WASHINGTON, DC., August 21, 2012 — Gone are the days when the Republican Establishment could effectively control its caucus and dictate the direction of the party. That Republican Establishment, to the extent that it still exists, lacks the clout, force, and political muscle needed to rein in some of its misguided members.
Missouri Senate candidate Rep. Todd Akin is yet another case study.
When asked in a local television interview if he opposes abortion even in cases of rape, Akin said, “from what I understand from doctors, that’s really rare … If it’s a legitimate rape, the female body has ways to try to shut that whole thing down.”
The level of ignorance and sheer stupidity of this statement is appalling.
Akin was roundly criticized by everyone. The Republican Party’s response was swift and forceful as Party leaders urged Akin to drop out of the Missouri senate race.
Senator John Cornyn, the chair of the National Republican Senatorial Committee issued a statement, saying “Over the next 24 hours, Congressman Akin should carefully consider what is best for him, his family, the Republican Party, and the values that he cares about and has fought for throughout his career in public service.”
Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell also issued a statement: “Although Rep. Akin has apologized, I believe he should take time with his family to consider whether this statement will prevent him from effectively representing our party in this critical election.”
Most importantly, the presumptive leader of the Republican Party, Mitt Romney, also urged Akin to drop out of the race. “As I said yesterday, Todd Akin’s comments were offensive and wrong and he should very seriously consider what course would be in the best interest of our country. Today, his fellow Missourians urged him to step aside, and I think he should accept their counsel and exit the Senate race,” Gov. Romney said.
What was Akin’s response to Romney? “Why couldn’t he run his race, and I’ll run mine,” he told Sean Hannity on his radio show. Talk about a lack of respect for the leader of your party.
Can you imagine if this had happened on Lyndon Johnson, or Ronald Reagan, or George W. Bush’s watch? Todd Akin would have left the scene within hours of his “legitimate rape” statement.
That is the kind of power a Party Establishment used to have, but not anymore.
For the GOP, Akin’s intractability is reflective of the kind of defiance we have seen from a certain wing of the Republican Party, the Tea Party wing. This segment of the Party has grown in numbers, and momentum. It seems to value ideological purity over sound pragmatism. This is the same group that threatened to shut down the government in 2011 during the debt-ceiling fiasco.
The political in-fighting between the Republican Establishment and the Tea Party has increasingly intensified since then. If all the party leaders, top donors, high-profile political strategists, and other big-wigs in the Republican Establishment cannot get Todd Akin to step aside, it will be a shame.
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