Days into the Todd Akin scandal, which erupted in the wake of the Senate candidate’s comments regarding the female body’s mythical ability to bypass pregnancy by rape – opinions which directly contradict medical science, it may be worth adding, for anyone stupid enough to seriously consider his views – the resulting hullabaloo is distracting us from what really matters: voting for candidates based on their policies, not on the reputation of their party.
Democratic politicians are milking the scandal for all it's worth, while Republican operatives and Karl Rove’s Super PAC are scurrying to enact damage control. Things in the fourth estate, meanwhile, are looking peachy, as the resulting pandemonium suggests this election season may not be so boring after all.
But while the press, politicos, and the voting public have held their breath in anticipation, awaiting Akin's ultimate decision to remain in Missouri's Senate race, it has been the American people who have really lost out.
Akin’s anarchic comments are cause for dismay, and it may serve us well to engage in a national discussion to make sure we are in agreement over how silly they are. The congressman’s views are not cause for national scandal.
That Akin’s remarks represented a possible liability for the Romney campaign, which Obama was quick to capitalize on, brings to light an unfortunate reality of politics: local gaffes can have national repercussions.
This is not the story of a single fool speaking “off-the-cuff,” (as Akin describes his own comments), thus shaming the Missouri Republicans who support him. Rather, his remarks have become part of a Democratic attempt to tar and feather Mitt Romney and other Republicans. What should have remained a Midwestern kerfuffle has mutated into ammunition for Democratic spin doctors.
We need to remember what many of us learned in middle school social science: a president and a member of Congress play very different roles. Congress, part of the Legislative Branch, declares war and introduces legislation, while presidents, members of the Executive Branch, veto and sign legislation, as well as acting as the Armed Forces’ commander-in-chief.
Furthermore, there was no reason to believe that Romney shared Akin’s views by virtue of partisan affiliation, even before he publicly denounced them. After all, he once ran as a pro-choice gubernatorial candidate in Massachusetts – really. Akin's views do not encompass all Republican ideologies, just as neither Romney nor Obama speak for all of their parties’ members.
By sticking to party lines, voters have allowed for a system in which politicians play partisan games as means to their ends. If more voters dared to think outside partisan labels, political opportunists would be forced to give up their cheap tactic of tarnishing candidates with the extreme and idiotic beliefs of their cherry-picked party colleagues.
Ideally, voters would examine Obama’s economic and social policy positions alongside Romney’s and make a calculated decision in favor of one or the other (or another third, fourth or fifth party candidate). Ideally, they would elect their state and local representatives based on their individual platforms, not their partisan affiliations.
Yet, having by now lived through several election cycles, I’m afraid that is too much to ask.