Political Animal


August 21, 2012 5:17 PM Todd Akin, Superstar

By Ed Kilgore

So the big question in Politicsland this afternoon is how and why Todd Akin was able to convince himself to defy the entire GOP establishment of his state, the GOP presidential nominee, the major national campaign funders, and nearly the entire Right-Wing commentariat, and stay on the ballot in Missouri. Is he crazy? Is he bluffing?

I can’t answer those questions, but I can see how Akin might be strongly tempted in this direction. Very few if any of the people calling for him to step down supported his very recent primary candidacy; most either backed someone else or hoped he’d lose as the weakest of the potential Republican candidates. 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.

And thanks to the scorn and mockery he has now attracted, this relatively obscure congressman whom I’d bet half the pundits discussing his fate today had barely heard of before his primary win, is a National Superstar, the very embodiment of the Christian Right’s all-too-often abandoned determination to stand up to GOP pols who forever pay them lip service but rarely deliver the goods.

Is he worried about money? Maybe not. Recent political history is littered with relatively minor pols (Michele Bachmann and Allen West on the Right; Alan Grayson on the Left) who have built vast national small-donor fundraising networks on the heels of national notoriety and perceived victimization.

Is he worried about losing? Well, practically the first words out of his mouth before announcing he’d stay in the race on Mike Huckabee’s radio show today were to boast of a snap poll from PPP showing him still ahead of Claire McCaskill.

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.

Makes sense, when you look at it from his very unusual point of view.

Ed Kilgore is a contributing writer to the Washington Monthly. He is managing editor for The Democratic Strategist and a senior fellow at the Progressive Policy Institute. Find him on Twitter: @ed_kilgore.


  • Ron Byers on August 21, 2012 5:36 PM:

    I don't have much confidence in spot polls, but I don't doubt Akin is taking his cue from the PPP poll. Unless you have endured one you have no idea what a Rovian carpet bombing is like.

  • SecularAnimist on August 21, 2012 5:53 PM:

    Ed Kilgore wrote: "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"

    Um, no.

    Akin's candidacy is now indelibly connected with LEGITIMIZING RAPE.

    What Akin has made crystal clear is that the so-called "pro-life" movement is objectively PRO-RAPE.

  • John B. on August 21, 2012 5:58 PM:

    Perhaps Akin is counting on the too-short attention span of the average American voter. Heck, it's likely even Akin already has forgotten what he said.

  • Mitch on August 21, 2012 5:59 PM:

    You hit the nail on the head. He has conviction. He does not care if his statements are offensive or counter to fact. Why should he? He has God on his side.

    You are wrong, however, to consider his views to be very unusual. They are shared by around a third of our fellow citizens, and an easy majority of Republican voters. Maybe not the part about rape not causing pregnancy, but they certainly believe that abortion is Evil.

    Also, please bear in mind that many people in the Christian Right are not money obsessed like others in the GOP. To folks like my family in Kentucky politics is less about economics and more about spreading and enforcing the Word of God — and nothing else really matters. They may not agree with Republican economic philosophy, but they will still vote R because the GOP goes out of it's way to be identified as the party of Christianity.

    People like Akin probably do believe everything that they say. That just makes them more dangerous. It is impossible to negotiate with zealots. Hm, funny; Goldwater said the same thing.

    For years the GOP basically used uneducated Christians as warm bodies to fill the voting booths. The GOP would say all of the right things to ensure gaining those votes, but was — as a party — more focused on their economic agenda, then on the social one.

    Now, however, the theocrats are ascendant in America. And, if history shows us one thing, it is that theocrats only grow more extreme as they gain more power.

    I know — for a fact — that most anti-choice people have the best of intentions. They aren't evil; just ignorant. They may even be angry at Akin for suggesting that rape does not cause pregnancy (only absolute idiots truly believe that) but they will still support him for standing up against abortion. They aren't really out to attack women. Hell, half of them ARE women. They firmly believe that they are the defenders of innocent life, and that they are doing the Will of God.

    Well, so does Muhammad Ismail, the Pakistani man who murdered his wife, her mother and sister. So did Tomas de Torquemada and so did the good people of Salem. So did Osama Bin Laden.

    The road to hell is paved with good intentions, and as with most clichés, this one is more than a little true. Only in this case, it is the hell on Earth that theocrats eventually bring. Always.

  • c u n d gulag on August 21, 2012 6:11 PM:

    What Mitch said.

    Can't top that.

    'Nuff said.

  • jd on August 21, 2012 6:13 PM:

    If you understand Calvinism and Francis Schaeffer, you will understand Todd Akin.

  • Mitch on August 21, 2012 6:34 PM:

    Thanks Gulag! I consider that the highest of compliments, coming from you, the coolest regular here at PA.

  • Amusing Alias on August 21, 2012 6:39 PM:

    On Monday Romney, Rove, et al. came down on Akin like a ton of bricks, demanding his resignation before the Tuesday deadline to make it easier on them! Since these guys had never supported Akins in the past, there was never much incentive for him to follow their instructions. It was almost as if Obama himself had demanded Akin's resignation. The Republican establishment handled this very clumsily.

    Now that his resignation will cause state and national officials difficulties, he may resign out of spite.

  • TCinLA on August 21, 2012 6:40 PM:

    Like Gulag said: Mitch nailed it. And the fact t hat what he said is so true is what makes this election so scary for this country. We really are at fork in the road.

  • g on August 21, 2012 6:51 PM:

    On Monday Romney, Rove, et al. came down on Akin like a ton of bricks, demanding his resignation before the Tuesday deadline to make it easier on them!

    and what does it say about Presidential candidate Romney's leadership ability that Akin didn't, to the acclaim of so many in his party?

  • SecularAnimist on August 21, 2012 7:12 PM:

    Akin is also a denier of anthropogenic global warming.

    Three years ago, in a speech on the House floor, Akin referred to global warming as "a comedy", confused climate change with the change in seasons from winter to spring, said that he was "looking forward" to "surf at the front steps of the Capitol", and boasted that among the Republican global warming deniers in the House was "a guy who graduated from high school science".

    Is that a result of Akin's "sincere" religious beliefs?

    Or a result of his sincere devotion to the Koch Brothers' money?

    Meanwhile, all of Missouri’s 114 counties have been declared a Federal disaster area due to the ongoing, extreme drought and unprecedented heat which is causing billions of dollars in economic damage to the USA.

  • howard on August 21, 2012 7:17 PM:

    i am beginning to think this election could crystallize around the concept "is the gop too crazy to be trusted?"

  • Rick B on August 21, 2012 7:55 PM:

    @SecularAnimist 5:53 PM
    Actually there is no difference between legitimizing rape and returning America to the kind of Christian Nation the evangelicals desire. May I remind you that the very idea that a husband can rape his wife is very new legislation? And the same xtians also consider their children to be their property, which is why so many are really, really angry when the child welfare workers take their children away because they are mistreating them or even having sex with them.

    @Mitch 5:59 PM:


    == So is there any chance that this whole mess will drive a larger wedge between the money Republicans and the evangelicals? ==

  • Anonymous on August 21, 2012 7:58 PM:

    Since Akin is determined to stick to his "heart", now would be a good time to drag the sob out into the sunlight to see what's in that heart of his. Questions like: Mr. Akin, are any abortions ever justified even under your preferred term of "forcible" rape? Should would be mother's of rapists' babies be treated as 1st degree (premeditated) murderers if they have an abortion?

    Akin is the one who wanted to talk about this stuff. So let's talk.

  • fillphil on August 21, 2012 8:37 PM:

    Ask anyone who is planning to vote Republican why and their answer will include one or all of the following:
    1. Arrogance
    2. Ignorance
    3. Greed
    4. Racism

    Akin just is telling them what they want to hear. Just like Mitt/Ryan.

  • Doug on August 21, 2012 9:12 PM:

    OF COURSE Romney et al wanted Akin to resign! He's nothing but bad news for them and any other Republican running for office this year. Akin has, by putting into words EXACTLY what voting for THIS Republican could mean and NOT backing down, I believe Akin has increased the chances of any and all Democrats this election. Why? Because Republicans cannot win elections when the voting public knows, or even suspects, what the true aims of Republican candidates are. Akin just blew THAT to smithereens!
    Akin HAS the anti-abortion voters and he HAS the anti-Obama voters. By the latter I mean those factually-challenged anti-Obama voters as opposed to those voters who might oppose Mr. Obama for what he's actually done or not done; the former likely outnumbering the latter by a large margin. After this, however, I sincerely doubt Akin has any others and the question becomes: Is there any difference between the anti-abortion voters and the (as defined) anti-Obama voters?
    And if not, will that be enough for Akin to win?

  • AkinWillWin on August 21, 2012 9:12 PM:

    Heck, based on that one comment, I am betting he still wins. People don't like McCaskill. Heck, a lot of Democrats don't. So if I am a voter, and I want to get rid of McCaskill, I'm probably not going to let one nutty comment throw me off.

    If he can just control himself and talk the traditional GOP crazy, instead of the psychopath crazy, he wins.

    The interesting thing will be what comes out of his mouth next. If the GOP purse strings were providing some kind of check on his behavior, that check is now gone (although there is a good chance that the openly craven GOP will silently backtrack on their punitive measures as he continues to poll well). And even if that check isn't gone, DUDE ACTUALLY BELIEVES WHAT HE SAYS, and he will keep saying it.

    So I think it is absolutely crazy talk that this guy is going to tank based on this one episode. Has anyone been paying attention to how Americans vote for the last, oh, 200 years? Tribalism, fear, and self-interest.

  • Wally on August 21, 2012 10:13 PM:

    @Secular Animal, er, Animist,

    I think that right wing fundamentalists do believe that their religion speaks to environmental protection in the passage in Genesis that says: "let them rule over the fish of the sea and the birds of the air, over the livestock, over all the earth, and over all the creatures that move along the ground."

    Now, how they get from "rule over" to destroy, I don't quite know. And they do seem to ignore the other 20 passages that say things like, "God created the earth" and "I brought you into a fertile land to eat its fruit and rich produce. But you came and defiled my land and made my inheritance detestable." I mean if God is all that, why would you think you could just crap on what he made?

    Well, because hippies don't want you to to crap on the earth, that's why. That is, manufactured cultural resentment seems to trump science, logic, AND the actual words of their own supposed religion. How paranoia and resentment became the most powerful driving political force in so many modern western industrialized societies is a mystery to me.

  • mudwall jackson on August 21, 2012 11:48 PM:

    "How paranoia and resentment became the most powerful driving political force in so many modern western industrialized societies is a mystery to me."

    see hitler, adolf

  • Ed on August 22, 2012 3:39 AM:

    Todd Akin is not a legitimate human http://ow.ly/d8M0n

  • Neildsmith on August 22, 2012 6:10 AM:

    The guy has been in Congress for 11 years. Why should he suddenly drop out just because someone finally noticed?

  • Sean Scallon on August 22, 2012 6:57 AM:

    Remember how Whoopi Goldberg got in trouble for saying there's such a thing as "rape" and "rape-rape"? Well, here's your Right Wing equivalent, "legitimate rape".

    Why should he step down? He won his party's primary fair and square despite a long history of controversial statements and if John Ashcroft wanted to be in the Senate he should have ran for it instead of being replacement candidate. You don't get mulligans or do overs in politics. The GOP voters in Missouri knew exactly what they were voting for. And now they must pay.

    The only thing Karl Rove can do is sh*t bricks. People like him are why persons like Akin can survive and perhaps even thrive. In the post-Citizens United political world, parties don't matter anymore outside of being tribal totems or brand labels. If you can raise money and campaign infrastructure outside the party flunkies, then Akin doesn't need the GOP establishment to run a campaign. It's the exact same situation for Michele Bachmann. Rove should have thought of that before starting his own independent group to rake in billionare bucks. The more independent groups there are, the less parties have to spend and the less control they have over candidates.

  • boatboy_srq on August 22, 2012 8:46 AM:

    Ditto Rick B on August 21, 2012 7:55 PM. Though Rick might want to make it clear that it's the parents mistreating/f###ing the kids rather than the social workers doing it in that scenario: there are far too many stories in the wingnut press about how terrible social workers are and how those interfering big gubmint employees are into child slavery and pedophilia.

  • MuddyLee on August 22, 2012 8:54 AM:

    Akin might win in Missouri - his views DO reflect what a lot of "christian right evangelicals" think: that legalized abortion is the biggest problem in America. They also don't believe in climate change - how could they when they think the earth is 6,000-10,000 years old? They don't believe in "pollution" - it's an issue for over-educated secular types. They hate homosexuality because of certain passages in the Bible, but they ignore whatever they want to ignore in scripture (like polygamous marriage and dietary laws). They think America should be a "christian nation" - one that supports Israel without any reservations. They hate Obama even more than they hated Bill Clinton. They like to see church signs that say "Vote Right - Vote God" - these are pretty common in the rural South. The wives will vote like their husbands - they try to be submissive. They like private schools and home schooling - keeps down the number of questions the kids might ask. They don't like racial integration or diversity. They like guns - they don't know Karl Rove is an agnostic, they don't care that Romney pays a lower tax rate than they do, they've never heard of Ayn Rand so they don't know about her atheism. They will support Akin more if the "media" seems to be against him. Just hope that Akin pushes voters in other states away from the republicans.

  • howie on August 22, 2012 8:08 PM:

    Did Ed really lump Alan Grayson in with Bachmann and West?