Todd Akin: The man who said too much

The Republican Party turned on Todd Akin because he made plain their creeping extremism and political strategy

Topics: Todd Akin, Republican Party, GOP, Abortion, Legitimate rape,

Todd Akin: The man who said too muchTodd Akin (Credit: AP)

When Missouri’s Republican candidate for the Senate said that “legitimate rape” rarely causes pregnancy, not only was Todd Akin echoing the extreme antiabortion positions held by many in his party, he was exemplifying the creeping extremism within the Republican Party on women’s issues and far more.  In the new, extremist Republican Party, Akin is not an aberration.  He is merely the latest canary in a coal mine of crazy.

Along with Republican vice-presidential candidate Paul Ryan, Akin was an original co-sponsor of the “No Taxpayer Funding for Abortion Act” — which, originally, narrowed the federal definition of rape to restrict the ability of women and girls to use Medicaid dollars and tax-exempt health spending accounts to terminate pregnancies resulting from rape. Akin has since said he “misspoke” in his “legitimate rape” remarks, but the legislation he and Paul Ryan sponsored similarly relabeled rape as “forcible rape” — creepily suggesting there are other, more acceptable versions. What’s more creepy? These are not fringe opinions expressed by powerless lunatics at teeny right-wing organizations. These are the opinions of over 200 Republican members of Congress, one of whom is the party’s candidate for the United States Senate in Missouri and one of whom is the party’s candidate for vice president.

Yes, the Republican establishment is condemning Akin’s remarks and distancing itself from his candidacy. But let’s be clear: Akin is only guilty of saying out loud what many Republican leaders think and legislate on the basis of. Talking Points Memo has detailed other Republican leaders throughout the years who have questioned that rape can lead to pregnancy and prominent Republican leaders like Mike Huckabee and Bobby Jindal oppose abortions under all circumstances, including rape. Both will be speaking at the Republican National Convention next week. Moreover, the many Republicans pushing back against Akin seem more concerned with preserving the dignity of the Republican Party than protecting the dignity and rights of women who have been raped.

And yet while Republicans continue to bash Bill Maher as though the outlandish comedian were some talisman for the Democratic mainstream, Republicans are rushing to paint a Republican candidate for the United States Senate as a fringe outsider from the party mainstream. If only we could be so lucky. While Akin and others were making increasingly extremist statements about rape and proposing crackdowns on women’s reproductive freedoms, Republican leaders were wading into whack-a-doodle territory with other far-right, extreme positions.

Paul Ryan has advocated handing over Social Security to Wall Street. Before Social Security, one in three elder Americans lived in poverty. Now, instead of preserving our sacred pact to help seniors age with dignity, Paul Ryan wants to give the money we all pay in Social Security taxes over to Wall Street. Had Ryan’s plan been enacted before the financial crash of 2007-2008, Social Security would be thoroughly bankrupt and today’s seniors thrust back into poverty. Ryan’s plan is so extreme even President George W. Bush distanced himself from it. But while the rightward lean of the GOP was shocking enough four years ago, the party has rapidly shifted even further to the right — to the point where extremist Paul Ryan is now its star.

By the same token, a plan to turn Medicare into a voucher system and cut non-defense discretionary government spending by a severe 91 percent — all for the purpose of giving even more tax breaks to millionaires and billionaires above and beyond the historically enormous Bush tax cuts for the rich — might have once seemed like a secret fantasy document locked in a dark cabinet of the Heritage Foundation. But this is the substance of Paul Ryan’s budget plan, voted for by all but 10 Republican members of the House of Representatives. Of the once-extremist anti-government, anti-tax advocate, President George H. W. Bush recently asked, “Who the hell is Grover Norquist, anyway?” Today, Paul Ryan’s radical, scorched-earth budget against the vast majority of government spending is better than Norquist could have dreamed.

I suppose kudos is owed to the Tea Party and its far-right forebears for achieving this shift while simultaneously distracting the public by labeling President Obama’s milquetoast moderate policies as evidence of wanton socialism. The right wing sure knows how to infiltrate and infect the political mainstream while pointing fingers elsewhere. But for crying out loud, what the hell is happening to our country? We now have a party with elected leaders who think child labor laws are unconstitutional (Republican Sen. Mike Lee of Utah), who would repeal the Civil Rights Act (Republican Sen. Rand Paul of Kentucky), who think climate change is “the greatest hoax ever perpetrated on the American people” (Republican Sen. James Inhofe). The rightward tilt of the Republican Party has been so swift and so extreme that, today, not only do both Bushes and Ronald Reagan look too liberal, but frankly so do John McCain and Mitt Romney (which is why Mitt Romney pandered to the extreme conservative base by picking Paul Ryan as his running mate).

Sadly, in an era where “Dancing With the Stars” gets more attention than political debates (let alone reporting), Republicans can effectively disguise their dark intentions with distractions — whether irresponsible saber rattling with Iran or trivial commentary about Paul Ryan’s good looks. But the right-wing ideologues are getting sloppy and boastful — overconfident in their overreach. We all know that Republican efforts to restrict voting rights have nothing to do with addressing the infinitesimal instances of alleged voter fraud and everything to do with suppressing Democratic voting blocs and manipulating elections. But now Republicans like Mike Turzai, the Republican leader of the Pennsylvania state House, can openly brag about his party’s “voter ID” law helping win the state for Mitt Romney. And Republican National Committee Chairman Reince Priebus can shout about how letting everyone in Ohio vote early “waters down the voting privileges of our military men and women” who were previously the only ones allowed to vote early. Priebus didn’t back down from this statement, he doubled down. It says a lot about the Republican mind-set (did voting rights for black people and women “water down” the votes of white men?) but also speaks volumes about what is now acceptable discourse in the GOP.  What was once whispered is now hollered. It should make all of us want to scream.

The increasingly extremist Republican Party wants to make economic inequality worse and consolidate money and power in the hands of the elite (most of whom are wealthy, white men) while rolling back liberties for women, gay people and people of color. The increasingly extremist Republican Party believes that public programs that care for the poor and elderly, prevent corporations from polluting our air and water, and ensure equal opportunity in education are “shackling” big business — regardless of how much they help ordinary Americans. The increasingly extremist Republican Party doesn’t believe in the overwhelming scientific evidence of climate change, but upward of two-thirds of Republicans do believe that President Obama was not born in the United States. Not only is the modern Republican Party fairly unconcerned with poor people and women and gay folks, but the modern Republican Party is unconcerned with basic facts. It is a purely ideological agenda, rationalized by whatever means necessary, including false “medicine” about women’s bodies and the atrocities of rape.

Today’s Republican Party is pushing a dangerous agenda that is becoming more extreme and ugly by the minute, an agenda that is seeping out despite attempted distractions of finger-pointing, fear-mongering and lies. Todd Akin can call his insulting and backward remarks a mistake as much as he wants and Republicans can flail their gums in outrage, but the fact is, Akin falls squarely in the mainstream of the extremist GOP.

More Related Stories

Featured Slide Shows

  • Share on Twitter
  • Share on Facebook
  • 1 of 11
  • Close
  • Fullscreen
  • Thumbnails

    Ten spectacular graphic novels from 2014

    Beautiful Darkness by Fabien Vehlmann & Kerascoët
    Kerascoët's lovely, delicate pen-and-watercolor art -- all intricate botanicals, big eyes and flowing hair -- gives this fairy story a deceptively pretty finish. You find out quickly, however, that these are the heartless and heedless fairies of folk legend, not the sentimental sprites beloved by the Victorians and Disney fans. A host of tiny hominid creatures must learn to survive in the forest after fleeing their former home -- a little girl who lies dead in the woods. The main character, Aurora, tries to organize the group into a community, but most of her cohort is too capricious, lazy and selfish to participate for long. There's no real moral to this story, which is refreshing in itself, beyond the perpetual lessons that life is hard and you have to be careful whom you trust. Never has ugly truth been given a prettier face.

    Ten spectacular graphic novels from 2014

    Climate Changed: A Personal Journey Through the Science by Philippe Squarzoni
    Squarzoni is a French cartoonist who makes nonfiction graphic novels about contemporary issues and politics. While finishing up a book about France under Jacques Chirac, he realized that when it came to environmental policy, he didn't know what he was talking about. "Climate Changed" is the result of his efforts to understand what has been happening to the planet, a striking combination of memoir and data that ruminates on a notoriously elusive, difficult and even imponderable subject. Panels of talking heads dispensing information (or Squarzoni discussing the issues with his partner) are juxtaposed with detailed and meticulous yet lyrical scenes from the author's childhood, the countryside where he takes a holiday and a visit to New York. He uses his own unreachable past as a way to grasp the imminent transformation of the Earth. The result is both enlightening and unexpectedly moving.

    Ten spectacular graphic novels from 2014

    Here by Richard McGuire
    A six-page version of this innovative work by a regular contributor to the New Yorker first appeared in RAW magazine 25 years ago. Each two-page spread depicts a single place, sometimes occupied by a corner of a room, over the course of 4 billion years. The oldest image is a blur of pink and purple gases; others depict hazmat-suited explorers from 300 years in the future. Inset images show the changing decor and inhabitants of the house throughout its existence: family photos, quarrels, kids in Halloween costumes, a woman reading a book, a cat walking across the floor. The cumulative effect is serene and ravishing, an intimation of the immensity of time and the wonder embodied in the humblest things.

    Ten spectacular graphic novels from 2014

    Kill My Mother by Jules Feiffer
    The legendary Pulitzer Prize-winning cartoonist delivers his debut graphic novel at 85, a deliriously over-the-top blend of classic movie noir and melodrama that roams from chiaroscuro Bay City to Hollywood to a USO gig in the Pacific theater of World War II. There's a burnt-out drunk of a private eye, but the story is soon commandeered by a multigenerational collection of ferocious women, including a mysterious chanteuse who never speaks, a radio comedy writer who makes a childhood friend the butt of a hit series and a ruthless dame intent on making her whiny coward of a husband into a star. There are disguises, musical numbers and plenty of gunfights, but the drawing is the main attraction. Nobody convey's bodies in motion more thrillingly than Feiffer, whether they're dancing, running or duking it out. The kid has promise.

    Ten spectacular graphic novels from 2014

    The Motherless Oven by Rob Davis
    This is a weird one, but in the nervy surreal way that word-playful novels like "A Clockwork Orange" or "Ulysses" are weird. The main character, a teenage schoolboy named Scarper Lee, lives in a world where it rains knives and people make their own parents, contraptions that can be anything from a tiny figurine stashable in a pocket to biomorphic boiler-like entities that seem to have escaped from Dr. Seuss' nightmares. Their homes are crammed with gadgets they call gods and instead of TV they watch a hulu-hoop-size wheel of repeating images that changes with the day of the week. They also know their own "death day," and Scarper's is coming up fast. Maybe that's why he runs off with the new girl at school, a real troublemaker, and the obscurely dysfunctional Castro, whose mother is a cageful of talking parakeets. A solid towline of teenage angst holds this manically inventive vision together, and proves that some graphic novels can rival the text-only kind at their own game.

    Ten spectacular graphic novels from 2014

    NOBROW 9: It's Oh So Quiet
    For each issue, the anthology magazine put out by this adventurous U.K.-based publisher of independent graphic design, illustration and comics gives 45 artists a four-color palette and a theme. In the ninth issue, the theme is silence, and the results are magnificent and full of surprises. The comics, each told in images only, range from atmospheric to trippy to jokey to melancholy to epic to creepy. But the two-page illustrations are even more powerful, even if it's not always easy to see how they pertain to the overall concept of silence. Well, except perhaps for the fact that so many of them left me utterly dumbstruck with visual delight.

    Ten spectacular graphic novels from 2014

    Over Easy by Mimi Pond
    When Pond was a broke art student in the 1970s, she took a job at a neighborhood breakfast spot in Oakland, a place with good food, splendid coffee and an endlessly entertaining crew of short-order cooks, waitresses, dishwashers and regular customers. This graphic memoir, influenced by the work of Pond's friend, Alison Bechdel, captures the funky ethos of the time, when hippies, punks and disco aficionados mingled in a Bay Area at the height of its eccentricity. The staff of the Imperial Cafe were forever swapping wisecracks and hopping in and out of each other's beds, which makes them more or less like every restaurant team in history. There's an intoxicating esprit de corps to a well-run everyday joint like the Imperial Cafe, and never has the delight in being part of it been more winningly portrayed.

    Ten spectacular graphic novels from 2014

    The Shadow Hero by Gene Luen Yang and Sonny Liew
    You don't have to be a superhero fan to be utterly charmed by Yang and Liew's revival of a little-known character created in the 1940s by the cartoonist Chu Hing. This version of the Green Turtle, however, is rich in characterization, comedy and luscious period detail from the Chinatown of "San Incendio" (a ringer for San Francisco). Hank, son of a mild-mannered grocer, would like to follow in his father's footsteps, but his restless mother (the book's best character and drawn with masterful nuance by Liew) has other ideas after her thrilling encounter with a superhero. Yang's story effortlessly folds pathos into humor without stooping to either slapstick or cheap "darkness." This is that rare tribute that far surpasses the thing it celebrates.

    Ten spectacular graphic novels from 2014

    Shoplifter by Michael Cho
    Corinna Park, former English major, works, unhappily, in a Toronto advertising agency. When the dissatisfaction of the past five years begins to oppress her, she lets off steam by pilfering magazines from a local convenience store. Cho's moody character study is as much about city life as it is about Corinna. He depicts her falling asleep in front of the TV in her condo, brooding on the subway, roaming the crowded streets after a budding romance goes awry. Like a great short story, this is a simple tale of a young woman figuring out how to get her life back, but if feels as if it contains so much of contemporary existence -- its comforts, its loneliness, its self-deceptions -- suspended in wintery amber.

    Ten spectacular graphic novels from 2014

    Through the Woods by Emily Carroll
    This collection of archetypal horror, fairy and ghost stories, all about young girls, comes lushly decked in Carroll's inky black, snowy white and blood-scarlet art. A young bride hears her predecessor's bones singing from under the floorboards, two friends make the mistake of pretending to summon the spirits of the dead, a family of orphaned siblings disappears one by one into the winter nights. Carroll's color-saturated images can be jagged, ornate and gruesome, but she also knows how to chill with absence, shadows and a single staring eye. Literary readers who cherish the work of Kelly Link or the late Angela Carter's collection, "The Bloody Chamber," will adore the violent beauty on these pages.

  • Recent Slide Shows



Comment Preview

Your name will appear as username ( settings | log out )

You may use these HTML tags and attributes: <a href=""> <b> <em> <strong> <i> <blockquote>