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Akin's Circular Firing Squad

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It’s now official: Tod Akin is now losing horribly to his Democratic opponent. It is time for a full court press to force Akin out of the running. In the first legitimate poll to be released following Akin’s travesty, Rasmussen reports that he is losing by a stunning ten points, 48% for McCaskill versus 38% for Akin. Akin had a three point lead before his toxic gaffe.

What Akin said was more than a gaffe, it was a travesty. It was an explosive, toxic gaffe with a shelf life of six years or more. As long as he remains in public office, Akin will curse conservatives with the burden of having to carry his radioactive fallout.

The liberals will always say that conservatives don’t care about women. We can fight that myth when liberals have no proof. But with Akin’s remark, liberals now have an emotionally-potent oversimplification that will be used against conservatives consistently and with devastating effect.

Akin has given liberals a political strength that they could never have achieved for themselves: a straight-from-the-GOP-horse’s mouth expression of sheer ignorance towards women. This is a major boost to them politically, as they craft their “War on women” narrative.

There is no argument that conservatives can make on the merits that will counterbalance the sheer force of Akin’s emotionally devastating verbal toxin. This is not the time to complain of double-standards, or point out that liberals say awful things too. Double standards are part of the game, and if you can’t swim against that tide then you don’t belong in public life. Besides, the double standards won’t change by election day, and it is useless to criticize the inevitable. When liberals say awful things, conservatives make them pay for it. That’s also part of the game. But Akin’s travesty was simultaneously degrading, heartless, and offensive, requiring no explanation, no context, and no pre-existing political awareness. Turn the map around and consider how great a blessing this is to the left. We need to accept what a massive boost Akin is giving to them, and treat him as an accessory of the left, which he now is.

Conservatives are almost in lock step, pushing against Akin with both hands to drop out of the race. However, in blog comments and talk show call-ins, there seem to be holdouts. I don’t want to call them Akin “supporters” because often they aren’t even directly supporting him. They’re doing some odd combination of excuse, equivocation, moral equivalence, and just plain dodging the issue by holding on to a few notions that we have to refute:

Myth #1: Akin has to stay in because he is a better alternative than his opponent.

The premise is fine but the conclusion does not logically follow. Of course any conservative is a better alternative than a liberal rubber stamp like McCaskill. That doesn’t mean Akin has to stay in. There are better alternatives to Akin, all of whom would be better alternatives to McCaskill. People who make the “better alternative” argument are presenting a false choice that is simplistic and wrongheaded. If all we care about is a better alternative to McCaskill, then we can get that anywhere, which leads me to believe that the “better alternative” crowd has an ideological or personal commitment to Akin which they are disguising underneath strategic rationales.

There may come a time when conservatives will have to question the premise that Akin is better than McCaskill. It is quite possible that Akin could win the MO seat, but be so toxic nationwide that he costs us several other close Senate seats. If Akin stays in, every candidate in this country with an R in front of their name is going to be asked how it feels to have a man like Akin in the party with them. Democrats will go around scoring cheap points by making obvious remarks such as “rape is rape.” So if the choice truly were between either Akin or McCaskill, the answer is not at all clear that Akin is the better choice.

Myth #2: Akin should be forgiven because he apologized

This is an incredibly weak argument. Akin’s apology is worthless from a political standpoint, and it’s not very convincing from a moral standpoint. He’s naturally very apologetic because of the fact that he is running in an election. Aside from some partisan supporters, few will take his apology seriously. Conservatives won’t breathe a sigh of relief just because some politician is apologizing for a nuclear gaffe. Liberals will certainly not stop their assault, and independents will continue to be appalled by Akin, so politically his apology is totally meaningless.

Myth #3: Circular firing squads are bad

The circular firing squad is where the good guys shoot themselves while trying to shoot the bad guy. So Akin supporters are admitting that Akin is a bad guy. If we take the analogy seriously, then we have to ask why Akin is in front of the firing squad to begin with. Next, we have to ask whether the conservatives are actually going to shoot each other. Taking the analogy on its terms, a circular firing squad could work, in the sense that the shooters accomplish their objective without harming each other. For instance, if the shooters were in a prone or kneeling position, and they aimed high on their target, the circular firing squad would work. So the circular firing squad argument is based on a totally nonsensical analogy that carries no weight.

Anyone who gives it a moment’s thought can see that the firing squad is actually in a straight line. The Tea Party Express, Mitt Romney, Paul Ryan, the RNC leadership, Ann Coulter, Mark Levin, Rush Limbaugh, and the past five Republican Senators from Missouri are all lined up right next to each other, facing no one but Akin.

The point that Akin defenders will make is that conservatives are hurt when they criticize each other. As a general rule, there is truth to that under some circumstances. Under the circumstances that Akin created, he’s going to set the conservative cause back. There is nothing good that Akin can do for conservatives that some other candidate couldn’t do just as easily. The faster we condemn him and force him out of the Senate race, the sooner we can get back on track.

Myth #4: We should Support Akin because he is pro-life

This is the most illogical of all the defenses offered in support of Akin. You don’t support the cause through blind loyalty to a man who undermines the cause. Akin is a magnet for new suspicions and new mistrust, which were not present before he made his remarks. It is mind-boggling to see people make the argument that pro-life politics requires us support a man who brings discredit upon the pro-life cause.

Being pro-life doesn’t immunize you from saying politically toxic things. If Akin believed what he said, then we don’t need his variety of pro-life politician in office. There are pro-life politicians who have a more sober position on the issue of abortion who will not outrage the general public when they offer their views. One of Akin’s primary opponents, John Brunner, was endorsed by Missouri Right to Life and the National Right to Life Committee. Kit Bond, a potential write-in candidate, has a 100% pro-life rating from National Right to Life.

On the other hand, If Akin didn’t mean what he said, then he is not fit to serve; anyone who would jump into the minefield of abortion politics and flail around the way he did is obviously a liability.

Abortion is probably the most controversial issue -and behavioral choice- in all of politics. As a general rule in politics, you can talk about controversial topics when there are a lot of people who agree with you. No one is faulting Akin for talking about abortion. He is being faulted for offering a scientifically false, morally offensive, and politically suicidal opinion, at the worst possible time, directed towards a most vital and vulnerable demographic group.

The first signs of trouble are already following in Akin’s wake. According to the conservative Media Research Center, Akin’s remark is getting four times the coverage given to the Vice President’s disgusting remark, directed towards black people, that the GOP wants to “put ya’ll back in chains.” The media double standard is always going to be there. But we were capitalizing to some extent on the sinister, patronizing racial pandering that Biden engaged in. Now, we’ve lost that opportunityUntil Todd Akin steps aside or is forced out of the running, the conservative brand is tarnished.

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