Todd Akin, Tea Party Republicans, And The Chance to Reclaim the GOP

Todd Akin of Missouri maintains that he will stay in the Senate race despite calls for him to withdraw over those now infamous comments on rape and pregnancy.

Akin cited what he called a “grassroots conservative movement” in the country that needs a voice in government, for his decision to stay. Translation: I’m going to make abortion an issue in my election fight.

He’ll have to draw on those 100 pastors who endorsed him, the Mike Huckabees and the evangelicals across the country for the necessary financial support, as the GOP is planning to cut him off financially.  (If Akin wins however, I doubt the GOP will not want his vote in the Senate)

“I’m in this race for the long haul and we’re going to win it” he said, adding “By taking this stand, this is going to strengthen our country, it will strengthen the Republican Party”

Whether he eventually withdraws or wins, Todd Akin has indeed given Republicans an opportunity to strengthen their party. He has given the GOP a chance to define themselves.

But first, Republicans will have to answer the question: who are we? Because the historic Republican Party is in the middle of an identity crisis.

The first step in the process will be to recognize that the United States is a Republic, not a Theocracy and there is a separation of church and state for a reason.

While it would be impossible for your beliefs not to influence who you are and how you approach your life and your duties, those seeking public office should be able to pass the litmus test of being able to check those beliefs at the door.

Because elected officials represent everyone, not just those who supported them.

Unfortunately, buried deep inside the current Tea Party movement are many more like Todd Akin – many others with radical, extreme views on a wide variety of important issues, who now have a home and a soapbox on which to stand and yell.

The Tea Party has been taken over by these radicals and the Republican Party has been taken over by the Tea Party. Witness how they’ve managed to place their man, Paul Ryan on the ticket, one heartbeat or 8 years away from the Presidency. This fact alone makes it near impossible for Mitt Romney to move away from this group entirely. And even if he did, having lost the center, what would he have left to work with?

Exposed as inept by the mortgage crisis, Iraq and extreme partisanship, no longer able to hide their favoritism of the rich and powerful at the expense of those less successful, their 30 year old playbook written by Newt Gingrich is out of plays.

Their ideas, values, policies and message are being questioned in real-time thanks to Twitter and Facebook and other forums of discussion. In these public and wholly democratic forums, people are coming to their own conclusions, forming communities of thought that are almost immune to the daily barrage of spin spewed by politicians and special interests and reported as news by the mainstream media. And while that lack of control is a serious problem for all political parties, it especially hurts the GOP. And they know it.

Witness the daily negative headline from Matt Drudge about Facebook and you will see a concerted effort to marginalize and minimize social media – to paint it as unsuccessful and questionable. All in an effort to diminish its effectiveness. Free thought, as a movement, has historically been an issue for governments, but it is especially difficult for conservatives.

So, unable to control the message and void of serious, substantive and plausible ideas, the GOP has embraced these men and women of the far right, who bring with them a reliable, albeit vocal, voting block. They also bring along with them expectations of action, and as a result the GOP has veered wildly to the right and has left behind any hope of capturing the center of American politics.

And when political movements veer to the extreme, they need to paint the other side as extremist as well, using words like socialist, marxist, communist and irresponsible, all while using language and tone laced with negativity and vitriol. Or, when attempting a more positive message, they offer only lofty platitudes, wrapping themselves in the flag and freedom, while revealing little about their short term or long term plans for governing. When any political entity resorts to those types of strategies, they are desperate and out of ideas. They’ve spun out of control.

This is not to infer that there are not extreme views on both ends of the political spectrum.  There are. But just as you can’t let the will of the majority infringe upon the rights of a minority, you must not allow a vociferous minority to set policy for the majority.

Yes, this is indeed a fight for the heart of the Republican Party.

To win this fight, moderate Republicans will have to cast aside the overreaching influence of extremists and the temptation to court any group for any reason to get their vote. They must revisit their long held commitment to Classical Liberalism and offer Americans an honest, fair and sensible path forward.

It will require an honest reassessment of their entire platform carried out by men and women of vision, long term strategic thinkers who are willing to put their country above a few votes or a few dollars, who are willing to work with everyone and anyone, who are willing to take risks and who are willing to lead.

A cynical person will view the temporary abandoning of Todd Akin as a calculated political decision made by a machine who want complete control in November.

An optimist would hope, just for a moment, that perhaps the tolerance of intolerance within the GOP is out of steam.

And a Wary Lemming will tell his Republican readers:

It’s time to take your party back.

But if you wait, it may well be too late.