Todd Akin and the Shame of Conservatives

Those who do pro-life work every day watched slack-jawed as a true-blue pro-lifer got garroted by the Republican and conservative establishment. Even today, weeks after the national electoral debacle, they’re beating up Todd Akin for Republican losses. Hardly a post-election think piece gets published that does not further tan Akin’s hide.

But, does anyone think if Todd’s last name was Bush that the GOP and conservative elite would have called immediately for the political death penalty?

Would the quintessential establishmentarian Mary Matalin gone on national TV and said this? “The party is going to get (someone else) in. Or we’ll run a third party. We’ll run a write in. We can do it. We have the money to do it.”

Orthodox. Faithful. Free.

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Or that a writer at National Review would have referred vulgarly to Todd Bush’s “asshatary?” Would a Todd Bush been disinvited from the GOP convention? Would Romney, Blunt, Ashcroft, Bond, Danforth and Talent called for Todd Bush to step aside?

If Todd’s last name was Bush the wagons would have been circled and one of their own would have been defended. The professional spokesmen would have gone out on the hustings.

They would have explained that by authentic rape he meant forcible rape as distinct from statutory rape, a distinction made in the application of the bi-partisan Hyde Amendment which blocks federal funding for abortion except in the case of forcible but not statutory rape.

On the science of trauma and anovulation, they would have consulted with one of our country’s leading bioethicists, Richard Doerflinger of the US Conference of Catholic Bishops, who in those early days of the Akin crisis sent around a batch of links to scientific studies backing up Akin’s clumsy formulation.

Or they could have consulted with Dr. Thomas Hilgers of the Pope Paul VI Institute for the Study of Human Reproduction, and one of the country’s leading experts on infertility, who also backed up Akin on the science.

They would have defended and explained and then pivoted to attack this most pro-abortion president in our history. They would have pointed out he even opposed saving babies who survive abortion. They would have changed the subject and put the other guy on his back foot.

But, let’s say the wound was too deep for a reasonable expectation of survival.  Wouldn’t that have been handled in a different way? Wouldn’t there have been a private, quiet conversation and offers of an easy exit and a soft landing? Bill Kristol of the Weekly Standard was the only one as far as I can tell who counseled such an approach. Everyone else was hell-bent for leather not just to get Akin out of the race but also to punish him and to humiliate him. This practically guaranteed that Akin would stay in the race.

We cannot let Akin off the hook. His comment was stupid. Floating such a controversial scientific theory was dumb and unnecessary. And while pro-lifers hold that all unborn children should be welcomed in life no matter the circumstances of their conception, we still allow our pro-life politicians to take another view.

The hard cases are exactly where our enemies want to fight this battle. And so we are willing to forgive pro-life politicians who chose not to fight on that ground. We forgave George W. Bush for it.

But, if a politician stakes out no-exceptions, he has to have his short two-sentence answer or even an evasion drilled into his head and he should never waiver from it. Both Akin and Mourdock were perhaps too arrogant. They thought they could wing it and look what happened.

The fact is the GOP establishment went after Akin because he was never one of them and he beat them. They backed other candidates for the Senate nomination in Missouri and they lost to Akin. So, when Akin made his terrible mistake, they saw a plausible opening not only to get him out but to punish him as well. What’s more, many in the Establishment are not pro-life and this gave them an opening to stomp on pro-lifers.

The fact is also that the GOP and conservative elite had their hat handed to them on Election Day. It was not just Akin and Mourdock who lost. Moderate and establishmentarians lost across the board. Heck, the Establishment pumped hundreds of millions into races where their candidate lost by the same spread as Akin lost to McCaskill. Thompson, Berg, Rehberg, Allen, Mack, and McMahon, all establishmentarians or moderates, all received tons of party or Rove cash, not an Akin among them, all gone, all defeated.

So, now the Establishment is thrashing around looking for scapegoats and don’t you know after spending a billion dollars and having less than nothing to show for it, they blame pro-lifers. Specifically and relentlessly they blame poor Todd Akin.

At the end of the day, the GOP and conservative elite lost an economic election that was theirs to win. Concomitantly the Democrats took an open field on the social issues. Even so, these are not reasons for abandoning either economic or social issues.  But if the GOP succeeds in abandoning the social issues, as some are now arguing, the GOP will never win another national election.


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