In politics, what you say is often less important than what’s not said. Participants in politics sometimes have a tendency to stay mum on what their true thoughts are. Call it discretion, call it being shifty, it’s an ingrained feature of the political landscape, and it’s a tactic that’s widely employed by members of both parties. When Congressman Todd Akin (R-MO), the senatorial candidate dropped his bombshell statements about ‘legitimate’ rape, he gave voice to a sentiment that, at least up until now, had remained relatively hidden. His comments put the issue front and center.
Both parties are coalitions, more or less. They’re not monolithic, and their members are not in uniform agreement on issues, although in the recent past they’ve become more so. Each segment has their particular pet issue, and those issues are packaged and balanced against one another into all of the various campaigns. On the state and local level, given the political geography of the various constituencies, it’s relatively straightforward. You play to your base, pay homage to the party leadership and toe the line. Policy, broadly speaking, is set on the national level, and it flows down from there. That’s been how it’s always worked, at least up until relatively recently in the Republican party.
Going into the election, the GOP effort was to maintain a laser-like focus on jobs and the economy. That particular bread and butter issue truly is the first amongst issues, all others being of secondary import. And in crafting the mantras of the campaign, the GOP, while working to end curb abortions, didn’t make much of it politically. Akin’s gaffe gave voice to that highly vocal segment of the Republican party who views abortion as being the central political issue of our time. Vice presidential candidate Congressman Paul Ryan (R-WI) who reiterated his belief that life begins at conception, and that there ought to be no exceptions, whatsoever, for abortions to take place.
Frankly speaking, though this is an issue that a very well organized and dedicated group of Americans care about passionately, it doesn’t play well with the national electorate. The reason that the GOP wasn’t bringing this up was because they knew that this was the case. But the Republican pro-lifers can’t bring themselves to stay mum on the issue, even though they’re well aware that, first, they’re in the minority on this issue and second, that it may well cost them election. The reason they weren’t bringing it up was because they knew what it would lead to, and if I were a Republican right now, I’d be trying very hard to duct tape any candidate’s mouth shut who started talking about abortion over jobs.