True Believers

By Chez Pazienza: Here’s the thing to keep in mind when you hear Mitt Romney trying to distance himself from Richard Mourdock and the comments the Republican Senate candidate made about abortion last night: He’s completely full of shit. The truth is that Romney and his hyper-Catholic running-mate, Paul Ryan, wholeheartedly believe that a baby that’s the product of rape is “something that God intended to happen,” or, as Sharron Angle once put it, much more indelicately, an opportunity to turn “a lemon situation into lemonade.” They believe it, they’re just more skilled and artful as politicians than a backwater yokel like Mourdock, therefore they know they can’t come right out and say it. To do so on the national stage would be political suicide.

Mourdock’s status as one of the new breed of unpolished, ideologically pure Tea Party darlings that have seized the imagination of the right over the past four years — make no mistake, in direct response to the election of Barack Obama — is really what’s at the center of this latest mess for the GOP. He’s like a child. He doesn’t know any better. He just blurts out what’s on his mind. Mourdock’s the picture of unfiltered conservative sincerity. And that’s what allowed him to wipe the floor with longtime Indiana Republican Senator Dick Lugar back in May of this year: the fact that he appeals to the batshit crazy beliefs and superstitions of the base and, upon winning, immediately throws down the eliminationist gauntlet by declaring that his idea of bipartisanship in Washington is “Democrats coming to the Republican point of view.” The no-longer-fringe right of today eats that crap up like soma.

The Romney campaign knows you can’t get away with that kind of thing, though — not when you’re looking to win a general election. Sure, it worked just fine to stoke the base’s lunatic prejudices, resentments, conspiracy theories and articles of faith during the primary season and when its candidate needed to prove his conservative bona fides. But as we witnessed, it was a losing tack when trying to appeal to a broader constituency — and so we get what we’ve seen lately, with Romney shaking the Etch-a-Sketch and redrawing himself as lovable old Moderate Mitt. It’s horseshit, but it’s worked to some extent because your average undecided voter isn’t the politically astute sage the media would like us all to believe, someone sitting in a study with a furrowed brow and a pipe in his mouth carefully poring over every detail of each candidate’s record in an effort to ensure that he doesn’t make the wrong decision, since the responsibility for the future of the country rests entirely on his shoulders. No, the average undecided voter is a fucking idiot; he’ll fall for whatever shiny object a political campaign holds up in front of him like a dog chasing after the bumper of every passing car that goes by. If you can’t decide between Barack Obama and Mitt Romney by this point, you should be banned from voting altogether.

Mourdock continues the proud religious right tradition of looking at women as little more than servile incubators. I don’t doubt that he truly does abhor rape — though he’s grotesquely misguided, he’s not a complete monster — but I also don’t doubt that he genuinely sees pregnancy resulting from rape as a silver lining, something the rape victim should revel in because God’s will was done and life came from something so tragic. It’s unreal that in the year 2012 there are people living in a country that’s ostensibly one of the most civilized on the planet attempting to control the lives of flesh and blood human beings by forcing them to submit to the supposed mandates of the mythical deity they worship to the exclusion of all other considerations. It’s fucking madness, but there’s little point arguing that with people who believe in magic; when you’re dealing with someone who considers blind faith to be as credible as proof, you should know going into it that you’re not going to be able to convince him of anything he doesn’t want to wholeheartedly believe.

Mitt Romney’s just like this and so is Paul Ryan. They’re True Believers, and in the end, if given free rein, those ass-backward beliefs would trump the right of women to do what they want with their bodies. True, they’re smarter and more savvy politicians than the Richard Mourdocks of the world and are thus willing to wear a mask of sensibility in the interest of self-preservation. But make no mistake: They’re as representative of the stunningly paleolithic worldview of modern conservatism as Mourdock, or Todd Akin, or Paul Broun. Pragmatically, they may know that pandering to the base is most important if they want to see themselves in the White House and buttressed by political capital from the right, but it’s not that much of a stretch for them since Romney, Ryan and their ilk really do subscribe to the “God said it, I believe it, that settles it,” ethos.

And that kind of thinking is dangerous as hell for women — and for the rest of us.

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