Sometimes I Despair of The Left

I don’t belong to an organized political party. I’m a Democrat.

– Will Rogers

Sometimes, I do get weary. Heh.

The quoted text following this paragraph is an excerpt from the text of a very earnest and serious email sent to me today from MoveOn’s email blast servers. I subscribe to these email blasts from MoveOn, just like I do from several other lefty-activist groups (as well as, clandestinely, a few wingnut organizations – hey, gotta keep tabs on what the competition is doing, especially when the competition is bug-fuck insane, as is today’s Republican party). So I see a pretty broad spectrum of what’s motivating the activist community to action at any given time. Here’s the one that landed in my inbox today:

Victims of “legitimate rape” can’t get pregnant because a woman’s body will shut down and prevent the pregnancy. Rep. Todd Akin (R-MO) actually said that—in other words, he’s saying that if a woman does get pregnant, she must not have been raped. Even scarier? He’s running—and leading—in the race for Missouri’s senate seat.

What he said was bad, but it was hardly a gaffe or poor choice of words. In 2011 he and Rep. Paul Ryan led the push in the House of Representatives to redefine rape as “forcible rape” in order to further restrict rape survivors’ access to abortions. As a state senator, Akin questioned whether anti-marital rape laws would be abused by women in messy divorces.

Anyone who doesn’t understand basic biology and tries to create more hurdles for rape survivors seeking justice doesn’t belong in the United States Congress.

Well, obviously, Ms. Kat Barr (the name associated with this petition on MoveOn’s email blast): Akin doesn’t belong in the United States Senate. For my money, he doesn’t belong anywhere near anything that affects policy regarding women. I’m with you that far. But let’s talk tactics here for a moment. Instead of signing Ms. Barr’s petition, this is the reply I sent to the MoveOn mail server. Not because I’m a crank who sends reply emails to anonymous, automated bot servers out of frustration (who, me??), but because, well…here:

Have you lost your minds? Todd Akin is the best thing that could have happened to Clare McCaskill! Don’t believe me? Ask her. McCaskill is THRILLED that, in very  purple Missouri, the GOP primary electorate – in their wisdom – chose Akin instead of one of the far more eminently reasonable (read: less extreme) candidates they COULD have chosen on the recent primary ballot. Akin represents McCaskill’s best comparative chance at retaining her Senate seat. So, while I agree that Todd Akin must go, let’s remember that he hasn’t actually arrived yet, and thus calls for him to “go” are premature. Right now, there’s every likelihood that he will “go” all on his own, through the already-existing mechanism we call “November’s election.” Let’s not spoil that by trying to remove him prematurely from the ballot, which would only result in McCaskill facing a tougher opponent this November.

That’s why I sometimes despair of the left: of COURSE Akin should no more be allowed near the levers of power – based on the strength of this lone, thuddingly awful, retrograde comment itself – than Wile. E. Coyote should be hired as a security guard at the Roadrunner Motel. But trying to have Akin thrown off the ballot or otherwise disqualified NOW, with the election that would determine his fate anyway coming up in less than three months, strikes me as misguided at best. Missouri is a deeply divided (“purple”) state. It’s home to both Harry Truman and current darling of the wingnut blogosphere, Jim Hoft (Gateway Pundit — too stupid for me to waste a link on). Had McCaskill drawn any of the other, less insane opponents out of the GOP primary, she would currently be in a much tougher race than she already is. As of the end of July, McCaskill trails Todd Akin by five points. These neanderthal comments by Akin will certainly have a negative effect on his poll numbers against McCaskill, especially among Republican women who might otherwise prefer the daddy-figure in this year’s Senate race, but who perhaps have daughters and/or a personal history with unplanned pregnancy, and who will conclude, after Akin’s disastrous remarks, that a woman like McCaskill is preferable to a troglodyte like Akin who understands literally nothing about them.

All of which means that to do anything to preemptively remove Todd Akin from the Missouri Senate ballot for November is to ensure that Claire McCaskill faces a more difficult-to-beat opponent this fall. And that’s the last thing we want to do. Claire McCaskill may have her faults, but right now it’s either her or whoever the Republican party of Missouri coughs up like a cat with a hairball. I’ll take McCaskill any day, warts and all.