Monday, August 20, 2012

The Sword of Hatred Can Cut Both Ways

It would seem that, from the time the Democratic Party nominated Barack Obama as their candidate for President of the United States, the Republican Party has been dedicated to campaigning based on the lowest common denominator of hatred. Those of us whose memory stretches back to 2008 probably recall that this denominator got so low that even John McCain had the good sense to back away from it (a moment that was included in the HBO Game Plan movie, to the great credit of that film’s production team and to Ed Harris for depicting just how offensive that moment was to anyone with common-sense regard for truth and humanity). Nevertheless, those wheels of hatred kept rolling, building momentum through the rise of the TEA Party, to a point where maintaining momentum was more important than getting anything done in Congress. (After all, if Congress achieved anything of value, that might be perceived as going to Obama’s credit; and who would stand for that?)

This weekend, however, we may have seen a tipping point. When it comes to triggering hatred, Republican Congressman Todd Akin may have crossed the line in justifying his hard line that abortion can never be accepted as legitimate, even in the most extreme circumstances. As just about everyone knows by now, the “trigger words,” so to speak, were the following:
If it's a legitimate rape, the female body has ways to try to shut that whole thing down.
These words have the power to tap into that same sort of visceral hatred that Republicans have tried to direct towards our President and those who agree with him that government has a role in trying to offer a better life for all of its citizens, rather than just the wealthy ones. Akin’s statement might not offend all women. However, they are likely to cut through to a strong majority of them, even those with Republican loyalties; and, given Mitt Romney’s immediate distancing from those words, one might expect that there are plenty of men out there, regardless of party affiliation, will to recognize that Akin went far over the line of basic human decency.

It would be nice if Akin inadvertently sounded the wake-up call that hate-mongering is no way to run a political campaign. I would not hold my breath. Nevertheless, it is about time the Republicans get a better feel for what it is like to be on the receiving end of such irrationality. I suspect that hate-free campaigning is beyond reasonable expectation; but, if Akln’s behavior leads to even a slight turning down of the rhetorical heat, there may be a glass of lemonade coming from his oversized lemon.

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