Groundhogcropped

The Audacity of Audacity: The “Groundhog Day” of Republican Extremism

Dealing with social radicals in the Republican party is beginning to feel like the movie Groundhog Day. It’s the same depressing thing every damn day.

Each day brings another outrageous statement about women, sex, rape, marriage or pregnancy that, each day, the rest of the GOP wants to reassure us is a weird outlier. They insist these comments are chronic misstatements, unfairly misconstrued, and not representative of Republican beliefs.

The latest comes from Republican Senate candidate Richard Mourdock, who said in a debate Tuesday: “I just struggled with it myself for a long time. But I came to realize: Life is that gift from God that I think even when life begins in that horrible situation of rape, that it is something that God intended to happen.” 

Romney and a few but not by any means all of the GOP say that this doesn’t represent their views.

But people in any given party can only say so many “extreme” things a day before, by definition, they simply stop being extreme. 

By now we’ve surpassed that point, and the quota of “excusable extremism” has been filled.

More disturbing than the comment itself was Mourdock’s attempt to clarify it. He stated that he finds rape abhorrent (does this place him in the liberal faction of his political universe?!) and that anyone who would “misconstrue” his comments to the contrary that either he or God supported rape was “absurd and sick.”

Actually, Mr. Mourdock, no one is “misconstruing” your comment as an endorsement of rape. That’s a red herring, designed to reassure female voters that your policy cruelty is rendered innocuous by your personal compassion.

Instead, your statement is alarming because it evinces no understanding, curiosity, or respect for women’s lives, bodies, subjectivity, and rights in its rush to defend a zygote at any cost.

And it’s disturbing because it exhibits no discomfort with the idea that your personal interpretation of  “God’s will” is a basis upon which to legislate women’s lives and even their feelings—even on matters as horrific as rape, and as profound as motherhood.

Your impassioned reassurance that you find violent physical assault and injury to be a bad thing—and similar comments by Akin and others that they’re not meanies but good people who have individual sympathy for individual women—is irrelevant to the issue at hand, insulting, and utterly non-exculpatory.

The comments by Mourdock and the rest keep coming. The “I have compassion” ploy isn’t working.

It’s not working because Mourdock and the rest are saying what they mean. That’s the elegant, Ockham’s razor explanation. Furthermore, what they’re saying has a political pattern, consistency and logic that reveals its roots in Republican thought. All of these comments trivialize, dismiss, or downplay the violence of rape. This bolsters and rationalizes a social conservative view that under no circumstances whatsoever should abortion be legal.

Trivializing or simply refusing to see the harm of rape, or subordinating that harm to the more sacred protection of the blastula, or attempting to chalk it up as God’s will and make lemonade out of lemons isn’t some whacky, offensive comment. It supports a view of abortion that’s in the GOP mainstream, as evidenced by the party’s platform language.

I’m sorry that these figures keep popping up like a game of whack-a-mole. Push Todd Akin down in Missouri and up pops Mourdock in Indiana. Hit Georgia state representative Terry England and you get Republican Senate candidate Tom Smith in Pennsylvania.  

The extremists of the GOP are calling, and they want their party back. Maybe they want to cash in their chips for all the mobilization and support they’ve given to Republican candidates who came a-courting for their votes for decades.

That’s why these “crazy” folks pop up, every damn day. Because they’re not crazy—or alone.

A “pulpit freedom” movement supports political endorsements, against IRS rules, in churches and mega-churches. The church-state line is fragile and this is what taking the party from moderates looks like: fundamentalists have faith-based, intransigent, anti-humanist, and anti-secularist views of sex, marriage, and embryos, and they want the rest of us to follow them and love them, too. I think that’s called theocracy.

 

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