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An Observation about Akin

One thing that strikes me about Missouri Senate candidate Todd Akin’s comments about rape and abortion is that he was trying to avoid actually taking a stand on the question of abortion in the case of rape. After all, if women can “shut that whole thing down” in the event of rape, then why even bother to address the rape exception?

The problem, of course, is that even within his own (incorrect) logic, there would still be cases of pregnancy as a result of rape. So what is his position? Clearly it is a “no exception” position, and therefor he should have stuck to his core belief and said so forthrightly instead of trying to hedge the issue. While he would have taken some criticism for such a stance, he would have hardly revived the attention he is currently enjoying (so to speak). Certainly such a statement would not have resulted in talk of his removal from the ballot nor a rebuke from his party’s presidential candidate.

Really, I think three things are going on here:

1. He knows that many who are otherwise pro-life think that rape, incest, and the health of the mother are areas of potential exception. So, he tried to hedge.

2. He knows that directly stating that he is opposed to abortion in the case of rape would bring on serious criticism from pro-choice sectors (so better to pretend like it is not an issue with his “shut that whole thing down” myth).

3. He speaks like person who has heard a third hand (at best) piece of “evidence” for his position that sounds convincing to him because it confirms his worldview and that when said in the presence of the like-minded sounds like a solid argument. However, it is the kind of thing that when said in the presence of a general population sounds ridiculous,

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About Steven L. Taylor
Steven L. Taylor is Professor of Political Science and Dean of the College of Arts and Sciences at Troy University. His main areas of expertise include parties, elections, and the institutional design of democracies. His most recent book is the co-authored A Different Democracy: American Government in a 31-Country Perspective. He earned his Ph.D. from the University of Texas and his BA from the University of California, Irvine. He has been blogging since 2003 (originally at the now defunct Poliblog). Follow Steven on Twitter

Comments

  1. The moral godless says:

    I hope the Bible Bangers feel really good about themselves when they help Obama get re-elected.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 3 Thumb down 2

  2. mattb says:

    He speaks like person who has heard a third hand (at best) piece of “evidence” for his position that sounds convincing to him because it confirms his worldview and that when said in the presence of the like-minded sounds like a solid argument.

    And again, he’s on the House Science committee. That’s really what scares me the most about this issue.

    Any one want to take guess on his views on the issue of climate change.

    Highly-rated. Helpful or Unhelpful: Thumb up 28 Thumb down 1

  3. Al says:

    @mattb:

    The Earth only gets warmer in cases of legitimate pollution?

    Highly-rated. Helpful or Unhelpful: Thumb up 19 Thumb down 1

  4. al-Ameda says:

    @Al:

    @mattb:
    The Earth only gets warmer in cases of legitimate pollution?

    Or, “Cap & Trade” a Republican idea and one that Democrats favor, is only legitimate when implemented by a Republican. Kind of like “Insurance Mandates,” legitimate only when proposed and implemented by Republicans.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 5 Thumb down 1

  5. mantis says:

    He speaks like person who has heard a third hand (at best) piece of “evidence” for his position that sounds convincing to him because it confirms his worldview and that when said in the presence of the like-minded sounds like a solid argument. However, it is the kind of thing that when said in the presence of a general population sounds ridiculous,

    In other words, he holds a Republican position.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 15 Thumb down 1

  6. Murray says:

    “…it is the kind of thing that when said in the presence of a general population sounds ridiculous”

    And since he said it, it shows he’s not used to deal with the general population but only with a small subset of like minded people. (A poll in his congressional district about his statements would be interesting.)

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 10 Thumb down 1

  7. Moosebreath says:

    Steven,

    “he was trying to avoid actually taking a stand on the question of abortion in the case of rape. After all, if women can “shut that whole thing down” in the event of rape, then why even bother to address the rape exception?”

    I am not reading him this way. I think he’s saying that if women can “shut that whole thing down”, then if a woman got pregnant, it wasn’t really a rape. Therefore, a rape exception is unnecessary. I’ve seen other extreme pro-lifers make the same abhorrent and unscientific argument.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 11 Thumb down 1

  8. Rafer Janders says:

    @Murray:

    And since he said it, it shows he’s not used to deal with the general population but only with a small subset of like minded people.

    Again, yes, he’s a Republican. We already know that.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 5 Thumb down 1

  9. Ben Wolf says:

    Are we sure Akin’s main point isn’t that the best form of birth control is to beat the hell out of your woman immediately following sex?

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 6 Thumb down 2

  10. sam says:

    Or, you know, he’s a garden-variety fundie moron.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 4 Thumb down 2

  11. @Murray:

    And since he said it, it shows he’s not used to deal with the general population but only with a small subset of like minded people.

    I think that this is almost certainly the case. I think, in fact, that a lot of our polarization problem is that most people live in a bubble in which their ideas are never challenged.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 7 Thumb down 0

  12. @Moosebreath:

    I am not reading him this way. I think he’s saying that if women can “shut that whole thing down”, then if a woman got pregnant, it wasn’t really a rape.

    Except that he didn’t say that pregnancies never occur, but rather that such results are “really rare”–so he is allowing that even by his definition of rape that pregnancies can occur.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 3 Thumb down 0

  13. G.A. says:

    Or, you know, he’s a garden-variety fundie moron.

    Again, yes, he’s a Republican. We already know that.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 4 Thumb down 0

  14. Rick Almeida says:

    He speaks like person who has heard a third hand (at best) piece of “evidence” for his position…

    Hey, Megan McArdle thinks she might remember once seeing a SCIENTIFIC ARTICLE that supported Akin’s position.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 6 Thumb down 0

  15. OzarkHillbilly says:

    @Ben Wolf:

    Are we sure Akin’s main point isn’t that the best form of birth control is to beat the hell out of your woman immediately following sex?

    In his world view, it is the only acceptable form of birth control Ben.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 2 Thumb down 2

  16. C. Clavin says:

    Again…the only thing this guy did wrong in the eyes of Republicans is saying what most of them believe out loud. Best to talk about such things in quiet rooms.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 4 Thumb down 1

  17. Barry says:

    Steven: “He speaks like person who has heard a third hand (at best) piece of “evidence” for his position that sounds convincing to him because it confirms his worldview and that when said in the presence of the like-minded sounds like a solid argument. However, it is the kind of thing that when said in the presence of a general population sounds ridiculous,”

    Perhaps a better way of phrasing this is: ‘he’s a liar, and repeated his lies where the wrong people could hear them’.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 2 Thumb down 0

  18. Gromitt Gunn says:

    @Rafer Janders:

    Again, yes, he’s a Republican. We already know that.

    @G.A.:

    Again, yes, he’s a Republican. We already know that.

    Hmm… did someone forget to switch their IDs before posting?

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 2 Thumb down 0

  19. beth says:

    @C. Clavin:

    Exactly. No Republican is angry because what he said is vile and misoginistic; they’re angry because he might lose them a Senate seat. Notice that no one’s called for him to resign his Congressional seat.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 3 Thumb down 0

  20. mattb says:

    @Barry:

    Perhaps a better way of phrasing this is: ‘he’s a liar, and repeated his lies where the wrong people could hear them’.

    Fair, but there are two types of liars — ones who know that they are telling a lie, and ones who are convinced from the start that they are actually telling the truth.

    What makes Akin and others like him so problematic is that he’s the second type of liar as opposed to the first.

    The first type, in theory, might change their position. With the second grouping, they are so convinced of their own correctness that nothing can shift that position (including other facts).

    That’s the difference between a cynical pragmatist and a fanatic. You can at least reason with the first. Good luck with trying to have a discussion with the second.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 2 Thumb down 0

  21. OzarkHillbilly says:

    @beth:

    Notice that no one’s called for him to resign his Congressional seat.

    That is because (if what I read yesterday is correct) he can’t run for his seat in the House and the Senate at the same time. Ergo, come January he is out of the house win or lose in Nov.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 1 Thumb down 0

  22. Fiona says:

    I too think he was just trying to find some justification for his “no exceptions” position to make it more palatable and so latched on to this pseudo-scientific notion that women rarely get pregnant after being raped. Not that this justification wasn’t bad enough in and of itself, but his use of the term “legitimate” rape is what really got him in trouble. It shed light on his overall view of women and the apparently limited cases when a rape is really a legitimate (aka forcible) rape.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 2 Thumb down 0

  23. OzarkHillbilly says:

    @Fiona:

    It shed light on his overall view of women and the apparently limited cases when a rape is really a legitimate (aka forcible) rape.

    Cracks me up, but everyone keeps referring to his comment with this interpretation (correctly, I think) when in fact if you look at the true meaning of the word “legitimate” (“accordant with law or with established legal forms and requirements” Merriam-Webster) you would have to interpret his words to mean “a rape that was legal”…..

    Wait a minute…….

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 4 Thumb down 0

  24. al-Ameda says:

    It sure seems like Republican, despite all attempts at damage control, are determined to make social issues a focal point in November. Just look: opposition to gay marriage, support a constitutional amendment to ban abortion, limit a woman’s control of her reproductive health choices. All positions that support less equality and less freedom.

    The choices will be very clear in November. No one can say that there is no difference between the parties.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 1 Thumb down 1

  25. gVOR08 says:

    @mattb:

    Fair, but there are two types of liars — ones who know that they are telling a lie, and ones who are convinced from the start that they are actually telling the truth.

    No, it’s actually worse than that. You’re right that there are two kinds of Republican liars.

    Garden variety conservatives lie deliberately, with malice aforethought, but then they come to believe their own lies. They believe themselves to be supremely virtuous, but here they are lying. The easiest way to deal with the cognitive dissonance is to believe the lie, and they do. Look to Republican economic thinking for numerous examples.

    Then you have bullshitters, Mitt Romney being the ultimate example. Bullshitters don’t know or care if what they are saying is true. They say whatever suits their purpose at the moment and will say the opposite the next day without a moments hesitation. On Bullshit goes into this in some depth. http://www.amazon.com/Harry-G.-Frankfurt/e/B001H6ITD6/ref=sr_ntt_srch_lnk_1?qid=1345638298&sr=1-1

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 0 Thumb down 1

  26. G.A. says:

    Hmm… did someone forget to switch their IDs before posting?

    No, I just needed some love…

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 0 Thumb down 0