(Pictured left to right – Mourdock with Mitt Romney – Summer 2012)
“You know, this is that issue that every candidate for federal or even state office faces. And I have to certainly stand for life. I know that there are some who disagree, and I respect their point of view. But I believe that life begins at conception. The only exception I have to have on abortion is in that case — of the life of the mother. I struggled with it myself for a long time, but I came to realize life is that gift from God. And I think even when life begins in that horrible situation of rape, that it is something that God intended to happen.”
– Richard Mourdock, Indiana Senate Candidate (R)
When controversy surrounding awkward abortion comments made by Republican senate candidates Richard Mourdock and Todd Akin first came to my attention, I was a libertarian-leaning conservative activist at Arizona State University.
It was the height of the 2012 election season.
Like many politically active peers at the time, I frequently worked campaign and consultant gigs throughout the Phoenix Valley that Fall. My exposure to the inner workings of both the Romney campaign, the AZ GOP and College Republican drama quickly warmed me up to more libertarian ideas I had been gravitating toward since late 2008. Needless to say, the next political spin cycle four years later made me an enthusiastic convert to Gary Johnson’s third party candidacy. Despite the former governor’s more ‘liberal’ views on nuclear disarmament and gay marriage I hadn’t yet fully come around on, I proudly checked off my mail-in Washington ballot, both for Gary and cannabis legalization, in front of a packed debauchery filled Halloween house party I am sure Wiz Khalifa and ‘dem boyz would’ve approved of!*!
The day after Election Day, it was during my last drive home from Mesa’s makeshift FreedomWorks office* that I first heard former actor, libertarian talk show host, and former Republican candidate for congress, Michael Savage’s TRN replacement Jerry Doyle, cover his three hour segment on the results of the night before.
Although he explained how he hesitantly voted Romney over Obama out of some rationale that Mitt would’ve enslaved him less, Doyle spent a great deal of air time discussing the flaws of the GOP. He argued the party had come across as too white, narrow minded, and too uptight to too many voters; referencing Todd Akin and Richard Mourdock’s abortion comments specifically.
Along with the rest of the segment’s scope that covered everything from big government Republican welfare to their growing warfare state, the libertarian great to talk radio was also right on Richard Mourdock.
The Indiana politician only lost by a very narrow margin to both his Democrat and Libertarian Party (L.P.) opponents. In fact, the race for Dick Lugar’s former senate seat was not the only one arguably decided by a libertarian-minded electorate.
Consider the breakdown of multiple contests for national office that Fall. You will notice in the chart below that the L.P. candidates, in an unusually high number of cases, won a higher percentage of the vote total than was the margin of victory for the Republicans’ Democrat opponents. (Kudos to DailyKos)
As libertarian icon Matt Welch has taken note of through his Reason Mag publication, some 97% of support for Richard Mourdock’s L.P. challenger, Andrew Horning, would have had to instead been earned by Mourdock.
That outcome was highly unlikely. But had the Republican pick been more liberty-minded and fiscally conservative, both to Hoosiers who stayed home in 2012 and also to those drawn to Horning’s campaign, the Indiana senate seat would have easily stayed Red, and the party would have been one step closer to some semblance of a majority in the senate.
To both a slim majority of Mourdock’s electorate though, and also to an increasing national backlash against Tea Party candidates who were perceived as too theocratic, it didn’t matter whether the Indiana state treasurer’s now infamous electoral episode was completely crystal clear or not. What really should have been a point of soul searching for the GOP’s establishment and conservative wings following Election Day 2012 was how well their candidates were able to connect with disenfranchised voters of all stripes. Voters like me who deserted the sinking ship of Team Romney in droves would have been prime examples of a disinterested former grassroots the party hierarchy should have reached out to reconnect with.
But those personally impacted by divisive social policy should have been priority number one in wake of 2012.
There was a painfully obvious public notion at the time that Republicans were waging a ‘war against women.’ Public statements by Republican politicians on bodily ‘rape mechanisms,’ and how ‘God wanted it to happen’ didn’t help that image go away.
Those comments, however taken out of context they could have possibly been, were fodder for liberal trolls out to get those who said them. They only served to reinforce the idea of a war on women once the sound bites had gained enough traction.
If movement conservatives continue to run on a small government, individual liberty platform for elected office, they need to stay consistent. They will continue to get called out as hypocrites if they appear to want that same, burdensome, bureaucratic behemoth they typically claim to loath, inside a woman’s body making healthcare decisions between life and death. It applies both for the life of the mother and of the unborn fetus, as government entrenchment in healthcare policy really protects neither one of them.
Meanwhile, an amnesiac mass media that feeds off remarks like Richard Murdock’s continue to fog the abortion debate, and muddle any common ground that might exist between either the narrowly defined pro-life or pro-choice positions. As more and more people become apathetic to partisan politics, the result is electoral blowback for both.
*To this day, my short time with FreedomWorks was the cleanest major campaign I’ve ever had the pleasure to work on – a real outlier from the rest of my experiences I had in the political world that Fall. The people were nothing but a pleasure to work with, and they’ve all accomplished great things in advancement of liberty since.