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Mike Huckabee: Objectively Pro-Rape

Posted by pocochina on December 2, 2009

This is a discussion of Gov. Huckabee’s pardons of convicted rapists. The entire post is under the cut, and contains a blanket trigger warning for discussions of sexual assault.

Mike Huckabee: Objectively Pro-Rape

What others have noticed about the three criminals pardoned by then-Gov. Huckabee is that they are all violent and scary and should have remained behind bars. This is all true. What I would like to examine, however, is the fact that the specific crime all have in common is violent stranger rape. Of Huckabee’s many pardons, there are three which are currently receiving some media attention. Dumond was convicted of the rape of a teenager.[1] Clemmons, recently shot and killed while under investigation for the murder of police officers, had five violent felony convictions, one of which was the rape of a child. Green was convicted for the rape and murder of a woman. In isolation, each of these cases could be viewed as a terrible mistake, but one made in the name of clemency; together, they show a pattern of terrible judgment. To the mainstream media analyzing this story, there’s a lot of scandal and only some worldview here. Among the mistakes I believe the mainstream media is making in this case is a racist disparity in the depictions of the offenders, mischaracterization of the place of Huckabee’s actions on the political spectrum, and a troubling tendency to miss the enormous role of rape culture in this story.

There’s a disquieting racial dynamic at play in the mainstream discussion of Huckabee’s pardoning folly. I didn’t know Dumond was white until I read a specific discussion of him over at Hullabaloo – but Salon is running a photo of Clemmons looking for all the world like the oft-imagined Scary Black Rapist.[2] Now, nobody should pretend that Clemmons was anyone other than who he was: to wit, a violent, rotten guy. But the disproportionate identification of black rapists as such, but a lack of such detailed information about white rapists, allows the mainstream public to continue to imagine black men as of peculiar danger to white women, rather than recognizing the reality, which is that rapists are exactly as ethnically diverse as the rest of society. Here’s what I want: widespread analysis of the Governor’s attitudes towards rape specifically, and of rape culture overall. Here’s what I do not want: a reiteration of tired racist myths about dangerous black men. Those myths are tools of racists and rapists, and when we propagate those myths, we strengthen those tools.

Politicians of all stripes, but particularly Republicans, like to portray themselves as Tough On Crime. It’s part of the authoritarian Daddy Will Protect You from the Bad Brown Men theory of governance. Huckabee doubtless trusts that his pardons show him to be a true Compassionate Conservative, a right-winger so principled he will make this concession to the left because it is What Jesus Would Do. It’s a standard-issue, if laughably dated, right-wing picture of liberals: that we believe prisons should be closed and their violent inhabitants released immediately to open joint venture meth lab/day care centers. It’s the same worldview of criminal justice that misconstrues an insistence on adherence to the Constitution as support for the actions of a given defendant. In this case, though, it couldn’t be farther from the truth. The widespread enforcement of laws against rape is a modern, progressive phenomenon, spearheaded by the heavily left-leaning feminist movement. Refusal to enforce those laws is a reactionary act, not a moderate, conciliatory one. For all his lauded “reasonable conservatism,” Huckabee’s actions and justification are of a decidedly right wing bent, as is the way that the totally predictable recidivism of these criminals will be used by the anti-due-process faction on the right to show that the Horrible Liberal Way of just letting dangerous people go doesn’t work.

It’s true that Huckabee shows a decided hostility towards the Constitution, and specifically the religious freedom clause of the First Amendment. The involvement of right-wing clergy in the Huckster’s gubernatorial decision-making is a disturbing and clearly dangerous part of this trend. But I have less of a problem than others in this regard – clergy both left and right wing are an important part of the lives of many prisoners, especially those on death row, so they may be the best or only advocates for many prisoners. For example, when clergy wish to join us in our condemnation of the death penalty (which I am not alone in presuming Our Brutally Executed Savior would oppose,) for religious reasons, they are more than welcome. I applaud news outlets like the Times and Salon for taking the opportunity to remind us of Huckabee’s dangerously theocratic tendencies, but I am not convinced that they are the most important issue here.

Huckabee’s pardons, and the right-wing religious advocacy for these particular criminals, reflect a very dangerous expression of rape culture. They do not make sense if you acknowledge that rape is a violent crime, causes great pain to its victims and great damage to society, and is freely chosen by legally sane[3] perpetrators to inflict on victims. They do make sense if you believe a combination of any of the following: (1) that rape is no big deal; (2) that women’s victimization is less likely than men’s victimization to deserve punishment; (3) rape is an inevitable, even necessary, aspect of society, and those who perform it should not be punished for acting on their natural male urges or doing their social duty. All of these beliefs are integral to the promotion of rape culture.

It’s worth remembering that the victims of all of these rapes are described almost uniformly in the news as “girls.” While this may be a part of the overall cultural infantilization of women, the facts I’ve seen in the cases indicate that the victims in these cases were frequently in fact children, likely to be a person young enough that most of us (not all of us; I’m looking at you, Polanski-supporting child rape apologists) recognize she couldn’t have been asking for it. And, perhaps a little surprisingly, Huckabee’s justifications of his totally inexcusable decision do seem to stay away from victim-blaming. Yet he still chose to pardon the rapists. Either the victim doesn’t matter, the crime doesn’t matter, or the pain and suffering of the victims was either to be desired or to be excused. Now, whether or not it was these graphic stories of female horror which gripped the attention of Huckabee in these cases is tough to tell. Violent criminals, when they are convicted, tend to receive longer sentences than non-violent criminals,[4] and if you’re going to give a pardon or sentence reduction that’s going to make a difference in someone’s life, you’ll go for someone with a long sentence. It’s tough for me to speak to Huckabee’s record on pardoning acquaintance and intimate partner rapists, given the appallingly low conviction record for such crimes. But in these cases, his decisions drew upon and reinforced rape culture. Justice is considered served by less time for female victims. Because rape is overrated in its importance. Because women are overrated in our importance. Because victims should stop expecting any better. Women are bit players in Huckabee’s imagined dramas of redemption, sacrificial lambs for his God complex, anything but people deeply harmed by rape and rape culture.

I’ve pointed out that these pardons are not indicative of any moderate or liberal strain of Huckabee’s politics, but they are an expression of his views on gender politics, and in particular his views on women’s rights. Nowhere is the fetishization of female suffering more popular than in the winger anti-choice movement, and it’s here that we can see the truly disturbing thought pattern made manifest in Huckabee’s terrible decisions. Rape, like unwanted or dangerous pregnancy, is just something that mysteriously happens to women. It can’t be stopped; resistance is futile. Interference in the Way It Is is the wicked work of Big Government, and not an increase in liberty and justice for all. It’s God’s will, and therefore mitigating the damage is a repudiation of His divine plan. There’s a long history of treating avoidable female suffering as holy and redemptive. Even now, it’s why so many people, sickeningly, grapple with any feelings at all besides compassion towards young rape victims endangered by their pregnancies. It’s the logical extension of rape culture’s view of women’s role: get fucked, but don’t enjoy it; attempt to procreate, so you can be a mother; die conveniently before you have an opportunity to enjoy some recovery and self-actualization. Huckabee would rather see the thousands of deaths per year that occur due to lack of health insurance than support, even tacitly, even as the lesser of two evils or even odds on a devil’s dilemma, the option for women to have financial resources to control or save our own lives. He is more sympathetic to the suffering of a rapist than of the rapist’s past and future victims. I’m sure Huckabee would resent those of us who realize the connection of his pro-rapist decisions to his anti-choice policies; indeed, I am sure he closes his eyes to it. But it is inextricably there.

I realize I’m committing the cardinal sin of Hurting the Pro-Lifer’s Feelings here. I. Do. Not. Care. This is a worldview which is all about punishing women instead of supporting our rights to determine the course of our lives. This is about the fear of sex, and the utter hatred of women as the personification of sex. This is about the seizure of women’s bodies by the most violent means possible in forcible sex and forcible birth. This is about rape. This is about choice. This is about women’s lives. Stop telling us to pretend they are silent and barren planets wafting through different solar systems when they are here and they are real and they mean our bodies and our lives.


[1] It’s important to analyze Huckabee’s obsequious feeding of the far right’s Clinton Derangement Syndrome in the case of DuMond. Hey, look, Tristero at Hullabalo did that!

[2] Normally, I would just say “imagined,” referring to the imagined prevalence of such a specter, but right now I’m referring to the very real case of Clemmons.

[3] No, I do not believe the mentally ill are more likely to rape than anyone else; however, when a mentally ill person does commit a crime, it is a different legal (and, to a lesser extent, social) issue.

[4] Anyone familiar with the stats on Huckabee’s pardons of nonviolent drug users? Bueller? Bueller?

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One Response to “Mike Huckabee: Objectively Pro-Rape”

  1. […] is some kind of failsafe against physical and sexual mistreatment is simply playing at ignorance.  People who argue against reproductive autonomy for girls are, as a general rule, not arguing against….  And no reporting – to parents or the government – will necessarily result in […]

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