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Hanna Rosin: Saying crazy things can cost you an election

  • Slate
  • Published Friday, Nov. 9, 2012, at 12 a.m.

The only depressing part about Missouri Republican Todd Akin’s loss to Claire McCaskill Tuesday were the tepid emotions expressed in the exit polls. When asked about Akin’s infamous pontification about “legitimate rape” and the female body’s magical ability to shut down pregnancies, Missouri voters reported that “at the very least, they gave the comment some consideration in the voting booth.”

Some consideration. It’s hard to imagine what would have merited serious, weighty consideration for those voters.

A scientific theory about legitimate murder? A UFO sighting? (Actually, there was a second depressing thing. Akin seems to have either tied or won the white-woman vote, according to CNN. We can’t really explain how or why that happened.)

Nonetheless the voters of Missouri did the right thing, and re-elected McCaskill, and for that we are grateful. Younger, pro-choice and African-American women came out more strongly to vote for McCaskill than they did in 2006, and gave her a solid lead.

The lasting legacy of Akin and Indiana Republican Rick Mourdock, who also lost his race, is that together they seem to have outlined in bright pink where the crazy line is. It is clear now that you cannot say certain wacko things that you read about in a church bulletin or overheard a “professor” lecture in a Bible study group and expect the support of either your own party or the voters of your state. You can particularly not do these things in “mansplaining” mode, because women, who make up the majority of voters in many states, will make you pay.

The downside, of course, is that now the fringe has gotten a loud reminder that they must not air their fringe in public anymore, that they must keep those church bulletins tucked safely in the inner pocket of their khakis if they want to be elected, that they must, in order to survive, do the thing they hate the most: evolve.

Hanna Rosin is a senior editor at the Atlantic.

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