Remember Bloom County by Berkeley Breathed? I read it religiously in college.
The strip’s resident nerd-genius, Oliver Wendell Jones, had a habit of hacking into mainframe computers at large governmental or business entities. Matthew Broderick had nothing on this kid. In one series, Oliver hacked into the New York Times to impress his friend Milo Bloom, 10-year old ace reporter of the Bloom County Picayune. They found an article entitled “Reagan Calls Women ‘America’s Most Valuable Resource.” Milo thought the headline too wordy and fixed it up a bit, thus causing the newspaper to print a front page story entitled “Reagan Calls Women ‘America’s Little Dumplins’ (sic). Outrage ensued. In the next day’s strip, Oliver sat in front of the TV, in his pirate hacker outfit, and watched press coverage of angry women pelting the White House with a million dumplings and throwing DC into chaos. Oliver was quite in awe of himself.
One of the enduring things about “Bloom County” for me was the way it cut to the chase by going way over the top. There is little chance that the New York Times would ever get hacked like that, and less chance that such a hack would ever reach the printing room before getting noticed. But one could imagine, in an unguarded, “we begin bombing in five minutes” moment, that President Reagan might have described women as America’s Little Dumplings. All good satire has that type of truth at its core. I’m sure President Reagan found little amusing about Bloom County. The Katzenjammer Kids were probably more his speed.
Ah, but when the crazies run rampant, out goes satire. Today, we find ourselves confronted with the continued antics of Mr. Todd Akin, Republican candidate for the US Senate from the great state of Missouri. He is truly a cartoon caricature come to life. His first and most famous gaff was the whole magical lady parts thing, when he opined that women could prevent the sperm of a rapist from impregnating them. They can just “shut that whole thing down,” he explained. He back-peddled quickly, after receiving much ridicule, though his patronizing attitude towards women continues in his heart and soul. And once again, he soul has spoken.
After his first debate with his opponent, incumbent Senator Clare McCaskill, he complained that she attacked him like a “wildcat” and that she just wasn’t very “ladylike” like she had been six years prior during her first run for the Senate. Shades of Reagan and his “Little Dumplings” comment, only this time the story takes place on the front page and not the comic page. Once people picked their jaws up from off the ground, most quickly began to give him grief over his remarks. This time, though, he’s refusing to apologize and is in fact doubling down. In a bizarre quote, that even Milo Bloom could not have concocted, Mr. Akin explained,
“We’ve got a couple words in the English language, one is a gentleman and a lady,” Akin said. “I think those are pretty self-explanatory terms, and I was using them just as the English language uses those terms. So, you know, it seems that some people want to take offense at words. It seems to me the offensive thing is the voting record that’s destructive to the people of our state.”
(As quoted by Salon.com )
Never mind satire. I cannot for the life of me wrap my head around this quote, no matter how hard I parse it, diagram it, slice it, or dice it. It simply makes no sense at all.
It is, however, a perfect example of flailing desperation. Mr. Akin represents social conservatism and social conservatism is losing. The barefoot and pregnant thing will never return, and no amount of wishing will bring it back, a reality many social conservatives can’t handle. Gay folks are holding hands in public, living together openly, dating openly, having a life openly, even getting married and having kids openly, and that’s not going away either. The world has moved on. That they can’t is on them. With both history and society at large against them, they have only their increasingly outrageous statements to buttress their already flimsy battlements. So the more desperate they get, the more they’ll flail. And they more they flail, the more they’ll fail. This is the predicament Mr. Akin finds himself in.
Republican politicians, from Mitt Romney on down, greatly distanced themselves from Akin after his rape gaff. They begged him to drop out of the race. He refused and now they are stuck with him. So, one by one, Republican politicians who at first scorned him are all getting back in line to support him. That doesn’t make them look good at all. First, they look hypocritical. By supporting a man they had harshly condemned, and who still clearly harbors ancient prejudices against women, their earlier outrage about his rape comments now rings hollow. Indeed, their switcheroo only strengthens the narrative that they share his views privately. Second, supporting someone who harbors such antiquated ideas about half the population only further places the Republican Party as a whole that much closer to the dustbin of history. Even the Tories in the UK support gay rights these days (even if there is some internal conflict over gay marriage), something they did not do as recently as the Thatcher era just a generation ago. Baroness Thatcher herself is still squeamish about gay rights — she never apologized for the anti-gay Section 28 she foisted on her country in 1988 — but her party’s evolution on social issues will likely keep them around for quite a bit longer.
Todd Akin, on the other hand, represents the past, as this latest episode demonstrates. He belongs on the comic page as a caricature, not the front page as a serious candidate for the US Senate in the 21st century. His quote about his use of “ladylike” in relation to his opponent only reinforces why. It says nothing, means nothing, and is nothing. And the man who uttered it has absolutely nothing to offer.
© 2012, gar. All rights reserved.