The GOP’s Todd Akin gaffes of 2022 are coming—if Democrats master the moment

The GOP’s Todd Akin gaffes of 2022 are coming—if Democrats master the moment

Forced birther Tom McClusky, the president of March for Life Action, is right about one thing in the wake of Texas’ abortion ban: “Every candidate in the country is going to be asked about their position on abortion now,” he told The New York Times.

McClusky is also right about the danger that poses for Republican candidates nationwide. “What we want to avoid are incidents like what’s happened in the past,” he added.

No doubt, the infamous Todd Akin “legitimate rape” moment of 2012 is among the top GOP gaffes running through McClusky’s mind. At the time, then-Congressman Akin posed a mortal threat to Missouri’s incumbent Democratic Sen. Claire McCaskill. But just as the contest was about to enter the final fall stretch, Akin was asked by journalist Charles Jaco whether abortion should be legal in cases of rape.

“First of all, from what I understand from doctors, that’s really rare,” Akin responded. “If it’s a legitimate rape, the female body has ways to try to shut that whole thing down.”

That’s where Akin’s flourishing Senate bid began its death spiral, with him claiming to have scientific knowledge gleaned from “doctors” about how it all works down there for women.  

“As a woman & former prosecutor who handled 100s of rape cases, I’m stunned by Rep Akin’s comments about victims this AM,” McCaskill tweeted out. McCaskill later added that it was “beyond comprehension that someone can be so ignorant about the emotional and physical trauma brought on by rape.”

One of the reasons the nation will surely be privy to more GOP “legitimate rape” blunders in the 2022 cycle is because the Republican Party has only gotten more siloed, more out of touch, and more steeped in bogus “science” over the last decade. No amount of candidate coaching will erase years of fever swamp training, though some Republicans in swing districts might talk slightly better than other GOP candidates.

The Texas law’s reliance on vigilantism also poses significant problems for those trying to defend it. The idea that absolutely anyone can file a claim—however bogus—against anyone for potentially “aiding and abetting” an abortion is both ripe for abuse and preposterous. GOP abortion bans are one thing, but Texas Republicans have created a special kind of nightmare.   

As one White House aide told Axios, “I want to see the GOP defend the idea that your nosy neighbor can sue your aunt for driving you to the hospital.” 

It doesn’t take a genius to see how the Texas ban will quickly lead to a dystopian police state fueled by citizen avengers pitting neighbor against neighbor and ultimately devolving into lawlessness—particularly if it’s replicated throughout the country. One senior House Democratic aide framed the law as a “massive political gift to Democrats.”

To be sure, the potential exists for this law to become a millstone around the GOP’s neck, especially in critically important swing districts and states across the country. Recent NBC News polling found that suburban voters favor keeping abortion legal by a dozen points, 54% – 42%.

But how well Democrats can leverage Republicans’ brazen attack on women and their access to health care is partially dependent on how comfortable Democratic candidates prove to be in discussing the issue. 

McCaskill, a woman with prosecutorial experience, was instantly fluent on the issue. Her campaign simply had to decide how hard to come at Akin for saying something so ignorant, unempathic, and anachronistic. But that likely wasn’t a difficult call given the immediate national outcry as Akin’s comments went viral.

We are already seeing that there could be a qualitative difference in Democrats who are immediately ready to take on this issue. For instance, the response from several female candidates and incumbents was both swift and forceful.

Democratic Senate candidate Rep. Val Demings of Florida, who, like McCaskill, has a background in law enforcement, immediately understood the law’s Orwellian Achilles heel. 

“It’s important to talk about what the Texas law really means,” she wrote in a three-part tweet thread. First, Demings explained the basics—that most women don’t even know they’re pregnant at six weeks, calling the law “the most extreme ban in the country.” 

Next Demings, who’s working to unseat GOP Sen. Marco Rubio next year, demonstrated how the law is designed to work. “This extreme Texas anti-choice law actually bribes people for spying on their neighbors and filing reports on their personal lives. Strangers—even abusive ex-partners—could get cash for spying on women,” she wrote. “It has no place in a free country.”

Finally, Demings warned that what happened in Texas “could easily come to Florida next,” which wasn’t hyperbole. GOP state lawmakers are already bragging that they have a Texas-style abortion ban in the pipeline for the next legislative session.

Some Democratic incumbents who are critical to holding the Senate were also quick out of the gate. Sen. Catherine Cortez Masto of Nevada called the Supreme Court’s failure to intervene in the matter “appalling,” saying it “sets a dangerous precedent for reproductive rights.” She later told the Times, “If a Republican is going to go to Washington to roll those freedoms back, I will make it an issue. … I don’t think you should underestimate the impact that this issue has to Nevadans.”

Sen. Maggie Hassan of New Hampshire responded similarly, tweeting that the Supreme Court had “gutted Roe v. Wade.”

“This is an attack on reproductive rights and an attack on women’s health and economic freedom,” Hassan told NBC’s Boston affiliate.

There’s no question that female candidates have an advantage on the issue. Women—even those who are happily partnered—bear a unique burden in dealing with both unwanted pregnancies and wanted pregnancies that pose serious health risks to themselves and their unborn children. But regardless of gender, some Democratic candidates are going to relish this fight more than others, and those who do will be better positioned to capitalize on it.

Two male Democrats running for Pennsylvania’s open Senate seat also quickly took on the Texas ban.

“The right to an abortion is non-negotiable. Reproductive freedom is sacred both in PA and in America,” tweeted Lt. Gov John Fetterman. Invoking Democratic Gov. Tom Wolf’s veto pen, Fetterman added, “we’re the 1st + 2nd line of defense of women’s reproductive freedom in PA.”

Rep. Conor Lamb, a primary opponent of Fetterman’s, charged that “Roe is the law,” adding, “The right to choose is a constitutional right no matter what state you live in.” In a follow-up tweet, Lamb noted that he’s a co-sponsor of the House’s Women’s Health Protection Act. “We will pass it, & we need to elect a Senate that will do the same,” he said.

This won’t be the last we hear of abortion rights in the Keystone State’s Senate race in the primary and general elections.

Democratic voters there will have a choice about who best champions the issues they care about and who they think has the best chance of winning statewide. At first blush, Lamb’s approach to abortion seemed to be more legalistic—“a right is a right”—while Fetterman embraced “reproductive freedom” as “sacred.” That’s not to say one is better than the other—it’s simply a stylistic difference in approach. But Lamb and Fetterman will also be facing off against other Democrats, including Dr. Val Arkoosh, who has touted the fact that if elected, she would be “the first woman physician ever” in the chamber from either party.

“The TX law allows private citizens to carry out their personal opposition to abortion by suing doctors for providing sound medical advice and care to patients,” Arkoosh wrote in a Twitter thread. “As a physician, I won’t stand for these attacks on health care, and in the Senate, I will always defend reproductive justice,” she added, employing the hashtag #BansOffOurBodies.

Perhaps most telling will be gauging how comfortable Democratic candidates are in discussing the Texas law and reproductive rights during interviews and debates. The more fluent they are on the issue and the more easily they engage it, the better their ability to both create and capitalize on the Todd Akin moments 2022. May they be both plentiful and productive.

From Daily Kos at Read More. This article is republished from DailyKos under an open content license. Read the original article at DailyKos.

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