The Fruitcake Primary

One of the weirder things to develop in recent political seasons is how the Republican primary electorates have gotten so extreme they nominate total fruitcakes in a nontrivial number of cases, and choke away an otherwise-winnable race. Sahil Kapur has the latest in this process:

The latest is Tuesday’s Missouri primary victor, the six-term conservative Rep. Todd Akin, who defeated two more moderate Republicans better positioned to unseat the highly vulnerable Sen. Claire McCaskill (D-MO).

Akin’s past includes praising a militia group linked to anti-abortion extremism in the 1990s and voting against creating a sex-offender registry in 2005. Back in 1991, as a state legislator, Akin voted for an anti-marital-rape law, but only after questioning whether it might be misused “in a real messy divorce as a tool and a legal weapon to beat up on the husband,” according to a May 1 article that year in the St. Louis Post-Dispatch (via LexisNexis).

He still leads McCaskill narrowly, but Democrats believe that will change as voters get to know him. As a congressman, Akin has a storied history as one of few Republicans to vote against popular programs such as child nutrition and autism services.

Of course, Democrats are rooting for the fruitcake in upcoming primaries, which sparked a thought. We’re in the age of no-limit, anonymous money. What if some mischievous left-leaning zillionaire used a Spooky PAC to rain money on an unsuspecting hard-right primary challenger to try and get a bankshot win? Or on the other side, it’s hard to imagine anyone dredging up an actual leftist to run for any race, but with enough money, anything’s possible, I suppose.

I just wonder if the Republicans will every try to wise up and hit the brakes on this careening extremism. No sign of it so far.

Follow Ryan on Twitter and his website; follow the magazine @washmonthly.

Ryan Cooper

Ryan Cooper, a contributing editor of the Washington Monthly, is currently the Washington correspondent for The Week.