From a Democratic surrogate with whom I was debating on CNBC last night and again from my colleague Jonathan Capehart, the very predictable smear of the GOP comes: Todd Akin is the mainstream and the GOP is taken over by crazies; oh, and the GOP platform, Akin and Mitt Romney are one and the same. This simply isn’t so as a factual matter.
The entire GOP establishment, every officeholder, every Senate candidate and every Republican National Committee official who spoke out denounced Akin and told him to get out. So did the talk-show hosts who liberals claim are actually in control of the GOP (including Rush Limbaugh, Mark Levin, Sean Hannity and Hugh Hewitt). Akin is entirely and completely isolated. Only if words have no meaning can Akin be said to be the “establishment.” He is, quite simply, a pariah.
Next, the RNC platform committee did not join Akin in casting doubt on rape or on pregnancies resulting from rape. It does what it has been doing for years, passing a document that goes into a drawer and which does not bind any elected official or candidate. The pro-life platform, with no exceptions, didn’t stop President George W. Bush or Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.) from explicitly favoring exceptions for rape, incest and life of the mother. And it doesn’t stop Romney, who shares this same position.
So what is this really about? Why it is once again “shiny object” time, the effort to distract from the economic issues and paint Romney-Ryan as monsters? Abortion is a critical issue, but until the Supreme Court says otherwise (which will require multiple justices to be replaced including, in all likelihood, Chief Justice John Roberts, who doesn’t like to make waves), this is an issue concerning rhetoric only.
The Democrats, in the midst of a Medicare battle that is giving them unexpected trouble and a welfare mess of their own making, are scrambling to raise what Democrats like to call “wedge” issues when Republicans bring them up. It is reminiscent of Gov. Bob McDonnell’s 17-point win, when the Democrats and much of the media wanted to talk about McDonnell’s school thesis (I kid you not) on social issues. What mesmerizes Democratic elites is often irrelevant to actual voters.
There is a telling difference between the Democratic president and the GOP nominee: President Obama takes the most extreme position in his party (against a partial-birth abortion ban) while Romney does not.
But I think we can agree on a rule in American politics: The party that wants to talk social issues is the party that is losing the debate on everything else.