The Joplin Globe, Joplin, MO


August 27, 2012

John Sullivan: Heartland shows us unsavory side of GOP

JOPLIN, Mo. — I have just returned to Missouri from a pleasant summer in upstate New York. I teach part time here in the Heartland, where the political world is lit up like a bonfire as a result of what a Missouri congressman said and what a Kansas congressman did.

One dipped into the unholy waters of the abortion/rape debate, and the other, a freshman Republican from Kansas, went skinny dipping in the Holy Sea of Galilee.

Just when you think this year’s political campaign season could not get any worse, or any weirder, it does. Enter Todd Akin and Kevin Yoder.

Akin just won the Republican nomination for the Senate from Missouri. He is running against incumbent Democrat Claire McCaskill, whose chances of re-election, until now, had been rather dim. Akin actually said that there is no need to allow abortions for women who are victims of “legitimate rape” -- as opposed to illegitimate rape, whatever that might be? -- because for some medical reason, such pregnancies are extremely rare. He meant it, too.

Maybe he meant that the power of positive thinking can cause women to self-abort?

Maybe he should talk to some women who have actually experienced the physical and mental trauma of such an event, and see what they have to say about his theory.

Akin could be the 51st vote that would give Republicans control of the Senate. He is from the western suburbs of St. Louis -- and the Michele Bachmann school of religiosity in politics. He was trained as a divinity student and later became an engineer. Politics, however, and the strong support of evangelical Christian conservatives in Missouri, have allowed him to take the national stage in a way that is not very flattering.

Akin showed us what prominent Republican strategist Craig Shirley said is true. Shirley said that the Republicans are becoming the party of “intoxication, intolerance and idiocy.” If top Republicans are saying that, just imagine what the Democrats might say.

And GOP vice presidential candidate Paul Ryan is closely allied with this guy. Their stances on most issues are very similar. Ryan and Akin both serve on the Ways and Means Committee, and have jointly sponsored legislation that would prohibit abortion, even in the case of forcible rape.

Yoder is from the western suburbs of Kansas City. He and a bunch of other freshmen Republican frat boy types went for a moonlight swim on a junket to the Sea of Galilee.

Yoder, the boldest of the apparently boozed-up bunch, actually stripped off all his clothes to skinny dip where Jesus so famously walked on water.

Alas, there are no calls from the national Republican leadership for his ouster. Why is that?

He demonstrated a different kind of stupidity than his cohort Akin. Akin’s mistake was to wade into the waters of a debate about abortion that Mitt Romney, Paul Ryan, Karl Rove and others want to avoid. Akin waded into the wrong waterway.

He would have been better off to dive headfirst into the Red Sea in his BVDs as part of a reality TV stunt. That would be forgivable, but blowing the cover of the anti-women agenda of the GOP, and potentially losing a chance to control the Senate as a result, is inexcusable.

Yoder, meanwhile, doesn’t even have a Democratic opponent. So he survives, while Akin is mortally wounded -- and a serious liability for Romney and Ryan.

Just when you think you’ve seen it all, Kansas and Missouri show us again what is really going on. Woe are we.

John T. Sullivan Jr. teaches at Missouri Southern State University and Pittsburg State University in Pittsburg, Kan. He lives the rest of the year in Saratoga Springs, N.Y. He is the former mayor of Oswego, N.Y., and former co-chairman of the New York Democratic Party. His email address is This column first appeared in the Albany Times Union.

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