Wednesday, August 22, 2012

Yes, this is the kind of Democratic Party we need; but it's not the real existing one of 2012

Charlie Pierce puts his point about the Todd Akin flap in typically directly language (The Democrats' Problem with Abortion: What Happened to the Pro-Choice Movement Anyway? Esquire Politics Blog 08/21/2012)

Once everyone's done having a good chortle over the whole matter, here's what I'd like to see from the Democratic Party: a full-throated, no-hemming-or-hawing or throat-clearing, defense of a woman's right to choose. Period. The Supreme Court of the United States decided that a woman's right to privacy extends to her right to have this particular medical procedure up to a certain point in her pregnancy and, therefore, believe it or not, despite the opinion of you and Jesus, a woman still has that right, and the reasons for her decision do... not... matter and, frankly, are none of your business, or mine, or your pastor's, or Todd Akin's. It is solely between the woman, her doctor, her conscience, and her god, if she happens to have one.

No more enabling. No more wishful thinking that the whole icky business would go away so we can all talk about The Economy, or, worse, The Deficit. No more clinging to "rape, incest, and the health of the mother." No more Clintonian caveats about safe, legal, and rare. ("Safe and legal." Full stop.) No more pathetic attempts to reach "common ground," when, at least in our politics, there plainly is no common ground to be reached. (If you want to argue that there is, take it up with Planned Parenthood.) No more, "Well, I respect the beliefs of the other side" goo-goo rhetoric. Just a simple demand that the conservative opposition respect the settled law.
I'm with him on this point, too: "I would like to see the Democratic Party make a national campaign issue out of repealing the Hyde Amendment, which never made any sense in the first place, and which makes sense only if I can withhold that part of my taxes that go to pay for Antonin (Short Time) Scalia's salary." And he's also right in saying, "an assault on a woman's right to privacy over her reproductive decisions is the first step in the assault on your right to be private in any and all decisions you make. (Again, if you disagree, I suggest you take it up with Planned Parenthood.)"

The Republicans are scared enough of their base to actively pursue their favorite issues, like outlawing women erasing women's rights. The conventional wisdom we still hear is that the Republicans are suckering the Christian Right by not pursuing their issues. That certainly isn't true of the current Republican House.

Todd Akin says he's staying in the race, though other Republicans around the country are pushing him heavily to drop out. Individual politicians are typically operating on some combination of principles (or at least policy goals). Even as shameless a position-changer as Mitt Romney has a clear policy goal of reducing taxes on one-percenters like himself even more.

But aside from individual ambitions, or rather alongside them, the Republican Party is running a long game in a way that the Democratic Party is just not. Howard Dean's "50 state strategy" when he was Democratic Party Chairman was an attempt to build a better long-term strategy. But the Dems have abandoned even that.

At the moment, Akin may look bad even to other Republicans who share his position on rape. But to his base, and to the Christian Right more generally, this is the kind of thing that lets a guy like Akin become a professional martyr. If he loses his Senate race, it won't be hard for him to find some well-paying position in the wingnut welfare system. Shoot, he may even get his own FOX News show. Just as it was for Sarah Palin, running and losing for Akin now may be an excellent career path.

Ed Kilgore explains in a perceptive post, Todd Akin, Superstar Political Animal 08/21/2012, that Akin is also a true believer:

He represents a very self-conscious hard-core Christian Right segment of the GOP "base" in his state that undoubtedly feels underrepresented, undervalued, and perhaps even dissed. His candidacy is now indelibly connected with a debate over an issue—legalized abortion, and more generally, the need to rebuild America as a "Christian Nation"—about which he feels very passionately; it may very well be what made him run for office in the first place. ...

His family is reportedly running his campaign, so he didn’t have to worry about his staff quitting in disgust or fear of professional consequences. It’s too late for him to reassume his House seat. What does he have to lose, other than the opportunistic support of people who don’t know or like him and would probably have taken credit for his victory had he won without this latest incident?

And if he does win, he will enter the Senate next year not as some random wingnut dude from Missouri who was swept into office on a conservative wave in Missouri, but as Todd Akin, celebrity and Avenging Hero, who owes nothing to anyone other than his God, his family, and his loyal base.
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