The Akin Factor: How Extremism and Egotism Has Crippled The Grand Old Party

Of all of the races yesterday, the most interesting for me was the Missouri Senate race. Senator Claire McCaskill was one of the least popular members of the Senate and a virtual guarantee for defeat until Rep. Todd Akin delivered victory from the jaws of defeat. Akin’s infamous rape remarks made him completely toxic to the entire nation and the GOP leadership quickly called for his withdrawal from the race. Akin treated the suggestion as absurd and allowed two deadlines to pass that would have allowed his party to repair the damage that he caused. At one time, politicians would put the interests of their party and their country before their own. However, we live in a different time and Akin is the face of the times: egotistical, selfish, and extremist. Linda MacMahon in Connecticut cut the same intensely egotistical image: spending $100 million of her own money in two unsuccessful efforts to make herself a Senator despite a fairly toxic personality and image associated with professional wrestling. Despite the sound defeat in the last election, MacMahon spent even more of her own money as the former chief executive of World Wrestling Entertainment to secure a second defeat. The question for the GOP is whether the disaster this election will cause anyone in the party to consider the eradication of moderates in their party and the loss of what we once called “Rockefeller Republicans.”

In the end, Akin appears to have been unable to even break 40 percent of the vote.

Had Akin withdrawn, the GOP would have likely secured the seat in Missouri. Not only Akin but the entire Tea Party worked last night to the great benefit for the Democrats — alienating moderate voters and securing wins across the country.

Akin will be left to history as a sad clownish figure who refused to accept the obvious reality that his own comments and extremist views destroyed any chance for election. MacMahon will fill another footnote on the amount of money someone is willing to spend in pursuit of egotism. Notably, MacMahon never appeared to have any particular vision or idea or cause — she just wanted to be a Senator and thought she had the money to guarantee it like some choreographed WWF bout. They are not the only such figures in this election.

The question is how we end up with such caricatured candidates in national elections and the overall low quality of politicians in this country. I have long blamed the monopoly of the two major parties on our politics. I still hold that view. However, Akin also represents a sad cultural reality today. It is not just the loss of moderation in politics but a loss of a sense of personal integrity and responsibility. Akin immediately blamed others and refused to stand aside for the benefit of his state and party. He is for me the face of what is wrong with our politics: an anti-intellectual extremist who ultimately shows little sense of duty or calling beyond himself.

Source: USA Today

268 thoughts on “The Akin Factor: How Extremism and Egotism Has Crippled The Grand Old Party”

  1. @Idealist: I was fighting for my own life in ’68, and guess you all are now.

    That is pretty cynical, to assume everybody is being selfish because you were.

    My personal way of life is not in danger from war, or Republicans, or Democrats, or Tea Partiers, or racists, or Objectivists, or anti-Muslim bigots, or Christian anti-science bigots. I will never need an abortion, I will never go to war, I will never attend a Mosque, I will never be a black kid that cannot get a job, I will never be an impressionable child in a classroom being fed a book of lies about Creationism by a State employee.

    Not every protest is about personal interest; people care about others as a matter of nature.

    I recommend the recent NovaScience Now episode, with David Pogue, What Are Animals Thinking?

    Primarily for the parts on empathy, sharing, aid to others in trouble, and a sense of fairness (and punishment or refusal to work under unfair treatment). In chimps, dogs, and even in lab rats.

    The urge to fair play, sharing, and mutual support is born in the typical human. So is the urge to fight against coerced exploitation. Ignoring the fact that both can exist together, and assuming self-interest is the only motive, denies reality and promotes strife by accusing others of acting on invented motives they never even considered.

    Either that or like the Aynish have done it robs the concept of “selfish interest” of all meaning and redefines it to mean anything you want, because even the altruistic acts of soldiers sacrificing their lives to save their unrelated fellow soldiers must be laughably defined as “selfish interest.”

    There is a difference. It was not immoral or cowardly to protest a senseless war that threatened to end or ruin the lives of tens of thousands of young male adults, even if you were one of the threatened. Would it be immoral or cowardly for slaves to speak out against slavery?

    Fighting against against unfair treatment and the selfish behavior of the rich and powerful that harms others is both moral and heroic, even if one is in the group being wronged.

  2. Betty Kath,

    It was a link to a Pulitzer Prize winning journalist whose article I want to point to.
    The PP people have fixed the link and it works now.

    Think back to Vietnam and our anti-war demos. Were we concerned about the Vietnamese as much as we said we were?
    Are we better people, more ethical, more empathetic, more righteous.

    If we were, would we not be out in front demonstrating in masses today.

    Read the story above, I recommend it.

    Am I holier than others—nah, just as I am. I was fighiing for my own life in ’68, and guess you all are now.

  3. 707, thanks for the add’l info on the photographer. I’ll check it out when I think I can take more of the gruesome details of war. The hawks need to see these photos of the “terrorists” they kill.

  4. There is precedent for communities creating their own currencies. Ithaca dollars is one I have used. I don’t remember the ins and outs but the local retailers agreed to allow Ithaca dollars to be used for some percentage of the bill, the balance in US dollars. It helps to keep the money circulating w/in the community. I think there was another created in Park Slope, Brooklyn.

  5. Betty Kath,

    You stopped me too, or rather the picture and the words following it. I tried to pull out a link to an article called:

    “March 31, 2003 A Boy Who Was ‘Like a Flower’

    but it is missing from the Pulitzer Prize archive.

    The other articles in this prize winning series, published by WAPO are here:

    And seem to be accessible.

    It is another war, Iraq, but the “same” children, killed randomly and needlessly.

    Whatever war it is, whatever weapon was used, whatever President who authorized it, it is ultimately our responsibility and our taxes that take their lives.

    I hope you agree.

    The articles were written by Anthony Shadid, who died on the way back to Turkey from Syria this last spring, He worked then for the NYTimes. Personally I think he was assassinated. His own story is very interesting. But that is another one for another time.

    Thank you for the posting of the link.

  6. @Shano: I suppose the poor and the middle class must just drop out of the fake economy and create their own money for goods & services.

    Unfortunately the value of money requires the enforcement of the government…

    I haven’t thought about that before, but my first idea for a pragmatic approach is you MIGHT be able to start something like that using Silver as a medium of exchange. It tracks inflation really well, it does not have the emotional baggage (or fluctuations) of Gold, and you could use old (non-rare) dimes and quarters, and even manufacture your own silver “tokens” for trade, of specific weights printed on them. 1 gram, 5 grams, etc.

    I am not sure what you hope to accomplish with a separate money like that; but a silver-based money is one realistic way to implement it and avoid the issues of forgery and trust.

  7. I love paying 30% more for gas when some hedge fund trader gets coked up and gambles all night instead of hiring a hooker like most of his buddies.

  8. While they gamble to raise and lower our VERY REAL costs of necessities, maybe creating something like bitcom or precious metals trading will become the equalizer.

  9. I suppose the poor and the middle class must just drop out of the fake economy and create their own money for goods & services. Because when we allow our financial system to become a casino, only the gamblers will have a decent income until they crap out.

  10. @shano: What you say is accurate enough but it changes nothing; the wealthy are the ones with the cash (or equivalently that own the debt) and they are the ones that lose the most absolute value with inflation.

    The point of all those derivatives, credit default swaps (bets), and everything else is ultimately to do what banking was always intended to do, make money without working for it!

    That is the goal. It used to be accomplished by loaning money; a little up front expense in vetting the borrower would let a lender earn a decent percentage on money, pay depositors or investors a small but real (i.e. better than inflation) rate of return, and they did not have to do any actual labor to receive those profits on their money. Voila, free money, just like my wife get dozens of free roses every year for the small one-time cost of having planted some six inch starters.

    The problem is the technological revolution. The competition for free money will rightly reduce the rate of return to near zero, but with computers, various schemes can be hatched that make the returns match those of the good old days; when mortgage rates were 5% above the inflation rate. Regulation has failed to keep up with technology, and the result is a “free market” that has failures like any unregulated market. In essence, it has become a casino; with the likes of Goldman Sachs using the leverage they have to act as the House and always win (on average).

    I will leave them to it! As you note, they are mostly just redistributing their wealth among themselves, with some contributions from the suckers that think the game is straight, or are overcome by their greed for free money.

    I do think our government has failed us when they let that jousting and worldwide poker game impact the real world middle class. There was no need for that; it was the corruption of politicians by the rich that led to Clinton repealing Glass Steagal in the first place and causing the real estate bubble; it was more corruption of politicians that exempted “credit default swaps” from the rules governing insurance policies (which they are).

    But I will play poker, I shoot craps, I have bet a month’s salary on the roll of the dice. I do not really care how the rich choose to gamble with their money. Let them shift it around; inflation will take its bite anyway.

  11. @bettykath: RV w/ current electoral college is still a winner-take-all and a waste except for making people feel better.

    So is the Presidency or House Representative a winner-take-all race, if IRV is good for those it should be good for the State Electoral Vote as well.

    The advantage of IRV is freeing the voter to make a more nuanced vote than a single choice, even if the final result is a winner-take-all outcome. That is the point of IRV; to consider the nuances of “next most favorite.” If it did not change outcomes from the simple “most votes” process in winner-take-all elections, we would not even be discussing it.

  12. Tony, the wealthy are now investing in the shadow banking system: gambling on derivatives or commodities or making bets on shorts or going long on already established business interests. They are not spending into the real economy, and that is what is wrong. When Goldman Sachs can front run everyone else with the fastest computer and a SURE profit margin, why go make a risky investment in the real world? Corporations are sitting on trillions of dollars, and you know who has control of these dollars? Jamie Dimon, Blankfein, et al. And they are sucking their huge bonuses out of these dollars- I guess you think the bankers are going to spend into the economy at Tiffany or buy some overpriced real estate and hire people to shine their shoes- but are these jobs care-taking the rich really important in the big scheme of things? They produce nothing, it is simply maintenance.

  13. bettykath,

    I did not know NV has a “none of the above” option, but while that touches on the idea of a no confidence vote like Parliamentarians use, it’s not the full scope of the concept. See this:

    I’m thinking along the lines of vesting the power in the people to demand a national no confidence vote instead of leaving the motions to Congress (as they are our analog to Parliament).

  14. @Bettykath: You are right to be confused, because I was wrong. The algorithm I was thinking of for IRV did indeed keep a vector of votes, but it was not by candidates, but by possible combinations of votes.

    If we have, say, 5 candidates to consider, then the possible orderings are factorial(5) = 120. The #1 rank could be any of the five, the #2 rank any of the remaining 4, etc = 5*4*3*2*1 = 120. That obviously increases fast, but even factorial(10)=3,628,800 is not too much to handle for a typical laptop.

    The number does not increase much if we allow for partial rankings; e.g. a voter has 5 choices but leaves 2 blank. (Typically a 72% increase in the number of combinations; so 6.2 million with ten choices; 205 possibilities with 5 choices.)

    Since this is every possible combination of votes, with five choices we can keep track of just 205 totals, not every single ballot. Every single ballot must add in to one and only one of those totals.

    Thus, if our candidates are named ABCDE, and we want to know how many votes “C” received, we just add up all the totals that are labeled Cxxxx, where xxxx is one of the 24 possible combinations of ABDE.

    If “C” loses the first round, then we want to distribute his votes to ABDE, and we do that by looking at those same 24 possible combinations. Of the four possible candidates (ABDE) each will get 6 of the totals, and that will be true for distributing his 2nd place votes, 3rd place votes, etc.

    I think it should be clear that anything you can do with all the ballots can be done with these 205 totals equally well; there is no information lost between keeping a million ballots and keeping these 205 totals when each ballot must increment one and only one of the totals.

    I misremembered the algorithm, but the result remains true; we do not have to retain all of the ballots. Just a vector of totals.

  15. Gene, None of the Above is an option in Nevada and would be welcome by many but not the pols who would be cut out with such a no confidence vote.

    IRV is a good option, but as you point out, there are a number of things that need to be sorted out. This can be done if there is enough of a will to do so. Tony has suggested a method (which I don’t understand yet) for addressing one of my concerns. I don’t think any one person knows how to do it but many people working together in good faith could address all the issues. IRV is used in some places for municipal votes.

    Another option is Condorcet where the preferential ballot is used but then all candidates are “run” against each other looking for the candidate with the most support. In an extreme example, 5 candidates running,1 of them gets a good share of the 1st place vote while the 5th candidate gets only some 1st place votes but lots and lots of 2nd place votes. If the first candidate didn’t get many second place votes, the 5th candidate would win. Instead of looking for a first past the post winner, the object is to find the candidate that most people find acceptable.

  16. TonyC,

    Thanks for expanding my understanding of inflation as to who gains and who loses, and why.

    Sometime I’ll tell the story of here when getting in debt to buy housing was the fastest and easiest way to amass a nice fortune.

  17. Now we have participated in our democratic process as each of us have felt inclined. What resolutions do we need to start implementing now to effect the future course of the nation, or at least keep our spirits up while we fight.

    Other’s here make compelling cases that true democracy or even true Presidential power is neither one achieveable.
    Obama was elected with the caveat that he not attack former office holders or torture users, that say some here.

    Similarly it is said that Congress is owned by it’s campaign money providers.

    And such lists are long and depressing.

    But let us try to do better than those who lived through the decades before us in the 60’s, 70’s, etc.

    We have charged up our morale and emotions to do our thing.
    So what do we do now? Is there more that we could do in our small way?

    Is your district congressman your pressure point? Is supporting or giving hell to Obama your best move? He needs both as he admitted, “force me” was his comment (loaned from FDR) it is said. And we know what the battlefield looks like now, the issues, the forces arrayed in opposition.

    But it is a time of fluidity which may help make the “public effect” have more impact than later when lines are drawn and trenches dug.

    So, you who are familiar with the system, what/how should we do next? And what signals are coming from the Dem party? Or are there no signals, meaning that having cast our ballots they will return to running things as they wish?

    Do we watch more anxiously for every day that passes, keeping one eye on our anchoring and one on who will emerge in 2016? How are you gonna use the next 4 years.
    We have seldom an occasion that we have now. Obviously it would seem the right time is now, more than ever for the disappointed followers of Obama. Those must make our voices heard. use the channels and find new ones.

    Do we change the laws which took negotiation out of the hands of unions? Do we tax the rich? Defemd Social Security, Medicare, Medicaid? What are the measures that are reachable and you support?

  18. @Idealist: Inflation is essentially an asset tax on the rich. Instead of thinking of inflation, I prefer to think of typical hours of work, which is what “inflation” is supposed to measure: How many hours must the typical person (median wage person) work in order to acquire an item?

    Our work translates into “spendable dollars,” by which I mean dollars after payroll deductions and other mandatory taxes, fees and insurance payments. But I believe it is useful to translate the spendable dollars back into typical work hours, in order to understand the role of inflation.

    For example, debt is measured in dollars, and remains fixed. But when money is inflated the typical wage keeps apace (with some lag), and that means the typical person is getting more dollars per work hour. But the debt measured in dollars does not change, so the number of typical work hours required to pay off the debt has decreased. 5% inflation means 5% less work to do.

    Who loses in that scenario? The person that “owns” the debt loses; whoever is the beneficiary of the typical person paying back a loan.

    Who “owns” debt? People with excess cash assets do; those are the people with savings and investments that they can loan out, eventually for mortgages, cars, boats, land, entertainment systems, furniture, and anything else that can be put on a credit card. They also own the debt of companies borrowing for expansion, equipment and so forth.

    So the people that own the most debt are the people with the most excess cash assets, also known as “the wealthy.” They hate inflation, because it makes their cash assets worth less in terms of buying power, which is properly measured in typical work hours.

    Now a rich person does not HAVE to keep their cash in the relatively safe environment of savings, bonds, or loans whose value declines with inflation, they can take risks with their money, and buy actual physical assets that have value and are likely to keep pace with inflation (like land, buildings, gold, other precious metals, jewels, and minerals) or they can invest in businesses that need to spend the money. But all of those are either static (i.e. not increasing in terms of typical work hours) and / or risky. It would be better for the rich if there were zero inflation and they could earn money by loaning it out.

    For them, the higher the inflation is, the greater the pressure to take other risks with their money, to try and make it earn something instead of just sitting there or evaporating. That is actually the better scenario for the typical person; because those risks taken by the wealthy translate into jobs and innovations (some of which go bust, but that means the money was spent and increased the economy).

    Because there is a lag in typical wages versus inflation, there is such a thing as a rate so high it hurts the typical person. Inflation can also hurt the poor, because the lag in the minimum wage and for those on fixed-dollar incomes is greater, or infinite. There would be great fairness in tying the minimum wage to the typical cost of food, shelter, and other necessities, and providing assistance to those on fixed incomes and unable to work for the same.

    However, it remains true that the greatest cost of inflation (in typical work hours) is lost by the wealthy. That is why they hate it, and that is why our corporate-owned politicians think it is such a problem. For the typical person with more debt than savings, inflation is a blessing that reduces the number of hours they will have to work to pay back their loans.

    Although I personally have far more savings than debt, I root for those in the opposite situation and I would prefer that if the government is politically blocked from just raising my taxes, they print money to help those in need anyway. If you cannot raise my income tax, then printing money will “tax” my savings instead. Either way, I will survive financially. Either way, I am left with more savings than those that have none. I think helping those in need is the right thing to do, and if the only political option is for the government to print money to meet the needs of those on Social Security, Medicare, Medicaid, and unemployment, so be it.

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