Todd Akin’s scary wing of the GOP

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By Rick Howell

I have a fundamental question about the presidential campaign at this point: If the economy is so terrible and Barack Obama is such a failed, Kenyan socialist, why doesn’t Mitt Romney hold a commanding lead in the polls?
    One answer is this: Every time it looks like Romney might be about to build a little momentum, something happens to show just how extreme his party has become.
    Perhaps everything is rosy at the convention this week, but last week’s statement by a Republican U.S. Senate candidate in Missouri, Todd Akin, again raised the head of the ugliest elements in the Republican Party, and in the broader “conservative movement” that holds it captive.
    Akin was trying to explain why he opposes abortion rights even in cases of rape. He said that if you were talking about “legitimate rape,” then don’t sweat the possibility of a pregnancy, because “a woman’s body has ways of shutting that whole thing down.”
    I’ve heard and read some stupid remarks in politics over the years, but this one was truly amazing in the vast scope of its ignorance. Does Akin know anything at all about women? And if there’s “legitimate rape,” there must be “illegitimate rape.” So what would that be? He didn’t say.
    It didn’t take long for the proper scorn and derision to be heaped upon him; even Mitt Romney, to his credit, condemned the remarks, while many other Republicans called for Akin to resign his candidacy.
    Now, at that point, it was very interesting to see who threw him a lifeline: none other than Mike Huckabee, the former Baptist preacher and Arkansas governor who ran for president in 2008 and became the darling of the religious right.
    Huckabee brought Akin on his radio show and gave him an opportunity to “clarify” his remarks. It didn’t do Akin much good, but it was a sign that the religious right has little problem with what he said.
    The fact is that those for whom abortion is such a monumental matter,  meaning the “Christian conservative” wing of the GOP, the belief that all abortion should be banned, with no exceptions, is increasingly popular.
    That ought to ring serious alarms bells for women all over the country. Akin’s remarks demonstrate that many of those who spend so much time telling women what they can and cannot do are the very ones who know so little about them.
    President Obama’s position, and the Democratic Party’s position, is better: We trust women to make their own choices. We believe that abortion should be what Bill Clinton always articulated: safe, legal and rare.
    There’s a good reason that Mitt Romney and the Republicans face a “gender gap” in support, and the Todd Akins and Mike Huckabees of the party personify that.
    At this week’s convention, delegates included a party platform that supports the so-called “Human Life Amendment,” which would outlaw all abortions, period.
    Romney has said that, if president, he wouldn’t oppose abortion in instances of rape, but clearly his party doesn’t agree with him.
    Led by the “Christian conservatives,” who have long exhibited an irrational obsession with the issue, the GOP would send women back to the dark ages of coat-hanger abortions. We simply can’t let that happen.
    And as for Todd Akin, well, his possibility of picking up Clair McCaskill’s Senate for the GOP seat in Missouri is over. The latest poll shows McCaskill – who was considered very vulnerable – with an 11-point lead.
    When will the Republicans learn? If you turn your party over to political extremists, you’re going to lose. And you deserve to lose.

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Rick Howell, a Bedford native, can be reached by e-mail at NewCenHowell@aol.com.