As long as the GOP’s views and approaches to 21st century America harken back to imagined nostalgia of the 1950s, they will continue to trip up on political gaffes and positions that underestimate the social and civic issues of today’s diverse and complex nation.
The ongoing storm swirling around the GOP and Congressman Todd Akin may be focused on rape and abortion, but they center on an ever-growing cultural divide between their life experiences and much of modern-day America’s.
If life in America today could be more like it was for the Cunninghams and their friends on Happy Days, the Republican Party would find that several high-profile political races over the past couple of years would have been easier to win, including the now-tumultuous US Senate race in Missouri. The issues of campaigning, messaging, and connecting with voters that some within the GOP continue to have as a result of the emerging Republican brand would be resolved as quickly as the Fonz could knock on the ol’ jukebox and change an ill-sounding tune.
Unfortunately for many Republicans, American life outside of most politically-gerrymandered constituencies – and, more often than not, outside of their circle of experiences – is increasingly becoming a lot less like those fictional days of the iconic sitcom that depicted White America’s youth of the 1950s. Instead, our nation has become more like the complex society mixing race, corruption, crime, and circumstance that Denzel Washington portrayed in an Academy Award-winning performance. As a result, more Republicans find many of their good ideas lost in the myriad of firestorms that come from a dearth of cultural and life experiences.
Congressman Todd Akin’s statement on legitimate rape is at the center of a firestorm that threatens to whittle away the opportunity for the GOP to win a vulnerable US Senate seat in the fall. However, the controversy and its genuine outrage from both sides of the aisle may finally lead the Republican Party to take a real look at how (or if ) it views and embraces the complexity of modern-day America.
It is an oft-repeated statement, but one that continues to resound loudly in each sound wave of blow-back that Republicans face whenever a situation like the Akin matter comes to the forefront: Republicans would have less problems on the campaign trail and in vote tallies if they have more diversity in their ranks.
What if – like me – one of his best friends from his days as a student was the victim of a rape by a boyfriend? Would Mr. Akin have been more inclined to disregard the notion of “legitimate rape” versus some sort of illegitimate rape, as if a woman’s granted permission to enter a relationship with a man is grounds for entering her body whenever that man deems prudent? What if – like me and others that do not come from the ongoing Happy Days meme of America – Mr. Akin watched this friend carry the baby to term out of love for an innocent child and her belief for pro-life stances (since her body did not effectively “shut that whole thing down”), only to be castigated as a whore – often by church-going Americans – for having the child? What if Mr. Akin – and many Republicans – interacted more at the grassroots level on issues such as domestic violence in order to get a better understanding of the complexities and challenges that women face going through rape? Even as a pro-life Christian conservative (which I am proudly), Mr. Akin would have been able to find the God-given senses of wisdom and compassion to articulate his position more effectively. He might have also proven to be a leader that could address such situations with his faith uncompromised and his proficiency as a positive difference-maker heightened. Instead, his deficiency in being a well-rounded social conservative weakened his influence as both a tenured politician and a well-intended Christian.
Yet, this is not a problem that is capsulated in the Akin candidacy, a political misstep that now prompts conservatives to ask for his resignation from the Senate race. It is merely a symptom to a problem that reaches most corners of the conservative political movement of today.
Catch more of Lenny McAllister’s “Todd Akin: Happy Days vs. Training Day” on Politic365
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