape.” but once again, Ryan is endorsed by supporters who claim he feels the same way, but avoids saying as much himself.

Winks. Dog whistles. Carefully nuanced statements to preserve an image. Playing coy with the press to present two faces to the world. In that respect, Ryan is the anti-Akin.

Which makes this information from Politico about Ryan’s phone call yesterday to Akin very, very interesting:

The call, first reported by NBC, did not entail Ryan asking Akin to drop out, the source said.

But he echoed the comments Mitt Romney made condemning the comments, as well as those from Senate officials who have said Akin needs to think about the impact of his remarks on the party and other candidates, the source said.

It was “not a brief call,” the source said.

Something tells me Ryan didn’t ask Akin to drop out because he knew it would never happen. Given a choice between being a hypocrite on the one hand or a martyr or senator on the other, he knew that there was no way that Akin would choose to be a hypocrite.

But for Ryan, it likely got worse. The more Akin talked, the more it probably bothered Paul Ryan, because while Akin was remaining firm and sticking to his principles, the more Akin talked about publicly witnessing to his faith, the more it hit home with Paul Ryan that he was hiding his own principles and downplaying his faith.

That had to hurt. And it will hurt all the way to November.

by Peterr

Todd Akin, Rush Limbaugh, John Ashcroft, and Mark Twain

5:55 am in Conservatism, Elections by Peterr

Attaturk, that Iowan to the north, had much fun mocking Missouri’s GOP senate nominee, Representative Todd Akin for his comments on “legitimate rape.” And those comments were truly worthy of mockery.

To people here in Missouri, Akin’s comments were not terribly surprising. Akin is a known commodity — known to be highly conservative and well in keeping with a non-trivial slice of the Missouri electorate.

Like Br’er Rabbit telling Br’er Fox not to throw him in the briar patch, Claire McCaskill ran ads on Fox News during the GOP primary fight, calling Akin “too conservative for Missouri”. With an endorsement like that, conservatives in the GOP primary race were happy to hand Akin a victory with 36% of the vote. His two challengers were John Brunner (a conservative businessman trying to run a Romney-style “I know how to run things” campaign) who got 30%, and Sarah “I Want to be a Palin” Steelman who got 29%. The GOP primary was always going to go to the candidate who could best appeal to the most conservative elements of the Missouri GOP, and that was Akin.

And it wasn’t even close.

News flash to the rest of the nation: the 36% who supported Akin are neither surprised nor bothered by Akin’s comments. He may have said publicly what perhaps (for political reasons) ought to have been kept private, but make no mistake. The far right wing of Missouri’s republican party likes this guy and likes what he said. Period. If Akin were to quit the race because of pressure from Romney or Mitch McConnell, they’d be beyond angry. Akin is their guy, and they would not take kindly to outside agitators forcing him to quit.

Akin is not an aberration in the Missouri GOP. This is the state that gave the nation Rush “She’s a slut” Limbaugh, after all, as well as John “cover up the lady parts on that statue in the lobby” Ashcroft.

But this is also the state whose internal political debates over slavery — conducted with the same sense of nuance and humility as Limbaugh, Ashcroft, and Akin discuss sex — shaped the pen and wit of young Samuel Clemens. If Missouri’s politicians were reasonable folks, Clemens might never have taken up political commentary and satire as Mark Twain.

I look at my kid and his classmates and wonder which of them will grow up to be the next great political satirist. God knows that with folks like Akin around, there’s plenty for them to work with as they learn the fine art of political snark.

UPDATE: County by county primary results are here. Looking at the map, you can see a couple of things. (1) The big dark blue patch just west and north of St. Louis is Akin’s conservative home district. (2) The blue patch in the southwestern corner of the state is John Ashcroft country. (3) The blue patch in the southeastern corner of the state is where Rush has his roots.

by Peterr

Michael Gerson’s Grasp of Evangelicals is Slipping

6:40 am in Conservatism, Culture, Government, LGBT, Military, Religion by Peterr

To judge by his column in today’s Washington Post, Michael Gerson has little grasp of the evangelical world.

It is true that evangelicals are generally not libertarian. They admit a place for government in encouraging values and caring for the needy. Yet they do not believe that governmental elites share their values or have their best interests at heart. Among conservative Christians, government is often viewed as a force of secularization — a source of both bureaucratic regulation and moral deregulation. By identifying with expanded government, Obama fed long-standing evangelical fears of the aggressive, secular state.

Michael, here’s a news flash. Evangelicals may make common cause with libertarians from time to time, but overall they are about as far from libertarians as you’re going to find. Their concern is that the state is too secular, not that it is too aggressive.

Instead of a limited government, evangelicals want an expanded government. They don’t simply want it, but they’re working hard to make it happen:

  • Abortion? Get government into every woman’s womb, as soon as possible.
  • Sex education? Force states to teach ‘abstinence only’ and don’t talk about contraception and STD prevention via condoms.
  • Evolution? Require schools to teach creationism alongside it.
  • Homosexuality? Use all the power of government to stamp it out and otherwise express disapproval of it — DADT, DOMA, laws/constitutional amendments to sanction discrimination based on perceived sexual orientation, etc.
  • The Military? They want to turn it into a literal Army of God, spreading the Good News at gunpoint.

To say that evangelicals fear big government is laughable. They love big government — as long as they get to run it.

If this column is any indication of Gerson’s grasp of religion and politics, his new book should be on the fiction table.