Editorial: The tip of Mr. Akin’s iceberg

The uproar over Congressman Todd Akin’s, R-Missouri, statement on abortion has morphed into a serious concern for the Republican Party and its prospects to retake the presidency and U.S. Senate for one simple reason: his comments are reflective of the Republican Party and the belief of a majority of its congressional members. And that is a problem that gets too little attention.
The GOP’s drift to the extreme political right on social issues, and increasingly on fiscal ones, has been as dramatic as it is nonsensical.
On the abortion front, Rep. Akin could say what he said on national television (explaining how a woman’s body can naturally block pregnancy when sex occurs through forcible rape) and then initially try to defend it because that is what he truly believes. Steeped in the powers of the Almighty, he is one of many religious conservatives now serving in Congress who have ideas that are unfounded in any practical or scientific realm. They are beliefs, not fact. The problem is that Akin, vice-presidential candidate Paul Ryan, and many others too often fail to distinguish between those two realities. It is why the Republican Party national platform has adopted (just this week in spite of the uproar) a position on abortion rights that essentially denies any reason that would justify an abortion — including rape, incest or threat to a mother’s life.
It is an extreme policy that denies women the right to control their own lives and destiny. It is a position that mainstream Republicans rejected wholeheartedly just a decade ago, and for the two decades prior, but which has slowly succumbed to the evangelical right wing of the party.
Even more troubling, however, is the Republican penchant to hold its beliefs over facts on other issues, as well. The Republican Party’s rejection of the science of climate change is a case in point. Here, Rep. Paul Ryan once again rejects what the vast majority of the scientific community around the world claims to be solid evidence of man’s role in warming temperatures and the threat to the environment caused by an increase of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere and the consequent effects of global warming. Ryan, whose family has financial interests in the energy industry, has fought against federal programs to promote renewable energy and sought more and continued government subsidies for the oil and gas industries, all the while rejecting the notion that the scientific basis of climate change has merit.
Ryan and Akin are among the true believers, those who ignore the facts and instead rely on a belief system that fits their world view, whether that is for the good of the country or not. Therefore, if free-market economics fits into their belief system and any federal involvement is bad, then no economic explanation of how to stimulate the economy to help the nation recover from the worst recession in the nation’s history will be satisfactory. If Iran and Pakistan and parts of Africa are bad places, then the only recourse is to wage war to unseat the heathens, regardless of the economic impact on this country or the world repercussions. If cutting federal and state education spending of public schools promotes home schooling and sends federal and state money to private, religious schools, then undermining the nation’s educational system is a consequence worth bearing.
It’s that single-minded, faith-based approach to all issues that makes today’s Republican Party so difficult to embrace, so difficult to work with and so destructive to the nation’s long-term prospects. This week’s uproar over the abortion issue is only the tip of the iceberg.
Angelo S. Lynn

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