My summer with Todd

 

1345566802126.cachedIn August of 2012, the Missouri organization I head voted to endorse Todd Akin for Senate. One day later, he opined that subsidized school lunches were a bad idea. Three days later, he made his now famous comments on rape.

A couple of days after Akin’s self-immolation, I had a conversation with a long-time Missouri Republican leader, an elected official who has long been a friend of our organization.  He had famously called upon Akin to leave the race, and his disgust with our standard-bearer was palpable. Akin’s propensity to shoot himself in the foot was no surprise to those who followed Missouri politics closely. As my friend said: “He should have said nothing for the whole campaign except, ‘My name is Todd Akin and I paid for this ad.'”

Akin’s lack of self awareness was well known to his general election opponent as well, who spent hundreds of thousands of dollars supporting Akin in the three-way Republican primary. In a meeting I’d had with her before the primary, she told me that Akin would be the eventual winner. I thought she was letting her hopes overwhelm her considerable political skills. I didn’t know she was financing his amateurish campaign, ensuring that she got to pick her opponent.

We re-polled our members, asking them if they’d like to reconsider their endorsement.  We allowed Mr. Akin the chance to plead his case. It wasn’t even close. Our members doubled down on Mr. Akin, blamed the media for the firestorm, and I had my marching orders.

We spent six weeks fielding calls from irate members cancelling their membership. We had to have coaching sessions with our employees responsible for answering the phone, trying as best we could to keep their spirits up. The New York Times visited one of our local offices in rural Missouri, looking for some primitive who would explain his support for Mr. Akin.

We tried our best to schedule events with the Akin campaign, but our phone calls went unanswered. Finally, we reached an Akin family member who said we could join an energy roundtable Akin was holding in St. Louis, where he would be joined by Senator Inhofe of Oklahoma. My wife and I headed to St. Louis. Understand, this was just a couple of weeks before election day, when candidates normally would be speaking before large rallies and holding gatherings several times a day. We arrived at the event, Akin’s only event of the day. It was in a donut shop in suburban St. Louis. We were early, and enjoyed a fried pastry while we waited for the crowd. Pretty soon, the Senator and the Senator-to-be showed up, along with seven members of the media, all of them women. There were three other members of the roundtable, and two children of the guy who owned the donut shop. There was nobody from the public in attendance. We sat around two formica covered tables, and talked about energy.

Inhofe is a pro, and his performance was impeccable. In no way could he have been accused of mailing it in. Akin went next, and in his mild and vaguely inarticulate manner gave a passable summation of the conservative position on drilling, global warming and the like. The rest of the roundtable chimed in. I did the best I could, but, looking back, I have to admit that there is a reason Mr. Inhofe is a Senator and I make my living raising corn. It’s hard to bring enthusiasm to a death march.

Then, we opened it up to questions. Nobody asked any questions about opening up wilderness areas to drilling or whether we should build pipelines. Nope, all the journalists wanted to talk about was women’s issues. After a while, Inhofe shut down the questions and summed up the Republican position on energy.

My wife and I had a nice visit with Mrs. Akin, a beautiful and distinguished woman, who shared her faith with us. We smiled and listened. She is famous in Missouri political circles for her theories about family life. Journalists missed a real opportunity by not scheduling interviews with her. We said goodbye to Mr. Akin, and started our seven-hour drive home.

Todd Akin is a good person. His faith is real and palpable. Having said all that, he had no business being in politics, and in no way should he have been a major party candidate for Senator.  When we made our endorsement, and in the days following, our members responded to that genuineness and faith with sympathy and understanding.  heir reaction would be admirable in personal relations and should be encouraged in business, but it has no place in politics. Our opponents are all about winning, and the 2012 election for Senate in Missouri can truly be said to have changed history.

Conservative Missourians responded to Akin as a person, but they also were sending a message to the coastal elites. I guess we showed them, didn’t we. We won’t be swayed by a biased media, and we’ll stick with our guy no matter what the cost.  That’s satisfying, in a way, to act out your anger with an “establishment” that has served you so poorly. But it is a lousy political strategy.

Donald Trump and Todd Akin have almost nothing in common. Trump is loud where Akin is quiet, Trump is rich where Akin is of modest means, Trump makes no pretense that faith is important in his life. They both, however, at least for a while, have served and are serving as a repository for the frustrations of a large number of voters. They give disaffected voters a chance to stick it to the man, to rebel against the establishment, to cast a vote against Harvard and the Bushes and the Clintons.

I get it, but if conservatives keep acting like winning doesn’t matter, then we’ll never win.

Photo credit: Orlin Wagner/AP Photo

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There are 27 comments.

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  1. Gary McVey Contributor
    Gary McVey
    @GaryMcVey

    Great post, Blake. Everyone enjoys relating how they were aboard a winning campaign; it takes some rueful humor to talk about a painful loss.

    I still laugh at people who insist that Missouri was “intimidated”, “forced” to dump Akin over the side. How did New York and L.A. do that, exactly? Threaten to return Albert Pujols to the Cardinals? Tell them they’d never see Beyonce live again?

    In a party of better qualified candidates, in an entire state party of conservatives, he indulged his own ego and wouldn’t get out. It would have been better for Missouri, it would have been better for the GOP, and it would have been a lot better for the US Senate, but the key thing turned out to be that it wouldn’t have been better for Akin.

    • #1
  2. Martel Inactive
    Martel
    @Martel

    Obviously, if you want to stick it to the establishment (or anybody else for that matter), it’s a good idea to be smart about it. Even if you are smart, it won’t always work out.

    But although Angle and O’Donnell weren’t exactly success stories, anti-establishment longshots like Rand Paul, Mike Lee, and Ted Cruz worked out a fairly well.

    Remember, for a while all the smart people thought Charlie Crist would make a great Republican senator.

    • #2
  3. Blake and Julie Hurst Member
    Blake and Julie Hurst
    @BlakeandJulieHurst

    Markel, you make a good point. I was overlong, but my problem wasn’t with Akin’s non-rape positions, but rather with his competence as a politician. We get frustrated with professional politicians, but politics is a profession. Better to win with someone who’s mostly right but competent, rather than lose with someone pure of heart but with the social and political skills of an axe murderer.

    • #3
  4. Martel Inactive
    Martel
    @Martel

    @ Blake & Julie #3: Quite true. I’ll be address ing this point in a post of my own soon.

    • #4
  5. HeartofAmerica Inactive
    HeartofAmerica
    @HeartofAmerica

    As a Missourian, it was an embarrassment to watch Akin fall head first into McCaskill’s well-played trap. She may have set it, but he did nothing to avoid it and in fact made it worse by not resigning from the race.

    The best choice in that primary was John Brunner. Let’s hope that he’s successful in the governor’s race.

    • #5
  6. Leigh Inactive
    Leigh
    @Leigh

    Martel: But although Angle and O’Donnell weren’t exactly success stories, anti-establishment longshots like Rand Paul, Mike Lee, and Ted Cruz worked out a fairly well.

    Kentucky, Utah, and Texas, though.  That makes a difference.

    Rubio, of course, is another story.

    • #6
  7. Terry Mott Member
    Terry Mott
    @TerryMott

    They give disaffected voters a chance to stick it to the man, to rebel against the establishment, to cast a vote against Harvard and the Bushes and the Clintons. I get it, but if conservatives keep acting like winning doesn’t matter, then we’ll never win.

    Very good point.  But here’s a question:  To what extent should the conservative desire to “rebel against the establishment” be blamed on the establishment’s perceived indifference to the base’s concerns?

    • #7
  8. Al Kennedy Inactive
    Al Kennedy
    @AlKennedy

    Terry Mott:Very good point. But here’s a question: To what extent should the conservative desire to “rebel against the establishment” be blamed on the establishment’s perceived indifference to the base’s concerns?

    Jay Cost addresses this point in his story for this week’s The Weekly Standard.

    • #8
  9. Snirtler Inactive
    Snirtler
    @Snirtler

    Blake and Julie Hurst:We get frustrated with professional politicians, but politics is a profession.Better to win with someone who’s mostly right but competent, rather than lose with someone pure of heart but with the social and political skillsof an axe murderer.

    Indeed. And interesting post, thanks.

    • #9
  10. Jailer Member
    Jailer
    @Jailer

    I really enjoyed this post, though the parallel between Akin and Trump feels strained. Still, the personal observations were fascinating. Thanks!

    • #10
  11. Blake and Julie Hurst Member
    Blake and Julie Hurst
    @BlakeandJulieHurst

    Terry Mott:Very good point. But here’s a question: To what extent should the conservative desire to “rebel against the establishment” be blamed on the establishment’s perceived indifference to the base’s concerns?   

    The desire to “rebel” is beside the point. The point is to elect candidates who will move conversation and policy in the right direction.  Our feelings of betrayal, however well founded, don’t really matter.  This stuff is important.  When my children would say that “life isn’t fair,” I would agree, but then point out that to accept unfairness and move on is what it means to be an adult.  Voters need to do the same.
    Jailer

    I really enjoyed this post, though the parallel between Akin and Trump feels strained. Still, the personal observations were fascinating. Thanks!

    I wasn’t trying to compare Akin and Trump-I was trying to draw a parallel between two groups of voters, who were and are wasting their efforts in order to make a point that nobody cares about except them.

    • #11
  12. Martel Inactive
    Martel
    @Martel

    In regards to Akin having “the social skills of an axe murderer,” as much as we might not like to admit it, lots of very nasty people can be incredibly likeable and charismatic (until.you anger them, of course).

    Therefore, Akin has worse social skills than a lot of axe murderers out there. An axe murderer never would have made that cokment, but if he did would been able to weasel his way out of it.

    • #12
  13. Bob W Member
    Bob W
    @WBob

    None of this really matters when candidates are thrown under the bus for reasons that have nothing to do with their views. Howard Dean’s scream which was just a normal thing that sounded bad on video, or Rick Perry’s brain fart. Who hasn’t had one of those? Does it disqualify you any more than a loud cheer that sounds bad? Akin’s comment was obviously an attempt to distinguish between consensual (statutory) rape and forcible rape. And somehow he was successfully critiqued for using the word ” legitimate” instead of “forcible”. Everyone knew what he meant but it didn’t matter. What this means is that whether you end up like Dean or Perry or Akin is almost completely out of a politician’s control.

    • #13
  14. Terry Mott Member
    Terry Mott
    @TerryMott

    Blake and Julie Hurst:The desire to “rebel” is beside the point. The point is to elect candidates who will move conversation and policy in the right direction. Our feelings of betrayal, however well founded, don’t really matter. This stuff is important. When my children would say that “life isn’t fair,” I would agree, but then point out that to accept unfairness and move on is what it means to be an adult. Voters need to do the same.

    Betrayal isn’t “unfair”.  It’s betrayal.  The fact that they may be electable doesn’t matter if, once they’re elected, they stab you in the back.

    Maybe your point isn’t “vote for the people who betray you time and again, because it’s childish not to.”  But if so, I’m not getting it.

    • #14
  15. Boss Mongo Member
    Boss Mongo
    @BossMongo

    Blake and Julie Hurst:Markel, you make a good point. I was overlong, but my problem wasn’t with Akin’s non-rape positions, but rather with his competence as a politician. We get frustrated with professional politicians, but politics is a profession.Better to win with someone who’s mostly right but competent, rather than lose with someone pure of heart but with the social and political skillsof an axe murderer.

    Hey, I resemble that remark…

    • #15
  16. Gary McVey Contributor
    Gary McVey
    @GaryMcVey

    Bob W:None of this really matters when candidates are thrown under the bus for reasons that have nothing to do with their views.Howard Dean’s scream which was just a normal thing that sounded bad on video, or Rick Perry’s brain fart.Who hasn’t had one of those? Does it disqualify you any more than a loud cheer that sounds bad?Akin’s comment was obviously an attempt to distinguish between consensual (statutory) rape and forcible rape.And somehow he was successfully critiqued for using the word ” legitimate” instead of “forcible”. Everyone knew what he meant but it didn’t matter.What this means is that whether you end up like Dean or Perry or Akin is almost completely out of a politician’s control.

    Bob, what happened to “the female body has ways of shutting this down?” That’s the detonator that made him sound like a total idiot.

    • #16
  17. Blake and Julie Hurst Member
    Blake and Julie Hurst
    @BlakeandJulieHurst

    Terry Mott

    Two points. Or maybe three. Senator Todd Akin has certainly never betrayed me, because he’s not a Senator. No matter how faithful a candidate might be, it does little good if he gets 39% of the vote. Senator McCaskill hasn’t betrayed me either. She has been exactly what I expected. So, imagine a candidate slightly less trustworthy than Akin, but much more likely to get elected. Wouldn’t he or she be a better choice?

    Secondly, I’m almost never “betrayed” by people in whom I place little faith. My wife, children, and even my co workers have the ability to disappoint me in ways that no politician ever can, because I try my best to never fall in love with somebody asking for my vote

    We can’t fix all of our problems with one vote, or in one election. We conservatives have to work for incremental improvements over generations and accept that our solutions and candidates will never be perfect. So yeah, when candidates disappoint and politicians act in ways I disagree with, I complain, and I might even vote for an electable opponent to replace them, but I always vote for the most consevative candidate who is electable. That was the point of my piece.

    • #17
  18. Bob W Member
    Bob W
    @WBob

    Gary, that was part of it but not the biggest part as i recall. Legitimate Rape was what we heard over and over. In any case I have read that pregnancies from rape occur less than the average … Long before Akin. I don’t know if it’s ever been verified. But his main point wast that he was against exceptions for rape regardless.

    • #18
  19. Boss Mongo Member
    Boss Mongo
    @BossMongo

    Bob W:None of this really matters when candidates are thrown under the bus for reasons that have nothing to do with their views…Akin’s comment was obviously an attempt to distinguish between consensual (statutory) rape and forcible rape.And somehow he was successfully critiqued for using the word ” legitimate” instead of “forcible”. ..What this means is that whether you end up like Dean or Perry or Akin is almost completely out of a politician’s control.

    Disagree, Bob.  I watched Akin’s comment numerous times from numerous sources, and came away with “that guy needs to go.”  Sure, Perry had vapor lock, but at the level he was competing, either be able to come with your A game or don’t come.  Dean’s scream was leveraged by the Democrat party, and I think was just a codicil to the machine making a decision.

    Akin’s comment though, was a self-inflicted face shot that immediately rendered him unelectable.  And it showed a profound ignorance.  The issue was not over the use of “legitimate” instead of “forcible.”  The issue was the claim that a woman’s body had a way of not getting pregnant if the rape was “legitimate.”  Now, you can substitute “forcible” in there if you want.  Either way, that comment’s score on the stupid scale registers as “galactic.”  And when I say galactically stupid, I am, of course, using a technical term.

    • #19
  20. Bob W Member
    Bob W
    @WBob

    Agree, the part about rape not causing pregnancies was stupid… Even though that possibility is something that may have some plausibility. He didnt pull it out of his arse, in other words. But it didn’t support his ultimate point and should have been left unsaid.

    • #20
  21. Leigh Inactive
    Leigh
    @Leigh

    Blake and Julie Hurst: Secondly, I’m almost never “betrayed” by people in whom I place little faith. My wife, children, and even my co workers have the ability to disappoint me in ways that no politician ever can, because I try my best to never fall in love with somebody asking for my vote.

    I absolutely agree with this.  There are very few people in politics that I trust sufficiently to ever really feel “betrayed” by them.

    I am grateful for real conviction and true character when I see it — but I also realize that politics is a field with many extra challenges and temptations, and even those I think I respect most aren’t immune.  And I also realize that it’s extremely easy for me, sitting in my chair at home, to call them out.  Politicians are not some uniquely evil set of human beings — they’re just people.  If we actually did pick the first 435 names in the phone book and put them in Congress, we would simply have 435 new politicians, and it would be a matter of days before they’d be acting in recognizably political ways.

    • #21
  22. Boss Mongo Member
    Boss Mongo
    @BossMongo

    Bob W:… Even though that possibility is something that may have some plausibility.

    Bob, are you kidding me?

    No.  No plausibility.  No culpability on the woman’s part (what, she didn’t mind the rape, and could’ve–what? biophysically rejected the pregnancy if she wanted), whatsoever.

    You do realize, rape has been a tool of empire, of colonization, of cultural dominance for, well, ever, right?

    My roots come from shanty Irish out of Holyoke, Mass.  I’ll guaran-damn-tee you that my DNA is the result of multiple rapes over millennia.  Pretty sure, given the history of the area of my ancestors, none of them really wanted the bloodline altered.  None of them really secretly enjoyed the being raped, so decided, on a subconscious level, to keep the baby.

    To state, hint, or in any way posit that a raped woman wouldn’t get pregnant if she didn’t really want/enjoy the sex is obscene.

    Medical science/doctors my ass, My Friend.

    • #22
  23. Mister Magic Inactive
    Mister Magic
    @MisterMagic

    If we actually did pick the first 435 names in the phone book and put them in Congress, we would simply have 435 new politicians, and it would be a matter of days before they’d be acting in recognizably political ways

    This is why I am hyper-skeptical of the claims of Trump, Carson or any other newcomer to politics that they would be free of the taint of Washington and not beholden to special interests and all that jazz. If you want to play the game, you gotta get dirty and anyone who claims that they will not get their suit dirty is not being serious about the matter.

    • #23
  24. Bob W Member
    Bob W
    @WBob

    Boss, it’s not about politics or the evils of colonialism or obscenity, or your ancestry. It’s just a question. In my time in the prolife movmeent, the rape exception was always a major topic and I read about some studies that indicated rapes did not result in pregnancy at the same rate as otherwise. And whoever mentioned anything about enjoying being raped? It’s a scientific issue, not a political one. It may have no merit as far as I know but Akin didn’t make it up.

    • #24
  25. iDad Inactive
    iDad
    @iDad

    How many elections did Akin win before his Senate run?  How loyal a conservative had he been as a Representative?

    After the Republican party and the “conservative”pearl clutchers helped the Democrats bury Akin., we have to listen to lectures abut how conservatives need to learn about the importance of winning elections?  The fact is for the GOP, “Winning Is The Most Important Thing Because This Is The Most Important Election In History” is something they preach to conservatives to encourage them to support establishment candidates, not something they practice.

    And I do not support Trump.

    • #25
  26. Boss Mongo Member
    Boss Mongo
    @BossMongo

    Bob W:Boss, it’s not about politics or the evils of colonialism or obscenity, or your ancestry.It’s just a question.In my time in the prolife movmeent, the rape exception was always a major topic and I read about some studies that indicated rapes did not result in pregnancy at the same rate as otherwise.And whoever mentioned anything about enjoying being raped?It’s a scientific issue, not a political one.It may have no merit as far as I know but Akin didn’t make it up.

    A’right, Bob.  Check it out: It’s not a question.  The ability to change a rival population’s bloodline through rape is, ah, well known.  If I am out of phase with the most up to date scientific studies, then please push me those studies.  I’d be interested in reading them.  And Akin may not have made it up, but if they didn’t set off his bullshit detector, shame on him.  As I said, galactically stupid.

    • #26
  27. Leigh Inactive
    Leigh
    @Leigh

    iDad: After the Republican party and the “conservative”pearl clutchers helped the Democrats bury Akin., we have to listen to lectures abut how conservatives need to learn about the importance of winning elections?  The fact is for the GOP, “Winning Is The Most Important Thing Because This Is The Most Important Election In History” is something they preach to conservatives to encourage them to support establishment candidates, not something they practice.

    They were trying to bury him lest he drag other candidates down with him.  Right or wrong, winning was the most important thing.  It just didn’t work.  Akin unquestionably brought down Mourdock in Indiana, at the very least.

    • #27
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