You know what the hardest thing about being from Missouri is? It isn’t the hillbilly jokes, or the offers to “show me” … whatever. No, it’s the smug certainty that folks who have never really spent any time here have when they paint us all with one broad brush that’s dripping barn-red paint. That stereotype just isn’t true, but the other one, that Missouri is St. Louis on the east side and Kansas City on the west; and that big part in the middle? That’s not Missouri, there’s a tear in the time-space continuum and the part that isn’t urban is really Mississippi. That bothers me too, because I know liberals can come from outstate because I come from outstate, and so do a whole bunch of my friends, relatives and former students who still live in my home town, a place of about 400 fairly openminded and tolerant people, a place where the gay kids are comfortable coming out publicly and where most of the folks have a live-and-let-live-so-long-as-you-don’t-forget-we’re-all-in-this-together outlook on things. I don’t mean to imply that there’s not still a bumper crop of wingnuts, because there certainly is, but the schism isn’t as stark as some of the urban folks who joke about Mississippi-in-the-middle think it is, and those Democrats outstate are important. They’re a hearty breed, hanging tough in spite of the fact that they have been completely and utterly abandoned by the state party apparatus. There are no county Democratic party offices on the town squares in the county seats any longer, and haven’t been for over twenty years — and they rarely, if ever, see a Democratic candidate show up and shake their hand and ask for their vote. But there’s another little tidbit that might set the urban jokers back on their heels: Missouri elects Democrats to statewide office on a regular basis because enough of those rural Democrats who get no party support turn out and vote Democratic anyway, even when there isn’t a Democratic candidate running in their local and statehouse races. And you know what else? Without them, Democrats in this state would never win another statewide election. St Louis and Kansas City are big and blue, but they aren’t big and blue enough to run roughshod over the rest of the state, and frankly I don’t want them to be.
I honestly thought until about ten o’clock last night that Akin would stay in. He won by a comfortable margin over the other two wingnuts in the race two weeks ago, and he has strong support among the evangelical right and the tea-folk, who turned out en masse (thanks to a right-wing “right to pray” amendment to our constitution) and voted for him while they were there.
But by the time I was ready to turn in, I was convinced that he would step down by close-of-business today, eleven weeks before the general election and the last day he can do so with no muss, no fuss and no involvement by a court — and Cole County (Jefferson City) judges have made something of a sport out of slapping down wingnut laws and challenges, and sometimes the wingnuts themselves. He doesn’t want those headlines, they would blow his chances of getting a sinecure at The Show Me Institute or on one of St. Louis’ many right-wing Christian radio stations.
Akin has fallen in for some mockery for sending out a fundraising appeal, but that wasn’t actually a fundraising email. That was a barometer of his remaining support. It wasn’t about small donations of three to five bucks, it was about how many small donations and phone calls pledging future donations the campaign logged in a short window of time. My guess is his people leaked that he was preparing to step down when the response from the base was dismal.
So if I’m right and he does step aside, where does that leave things in the Show-Me-State?
For want of a better word, let’s say it will leave things “unsettled.”
Once Akin is out, it will fall to the “establishment” Republicans to choose who will replace him on the ticket. If they put the second-place finisher, John Brunner, on the ballot, the tea-folk and evangelicals will pitch a fit that will make the shriek of the Banshee sound like a soothing Irish lullaby. They would be screaming at the top of their lungs that the fix was in all along and the money-cons were going to get their businessman candidate one way or the other, and if the vote they cast in August for their candidate can be nullified and didn’t count for anything, they won’t give it to the establishment pick in November. Sarah Steelman would be more acceptable to them, but she came in third, and if she got the nod the establishment republicans would go ballistic and stop writing large checks. Rock, meet hard spot.
Since Brunner and Steelman are the only two potential candidates with anything even remotely resembling an existing statewide presence, infrastructure and campaign offices that could be reopened, and they’re both out in the interest of not sparking a civil war in the state GOP, my guess is that they will have to go with someone else and that person will have to hit the ground running and build a campaign organization on the fly.
Here is the thing about Akin withdrawing…the folks who bailed on him while his final syllable still hung in the air don’t understand Missouri, and they really don’t understand Missouri’s right-wing authoritarian evangelical Christians, nor do they realize the extent to which they have taken over the state GOP. If you think for a minute that the state’s “establishment” Republicans wanted Akin — or about 3/4 of the GOP caucus of the current General Assembly, for that fact — you should contact me immediately about a bridge we have for sale. The “establishment” Republicans in the white-stocking law firms in Kansas City and St. Louis tolerate the tea-vangelicals and bide their time, but they’re just waiting for an opening; waiting for their chance to poison the coffee pot, so to speak.
Never mind that those evangelical Christians are the GOTV operation for the Republicans, and his withdrawal will hurt those efforts in November, especially if the candidate the GOP opts for doesn’t “excite” the base, and the only prayer Mitt Romney has of carrying this state is for the evangelicals to show up on election day with clothespins on their noses to vote against Obama. Now think back to 2008…Remember, Missouri wasn’t called for about two weeks, and in the end Obama lost the state by less than 4000 votes and would have prevailed had he demanded the recount he was entitled to, but he won handily without our electoral votes so we were spared the humiliation of being that year’s version of “Florida, 2000.”
No matter what happens later today, the Missouri GOP is facing something of a crisis. They have to thread a very fine needle with whoever they pick and their options are extremely limited. Too many of the Republican names that are well-known in this state are well known for all the wrong reasons, and that brings its own set of problems.
No matter what, the candidate they settle on is going to be offensive to about half the Republican voters in the state, even if they manage to get the Risen Christ himself on the ballot, and that candidate is going to have to build a campaign operation from scratch and make appearances in all 114 counties in the state in less than eleven weeks. A Herculean task at best, but more likely a Sysiphean one.
Claire McCaskill must be livin’ right, that’s all I can say. After the brutal year-and-a-half onslaught of attack ads by Karl Rove’s dark money outfit and seeing the Senate “de-Claired” has been the number one goal of the GOP — and most likely a lot of that dark money is coming from defense contractors and mercenary outfits because she has been worthy of Harry Truman’s seat by going after waste, fraud and abuse in the Pentagon and among private military contractors. The turmoil on the GOP side has certainly given her an opportunity, and I’ve known Claire a long time, since she was the Jackson County Prosecuting Attorney and I know one thing about her as well as I know my own name…That woman has never squandered an opportunity in her life, and she isn’t about to start now.
And that goes double for if he stays in. He still has almost two hours to make the establishment squirm, and if he was to bail, he would do so at the last minute after vehement insistence that he was staying in. And if he does stay in to grind some axes against his perceived RINO enemies, well, I still don’t believe I’ve lived that good a life.