In the aftermath of August’s inexcusable, irrational and horrendously offensive “legitimate rape” gaffe uttered by U.S. Rep. Todd Akin (the hopefully soon-to-be ex-Republican candidate for U.S. Senate in Missouri), I, as a Republican, have found myself in the unfortunate position of being vulnerable to guilt by association. My peers may unfairly conclude that I must somehow sympathize with the extremist ideology of some fringe politician who happens to associate with the same political party. In lieu of the well-deserved backlash against Todd Akin and the undeserved stigma that some of my fellow college Republicans may be facing, I find it necessary to clarify some essential facts that may be lost in all of the hype.
As soon as Rep. Akin’s comments went viral, the Republican establishment dropped him like a hot potato, as they well should have. The National Republican Senatorial Committee promptly pulled his funding, both Mitt Romney and Paul Ryan called for his withdrawal from the Senate race, Republican Sen. Scott Brown of Massachusetts, himself a victim of sexual abuse as a child and the father of two daughters, railed against Akin’s gaffe as “outrageous, inappropriate, and wrong” and demanded his resignation from the race. In short, probably 99 percent of Republicans condemned Akin for misrepresenting the values of his party.
The swift condemnation delivered by the party establishment most visibly rebukes the idea that reasonable Republicans would sympathize with, or even cover up for, a radical and severely misinformed belief held by one of their own. While I’m at it, I find it necessary to mention a Democratic politician whose infamously shameful acts of infidelity were covered up and overlooked by members of his own party who are now railing against Akin for offending women. Does the name Bill Clinton ring a bell? Slick Willie, perhaps? I digress.
For those who may be emboldened after recent events to label all Republicans as out of touch on women’s issues and who may feel that the reaction by the party establishment was merely political damage control and not heartfelt condemnation, I present some more food for thought. Adding to Senators Kay Bailey Hutchison of Texas, Lisa Murkowski of Alaska and Susan Collins and Olympia Snowe of Maine — all three of whom are pro-choice — the 2010 election cycle saw the election of New Hampshire’s first female Republican senator, Kelly Ayotte. Further, at the state level, three of the 15 newly-elected Republican governors in 2010 were women. This includes the nation’s first ever Latina governor, Susana Martinez of New Mexico, and the first female governor of South Carolina, Nikki Haley, who is currently the country’s youngest governor as well as the second ever Indian-American governor.
These new leaders are visionaries and pioneers, both for their party and for the rest of the country. They represent the future of the Republican Party, rebuff the notions that Republicans as a whole are out of touch with women, and that strong, talented women can’t also be drawn to core Republican values: hard work, personal responsibility, entrepreneurship, equality of opportunity, individualism, smaller and smarter government, etc.
Todd Akin does not represent mainstream Republicans, nor do the vast majority of Republicans and Americans sympathize with his statement. I would hope that my peers would not be so judgmental as to label all Republicans bigots simply because they identify with the same broad-tent, pluralistic conglomeration known as the Republican Party.
Contrary to current hype, women’s issues are not exclusively Democratic issues. Being a Republican can mean a number of different things to each individual, as can being a Democrat. I myself am pro-gay marriage, as are a small but growing number of fiscally conservative, socially moderate-to-liberal Republicans. One bad apple cannot and should not spoil the bunch. After all, just because Bill Clinton made shameful personal decisions that tarnished his reputation and undermined his marriage doesn’t mean I believe that my Democratic friends condone or accept his behavior simply because they’re Democrats.
Alexander Veras is an LS&A junior.