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Todd Akin and the People He Represents

GPS Sattelite simulation; Special Relativity in action

Peterr, our resident expert on things Missouri, tells us that Todd Akin represents a significant slice of Missourians.

News flash to the rest of the nation: the 36% who supported Akin are neither surprised nor bothered by Akin’s comments. He may have said publicly what perhaps (for political reasons) ought to have been kept private, but make no mistake. The far right wing of Missouri’s republican party likes this guy and likes what he said. Period. If Akin were to quit the race because of pressure from Romney or Mitch McConnell, they’d be beyond angry. Akin is their guy, and they would not take kindly to outside agitators forcing him to quit.

Akin and people like him have always populated our state legislatures. They get elected from mostly rural districts because they are good Christians and successful businessfolk, and, by local standards, pretty decent people. In the old days they’d be on the Movie Commission or the agriculture committee. You wouldn’t see them on the budget committee, because they couldn’t do the arithmetic, and because the legislators making assignments wouldn’t put them in positions where they could screw things up.

In Tennessee, you could count on a bill from one of them changing the season for hunting raccoons, which totally wasn’t a shout-out to their racist constituents. Occasionally they did real damage. The Tennessee Bar Association backed a bill to increase the bankruptcy exemption for “tools of the trade” of the Debtor from $250 where it had been for decades. The bill was sailing through until floor debate, when some guy got up and said “I don’t see why these worthless bankrupts should keep anything at all. We should strip them to the bone.” Or something like that, it was hard to make out the exact words on the tape.

Next term, the statute came up again. I met with the staff of the sponsor at his request, and we worked up this response. “Well, say a mechanic goes bankrupt. Under the tools of the trade exemption, he gets to keep his tools. When the case is over, he goes back to work as a mechanic. If he loses his tools, he’s just going to be flipping hamburgers. How’s he going to take care of his family?” When the bill came up, the guy made a similar speech, but the sponsor was prepared and the bill passed.

I think of Todd Akin as that guy who objected, a guy whose rigid religious beliefs told him that bankruptcy was a moral matter, and that the guy and his family should be punished, just like in the Old Testament.

In the last few years, the leaders of both state and federal legislatures have lost the ability to keep these embarrassments out of the public eye. Now the Todd Akins and Michele Bachmans of the world sit on important committees in the House, and are taken seriously by Very Serious Journalists and Pundits when they run for a senatorial or presidential nomination.

All those Very Serious People and their corporate paymasters are shocked, shocked, when one of their pet crazies escapes from the backbenches and says in public things that ought to be left to quiet rooms with like-minded people. It’s funny to watch the soulless Karl Rove pull back millions from Akin, and to watch the play-acting of other Republican leaders as they attempt to distance themselves from a guy who says what Paul Ryan believes. Akin can successfully resist that kind of pressure, which leads to the problem. I certainly don’t want to be governed by Todd Akin and his supporters. And I really don’t want to be governed by Karl Rove and his patrons, like the Koch Brothers, Sheldon Adelson and the creepy Walton heirs.

I realize that Akin supporters don’t want to be governed by me or some hypothetical politician I support either. I don’t agree with their basic outlook on the universe: they know the Truth, and the Truth gives them the right to intrude on other people’s private lives as they see fit. They believe in a world where the GPS system operates without any role for special relativity, where giving money to rich people creates jobs, where dinosaurs … etc. They want to live without thinking about how things work, and still take the benefits that come from systems where people do think about how things work and how to make them better.

This is a large group of people. Now this group has seized the reins from the nutcase billionaires who thought they could ride that pony to even more money and power. They have become aware of their numbers and their ability to force their belief structures on formal systems of government and society. They have the power to enact their cruel fantasies about mechanics forced into bankruptcy by medical debt, and any woman on pretty much any issue, and to push us all into their definitely non-evolving world.

I don’t really think that Akin supporters are a long-term problem. We had an accommodation with them: they live their lives and we live ours. They preach and teach, and they work towards their version of the life well lived, and we do the same. Eventually we can get back to that deal. I hope.

It’s the billionaires who are the problem. They encourage the Akin supporters to reach out beyond social and moral issues, and to use their numbers to deny global warming, to support every war the rich want, and to support economic theories that are slowly killing our middle class. They aren’t content with having most of the money. They want all of the money. They want everyone to kowtow to them. The problem is the American Oligarchy. We can’t live decent lives under their control.

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