I will add little to the discussion of Todd Akin's "legitimate rape" remark except to say that this is the inevitable result of the anti-abortion movement's chronic failure to resolve its ongoing quandary on pregnancies that result from rape. Usually politicians and candidates who subscribe to it have either recognized the political palatability of allowing a rape-and-incest exception, or in some cases espousing (as most famously the late Henry Hyde, father of the Hyde Amendment, did) the Catholic Church's position that it is unacceptable since the unborn child is technically paying for the sins of its father with its life (which is, I suppose, defensible as morally consistent, at the price of making the person espousing it look heartless unless they simultaneously advocate for automatically denying paternity to any man convicted of a rape in such a situation, which I do not recall ever hearing any do). But instead, Akin chose the weaselly middle position of trying to pretend that there's science out there suggesting that pregnancies rarely result from rape. And paid the price he deserved to pay.
I have to admit I'm familiar enough with this kind of logic from anti-abortion politicians that I found his way of putting it to be so mild compared to what he could have said and what others did as to be almost forgivable.
But I have been surprised at the vehemence of the Republican establishment's effort to get him to quit. They didn't even bother to wait for his effort at damage control to start piling on. Mitch McConnell's "I believe he should take time with his family to consider whether this statement will prevent him from effectively representing our party in this critical election" came off as rather civil compared to his colleague John Cornyn's "over the next twenty-four hours, Congressman Akin should carefully consider what is best for him, his family, the Republican Party, and the values that he cares about and has fought for throughout his career in public service." (He should have just said what he was clearly thinking "The question you've got to be asking yourself right now is ... do I feel lucky? Well, do ya, punk?") Reince Preibus publicly disinvited him to the convention. And so forth.
It's not hard to see that Republicans want him out not so much because they're revulsed at his remarks (some undoubtedly are, but under different circumstances they'd let it pass) but because, as noted here on Kos, he's not only dropped his chances of winning to less than zero, but quite probably tanked any chance Republicans have of taking the Senate.
However, this alone cannot explain why McConnell, Cornyn and Priebus engaged in this vulgar display of power (and it's looking more like a vulgar display of impotence, as Akin has stayed in and indicated further that he will continue to do so, exposing McConnell and Cornyn's as toothless in the process). If that were their only goal, they would have handled this discreetly and offstage with minimal and vague public remarks until Akin called his press conference to announce he was backing out (and in any event that soft-power route would have been the more effective way to handle this).
No. This public shaming of Todd Akin is being done to show the Tea Party who was boss, is boss and will be boss no matter what.
As much as Republicans love the Tea Party and publicly embrace and heed it, we have to remember, as Cornyn, McConnell and Priebus certainly do, all the crappy candidates the teabaggers saddled them with last cycle. Some of them won on the strength of the wave, like Annemarie Buerkle, David Rivera and Allen West, but are expected to be swept out this year, to what will be the secret relief of the House GOP leadership, I'm sure.
However, we (and they) remember the losers the Tea Party championed in '10 far better. Names like Sharron Angle, Christine O'Donnell and Dan Maes (the latter being, IMO, the absolute worst candidate the Tea Party inflicted on the GOP that year ... yes, even worse than O'Donnell, who at least didn't pose any risk of costing the Republican Party its automatic ballot line).
After those debacles, I'm sure Republicans found them easy to explain away. Angle? Reid manipulated us into picking her, sure, but he's got a great turnout operation and the state is getting more Latino and bluer in the process, so he might have been able to beat another candidate. O'Donnell? Well, she upset one of the most moderate Republicans we had out there, so maybe it wasn't a surprise. Maes? He wouldn't have been there if Scott McInnis hadn't been caught plagiarizing Tough break.
But while Akin had the same "opponent manipulated our primary" going for him, he was far more credible as a candidate. He was not a total outsider to elective office, like O'Donnell or a not-ready-for-prime-timer like Angle or Maes. His career as a six-term state legislator, followed by five in Congress, would be ideal for any candidate. He started early, built an organization, and succeeded in upending the state GOP favorite, Sarah Steelman (who even Sarah Palin endorsed).
Todd Akin's candidacy wasn't just another of the many GOP primary upsets this year. He represents the future of the Republican Party in so much of the nation—and this scares the shit out of McConnell, Cornyn, Priebus and their corporate masters. Not so much in his ideology, but in that the rank-and-file picked him. See, they didn't get the memo that "anti-establishment" was code for "anti-Democrat." Apparently the teabaggers think it applies to Republicans as well (ask Cliff Stearns).
This will not do.
Akin is dangerous to them because he's too experienced a politician to founder like some of the recent House freshmen have (recent events notwithstanding) and wouldn't owe them his job, not in the way McConnell cunningly got Rand Paul to despite a similar primary upset. He might just become a Senate version of Justin Amash if he gets elected. And then there will be more in 2014 and 2016. And maybe Jim DeMint or someone else like him will decide Mitch McConnell shouldn't be Republican leader anymore. And Mitch don't want that.
Fortunately for them, Todd Akin quickly gave them an opportunity to not only prevent that but make an example of him. Behind all the mealy-mouthed grousing and thundered condemnations is the reminder to the Tea Party that they are and always will be the hired help in the Republican Party, and don't you forget that.