Tuesday, August 21, 2012

Legitimate apes: Akin, RomneyRyan
and the GOP platform

DAYS BEFORE its nominating coronation in Tampa, the Republican platform committee today approved the draft of its platform calling for a constitutional ban on abortion with no exception for rape victims or victims of incest, or to save the mother’s life, Politico reports. Because of that position — practically identical to the position that Missouri Rep. Todd Akin took when he said that victims of what he called “legitimate rape” have a biological defense mechanism that prevents pregnancy — the Republican Party has wed itself to the past, and adds fresh complications for the RomneyRyan campaign.

“Our platform language is the same [as] it's been in 2004 and 2008,” an RNC spokesperson told Laura Bassett of The Huffington Post. “It's a strong pro-life position that doesn't get into granular specifics. We leave those to the states.”

The party’s now official position effectively gives Akin cover for his own outlandish position, and — like nothing else could — pits the Republican Party against American women, who uniformly amount to more than 50 percent of the nation’s voters.

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For women’s rights groups, it’s clear that the captives to ideology in the leadership of the Republican Party have thrown down the gauntlet.

“Republicans are hellbent on turning back the clock for women in America — today they’ll vote to make government force a woman impregnated during a rape to carry that pregnancy to term,” EMILY’s List President Stephanie Schriock said in a statement. “The days of small government are long gone in the GOP. ...

“[F]rom reproductive rights, to equal pay, to Medicare – Republicans are engaged in a cradle to grave assault on the programs women need to keep themselves and their families healthy.”

Istvan13, commenting at The Huffington Post, seemed to distill the controversy and what it means for the GOP when the commenter called an image of a coathanger “the logo for the new Republican party.”

Anghiari at The Huffington Post: “If Women allow this team to get elected....then it’s our fault if we HAVEN'T DONE everything in our power to nail these guys to the wall with their anti-women ravings, policies and legislation. WE HAVE BEEN WARNED.”

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AND NOTWITHSTANDING Mitt Romney's call today for Akin to quit the Missouri Senate race, this is a disaster for the Republican Party at different levels. First of all, by trying to jettison Akin from his own campaign, the Republicans suggest that there’s some vast expanse of difference between what he apparently believes and what the Republican Party now officially stands for.

In fact, the new party platform only formally indicates what we've known all along: that there's little tolerance in today's Republican Party for any position vis-a-vis abortion that even remotely resembles entitling women with a choice about their own bodies and lives. On this issue, there’s really not an inch of daylight between the candidate and the campaign. And the campaign knows it.

So, if the GOP (as embodied in the RomneyRyan ticket) and Akin are essentially saying the same thing on abortion, what’s the rationale for trying to make Akin quit the Missouri race? What’s the point of throwing Todd Akin under the bus if (philosophically speaking) Todd Akin’s the one driving the bus?

It really doesn't matter when Akin quits his race, as far as inoculating RomneyRyan from any collateral damage on the abortion issue for the electorate beyond the base. They're already damaged that way; the real, organic political connection between RomneyRyan and Akin is already there. Forcing Akin to bow out of his Missouri Senate race is all a matter of convention optics, making sure the coronation in Tampa comes off right.

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Then there’s the predicament specific to Mitt Romney himself. Over the years, his position on abortion has achieved 360 degrees of evolution. He supported Roe v. Wade and abortion rights in 1993, before running to be governor of Massachusetts.

In an October 1994 debate, during his ill-fated bid to unseat Massachusetts Sen. Ted Kennedy, Romney said Americans should “sustain and support” Roe v. Wade. “I want it to remain the law of the land.”

In March 2002, when he announced plans to run for governor, Romney was full-throated in his backing of Roe, saying “I will protect the right of a woman to choose.”

Fast forward: In June 2007 he began his first presidential campaign with both feet firmly in the anti-choice camp. That year he all but swore fealty to the anti-abortion cause at the National Right to Life Convention in Kansas City, Mo.

Fast forward again: Just last December, on Fox News, he told Bill O’Reilly that “I will support [Roe v. Wade] and preserve the law as it exists.”

Fast forward one more time: In a March 2012 interview with KSDK in St. Louis, Romney vowed to “get rid” of Planned Parenthood, which provides abortion counseling and a wide range of women’s health services — an implicit rejection of those services and, seemingly, Roe v. Wade itself.

Send your bills for treatment of whiplash directly to the RomneyRyan campaign.

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The RomneyRyan tandem, already challenged on its positions on various issues important to the American people, inherits a Republican Party platform that locks that campaign into a politically untenable posture on abortion.

By doubling down on a platform plank on abortion that brooks no compromises, allows no exceptions, the GOP has formalized again its support of a Cro-Magnon agenda on women’s reproductive health.

And it does something more, something worse from the RomneyRyan campaign’s perspective. “This is the platform of the Republican party,” Reince Priebus, the chairman of the Republican National Committee, told Politico. “It is not the platform of Mitt Romney.”

The RomneyRyan campaign is now faced with trying to carve out a palatable distinction between the two. For voters generally, and for women specifically, what was obscured before is now painfully clear: However well crafted and explained, it’s a distinction without a difference.

Image credits: GOP convention logo: © 2011-12 Committee on Arrangements for the 2012 Republican National Convention. EMILY's List logo: © 2012 EMILY's List.

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