Thursday, August 30, 2012

Thoughts From a Disenfranchised Republican

I support, strongly, same-sex marriage and a woman's right to choose. And I believe in, among other things, a strong national defense, free trade, lower government spending, a balanced budget, lower taxes, and assistance for small business owners. In short, I am a member of the Republican Party. And it is a party I no longer recognize.

In case you hadn't heard, two months ago a member of the United States House of Representatives and a candidate for a Senate seat from the state of Missouri made a bit of a mess.

Allow me to recap. Representative Todd Akin, who is running for a Senate seat in Missouri against incumbent Claire McCaskill in a hotly contested election, was asked in a televised interview about his position on abortion in the case of rape. His response? From what he understands from doctors, pregnancy from rape is really rare, because the female body has ways of shutting down its reproductive system during a "legitimate rape" to prevent the pregnancy from happening.

So if a woman gets pregnant after being sexually assaulted, it must not have been a "legitimate rape," so she can rest easy. Or she must be to blame for the pregnancy because that mysterious rape pregnancy preventing religious process of which Congressman Akin speaks malfunctioned. Right. Well, wrong, obviously, but I won't insult your intelligence by going on a rant about all the ways that this is complete lunacy. Just google Todd Akin, and you can read rants that are far more eloquent than anything I could write here.

In the wake of this unfortunate incident, mere days away from the Republican National Convention in Tampa, Mitt Romney, the Republican nominee for President of the United States, called on Akin to drop out of the Senate election. Akin refused, graciously of course. Prominent members of the party are infuriated, sputtering around with righteous indignation telling the public that abortion is not a "real issue" in the campaign, and strutting their bad selves all over the news in an attempt to distance themselves from this hot mess.

The thing is, they can't.

I understand why they're trying. But I don't understand why they think they have any hope of succeeding.

They want it to look like this is an isolated incident. A rogue member of the party with an extreme viewpoint shared by absolutely no one. Unfortunately for us, when it comes to the once-proud Republican Party, this is a viewpoint shared by nearly everyone. And in this election cycle, issues don't get more "real" than those surrounding women's rights.

The facts speak for themselves.

Just before the convention, the final GOP platform - the Republicans "to do" list for this election cycle - was published. The platform contains a complete ban on abortion, with no exception at all for cases of pregnancy arising from rape or incest. The platform states: "We...affirm the dignity of women by protecting the sanctity of human life. Numerous studies have shown that abortion endangers the health and well-being of women, and we stand firmly against it." Translation: We affirm the dignity of women by completely depriving them of the ability to make any and all decisions about their reproductive health. Super.

This past March, a member of the Kansas House of Representatives suggested that women should purchase separate "abortion only" insurance policies which would pay for abortions in the case of rape. He suggested that women should plan ahead for rape, much like he plans ahead by purchasing life insurance and spare tires for his car. Good advice, I'll get right on that.

An Indiana state representative recently suggested that if there was a rape exception in an abortion ban, women would fake rape in order to obtain an abortion. Obviously.

200 Republican members of Congress joined none other than Todd Akin himself in co-sponsoring a Resolution which restricted the exception for federally funded abortions to cases involving pregnancies from "forcible rape."

Now I am an educated woman, but I can't decipher the difference between "forcible rape" and "legitimate rape." But Todd Akin certainly has a better grasp of nuance than I ever could.

Something else? One of those 200 co-sponsors was none other than Paul Ryan, the running mate chosen by Mitt Romney in the current presidential election. The same running mate who attached his name to a different piece of legislation that banned all abortions in the case of rape. And the very same running mate who recently said that he was in agreement with Mitt Romney that there should be an exception to an abortion ban in the case of rape. One man. Three different positions.

And round and round we go.

Somewhere in the neighborhood of 1,000 pieces of anti-abortion legislation have been introduced by Republicans across the United States since 2010. None of the other issues the Republican Party claims to be "real" in the presidential campaign - namely jobs and the economy - have had even close to that amount of attention paid to them in the past two years.

And the Republican presidential candidate himself said, while running for governor of Massachusetts, that he would protect a woman's right to choose, only to reverse himself once he rose to the national stage. So, really, we have no idea where he stands on this issue. Scary, don't you think?

The Republican Party, the party of which I myself am a member, has moved so far to to the right it is barely a shadow of its former fiscally conservative self. The issues that caused me to join up have fallen to the background. Social issues have taken center stage, and the religious right has taken control.

Watching convention footage, I can't help but wonder, where are the moderate Republicans? The ones that I, and Republicans like me look to as a guidepost on issues of importance, and voices of reason in an ever-fractured party. Why is the spotlight not shining brighter on Condoleezza Rice, Maine Senators Olympia Snow and Susan Collins, and party members like them?

On Tuesday night, the first night of the Republican National Convention, Rick Santorum gave a speech in which he said that the Party lifts all children "born and unborn." And in Ann Romney's speech she made a big hairy deal about how she and Mitt have a "Real Marriage," which I'm pretty sure was supposed to mean "Not a Gay Marriage." And we are supposed to believe that these social issues are not the issues of importance to this modern incarnation of the Republican party?

And oh by the way, the GOP Platform also calls for a complete ban on gay marriage by saying that the party embraces "the principal that all Americans should be treated with respect and dignity." I'm pretty sure telling an entire group of Americans that they can't get married doesn't respect or dignify them. I'm pretty sure it makes them feel small, frustrated, and furious.

Ugh, just get out of our bodies and our bedrooms already. Go balance the budget and create some jobs or something.

The social wing of the Republican Party touts "religious freedom," but what they are really saying is that the rest of the party, and the country, is free to practice the religious right's radical brand of religion. I guess maybe they were assuming that the entire left wing of the party, those of us who want to be fiscally conservative and socially liberal - those of us who just want anyone who wants to get married to be able to get married, and who want women to be able to decide for themselves when and whether to have babies - just wouldn't notice.

We noticed.

So the socially conservative core of the Republican Party can run their 4 minute miles away from the Todd Akin mess, and call on him to drop out all they want. It won't work, because we know better. We know that they are the same as he is. Its just that he had the unfortunate luck to have a radical soundbite caught on film. We know that a pro-choice and pro-marriage equality Republican stands no chance of getting nominated for high government office anymore. We know that the party no longer stands chiefly for fiscally conservative values. We know that electing one of today's Republicans means less control over ourselves and our choices, not more.

So maybe it's time to let them know. It's time to tell the radical right hand of the Republican Party, of my party, that the left hand knows what they're selling.

And this time around, we're not buying.


  1. Well-written, and thank you for writing it! I'm happy to hear it. I am not a member of the Republican party, never have been. As they careen more and more to the right I wonder how anyone can be, particularly women. So I consider your post a hopeful voice in the vitriol against women. Thanks again for putting this out there.

    1. Thanks so much Stephanie. It is a really difficult, nearly impossible, time to be a woman in the Republican Party. But I am hopeful that people who feel as I do will start to step up and demand change.

  2. Great post, Sam. I'm not Republican either, but as a fiscally conservative Dem, I can understand where you're coming from. When I look at the Rep's wild swing to the social right, I wonder if there's room for a "legitimate" third party in U.S. politics for voters like you.

  3. Thank you for writing this. I'm a Democrat, but I've always considered myself a very moderate one, and I miss the days when conservative wasn't a dirty word. We used to have two thinking parties who could have sound intellectual debates. Now we seem to have a bunch of crazies on both sides and the rest of us are just standing in the middle shaking our heads. It's such a frustrating situation to be in.

  4. I wonder if people ever thought that Todd Aikin said the right thing in the wrong way? Perhaps "legitimate rape" was meant as "forced, against-her-will rape" cases. As opposed to what? Well, a 20 year old is consensually having sex with a 17 year old, the parents of the 17 year old find out and harshly disagree. The parents call the police and the 20 year old is now under arrest for statutory rape. I believe there is a HUGE difference between the two. I also believe calling one "legitimate rape" is a huge mistake, but the idea doesn't change.

  5. Excellent piece! My views mirror yours and I keep hoping that there will be a third party in the near future for us moderates - from both sides of the aisle.

  6. I love this article! I'm socially liberal and economically conservative and it's starting to feel like there are NO good options out there. I loved your remark: "Good advice, I'll get right on that." So funny!