The U.S. election campaign that ended last night with President Barack Obama’s return to the White House will be remembered mostly for its outcome but also for some of the bizarre and nasty moments that occurred along the way.
None of those moments were more unsettling than the statements of four Republican candidates who found newly repellent ways to obscure the brutality of rape. It’s reassuring, then, to see that all four members of the so-called “rape apologist caucus” have lost their election campaigns. It’s also a good lesson about the fundamental commonsense of American voters. When faced with unacceptable positions, left or right, they turn down what is plainly wrong.
Observers of the American election were appalled when Todd Akin, a Republican representative in Missouri running for the U.S. Senate, claimed in August that, during a “legitimate rape, the female body has ways to try to shut that whole thing down.” This was a reproductive biology theory that had not been heard since the 12th century.
Then, a Republican Senate candidate in Pennsylvania named Tom Smith compared women who become pregnant after being raped with women who become pregnant out of wedlock. Then it came to light that Wisconsin Assemblyman Roger Rivard had once said his father warned him to be careful with women because, “some girls, they rape so easy. It may be rape the next morning.”
Being a Republican apologist for rape was already a troubling trend when, in the most recent and perhaps most appalling case, Richard Mourdock, a Tea Party-backed candidate running for the Senate in Indiana, said last month that if a raped woman becomes pregnant, it is “something that God intended to happen” and a “gift from God.”
All four men were swept aside when the ballots were cast last night. This is a welcome result, indeed, and a tribute to those American voters who turned away from some very ugly ideas.