I was away from Missouri during the past month, but the internet being what it is, I was able to keep up with the outrage generated by the inestimable Todd Akin who gave voice to his belief that “liberals hate God.” I have to admit, that the only thing that surprised me about this rather typical Akin statement is that it has received so much attention. Akin, after all, is the guy who
— chuckled about how Democrats nearly got “lynched” at their rambunctious, tea-party fueled town halls;
— declared that those without sufficient means should have to depend on the whims of those dispensing private charity for their health care;
— stated his conviction that abortion is not health care and rape is not rape unless the victim is physically damaged;
— worried publicly about how health care reform might discourage marriage;
— expressed his belief that God so worries about GOP policy priorities that He personally intervened to elect Massachusetts Senator Scott Brown and thus deprive the Democrats of a filibuster-proof senate majority;
— compared the passage of the Affordable Care Act to 9/11.
During the past ten years, Akin has expressed countless similar ignorant and bigoted opinions. His dim-witted meanderings have occasionally garnered a little short-lived local attention, depending on just how offensive they are, but the noise level quickly diminishes. It is gratifying that as a senatorial candidate he may not get off so easily – his latest bon mot seems to still be making waves (or, at this point, perhaps they’re wavelets).
What really strikes me, though, about Akin’s numerous pronouncements is that he makes no pretense that he even listens to constituents whose beliefs and needs differ from his chosen orthodoxy. He’s there for the small percentage of citizens who share his narrow views. His and, presumably, their goals are to impose those views, especially views about religion and personal deportment, on the rest of us, no matter what we think or want.
Brother Todd has dealt with the inconvenient ‘libruls” and even the more moderate Republicans in his district by keeping as low a profile as he can when it comes to his Christian dominionist leanings – which is why his recent predicament is so delicious. He’s kept up a fiction of acting in a representative way by sending around periodic “polls” with artfully biased questions, almost always accompanied with his fanciful take on the issue masquerading as background information. Nearly as bad are his informational “Alerts.” His “town halls” and constituent meetings have been carefully stage-managed and any dissenting voices quickly silenced.
And Akin is not alone in this attitude – it is shared by many in his increasingly radical party. I will never forget when my state Rep, little Andy Koenig, came knocking on my door to solicit my vote – his gambit was to ask a few leading questions about taxes and abortion. It quickly became apparent that there was no meeting of the minds between us and Koenig became increasingly antsy. However, before he made off, I remarked to him that we didn’t seem to share the same viewpoints about social responsibility and personal choice and I asked him how he was proposing to represent people like me if he were to be elected. You should have seen him – he couldn’t run away fast enough. Needless to say, I got no answer. I, and those like me, clearly just didn’t count and he wasn’t going to waste time trying to get his head around the concept in order to even acknowledge my point of view.
Anti-democratic and authoritarian though it may be, this approach has had a fair amount of success in Missouri. It is hard to resist the pull of us vs. them tribalism, especially when it is bolstered by religious teaching. It is going to be interesting to see how Akin’s propensity for bigotry, religious and otherwise, plays statewide over the next few months. The response will tell us a lot about the future of democracy over the next few decades.