By Paolo von Schirach
November 10, 2012
WASHINGTON – Last August, when GOP Missouri senatorial candidate Todd Akin came up with his incredibly stupid and ignorant comments about raped women shutting off their bodies so that they could avoid pregnancy, (see link to related story above), I argued that this was a real disaster for Mitt Romney and Paul Ryan because Akin would be portrayed by the Democrats as the real embodiment of the Republican Party core values: anti-women and hopelessly out of step with main stream America on social issues.
I argued at that time that the Akin debacle could be big enough to decide the elections against Romney. I wrote that it was not good enough for Romney and Ryan to distance themselves from Akin who –by the way– in his dogged stupidity decided that it was alright for him to stay in the race against incumbent Democrat Claire McCaskill, even after his incredible bungle.
Kick him out
I wrote then that the Republican Party should have kicked Akin out of its ranks, that it should have tried its utmost to make it clear to America –and in particular to all women voters– that Akin is an isolated aberration and that the Republicans are in fact modern, open minded and tolerant. Sure enough, many among them do hold religious and moral principles about the sanctity of life; but this does not mean that they would prevent all women from making independent choices about having or not having a pregnancy.
It did not happen
Well, none of this happened. The national GOP made all the appropriate noises about distancing itself from Akin; but Akin stayed in the race that he ultimately lost to incumbent McCaskill –an incumbent who (before this rape and abortion disaster) was deemed to be weak and beatable. The enormous damage done to the Missouri Senatoral race and to the Romney bid for the White House could not be fixed.
Add to this story the similar tale coming from the equally stupid utterances on abortion coming from Richard Mourdock, the Republican Senate candidate from Indiana who also ended up losing his race, and you get the picture of a Republican Party hopelessly out of step with the sentiments of a majority of women voters and Americans in general.
Damage big enough to tilt the balance
Back in August I observed that in an election that appeared to be so close every vote was to be considered precious. As Romney was already significantly behind Obama in terms of support from women, this Republican Party self inflicted wound would make things much worse. And so it did.
Still, I fear that no lesson has been learnt. The GOP true believers are undaunted. They do not care to be in step with the majority. They only care to be “right”.
Have the Republicans learnt anything?
If so, here is the question: is the Republican Party a church or a political force drawing support from different segments of the American society with the goal of governing responsibly? A church is not concerned about forging majorities. It only cares about holding to its principles.
A political force is about workable policies that, while based on core principles, are attuned to the society in which it wants to operate. I fear that a significant chunk of the Republicans rank and file think of their Party as a church that should be hospitable only to true believers. If this is so, then the national GOP will soon be just a cultural aberration, with no chance to forge broad based majorities.
Republicans so unpopular that they cannot win against weak incumbents
The very fact that Mitt Romney could not win against Obama, a weak incumbent burdened by a feeble economy and historically high unemployment, underscores this point. Compared to his 2008 triumph, Obama did not score big in these 2012 elections. But he won against Romney, convincingly. So, here is the upshot: America may no longer be deeply in love with the Democrats; but it likes Republicans and their medieval beliefs even less.