For several weeks now, the GOP has had multiple opportunities to behave like a majority party. With midterm victory comes the burden of governing responsibly. So how’s that working out so far? For an informed opinion, let’s check in with Charlie Dent, a Pennsylvania Republican congressman:
“Week 1, we had the vote for the speaker. (House conservatives embarrassed John Boehner by revolting in vain.) Week 2, we debated deporting children. Week 3, we’re debating rape and incest. I just can’t wait for Week 4.”
True that, sir. Hell bent on alienating Hispanic voters even further – political suicide in a presidential election year – the new House GOP has already voted for a deportation measure. And last week, in a lengthy intramural imbroglio, it tried to outlaw abortions after 20 weeks of pregnancy – until a few female Republicans staged a successful revolt, pointing out that (a) it’s insensitive to require rape victims to bear their rapists’ children, and (b) the ongoing Republican obsession with rape turns off women voters. The same voters who have buried Republicans in every presidential election year since 1992.
And sorry, Charlie, Week 4 has already started.
In Iowa, at a so-called “Freedom Summit,” a calvalcade of prospective presidential candidates competed to kiss the ring of Republican congressman Steve King, the anti-immigrant extremist best known (among all his remarks) for characterizing young immigrants as drug mules with “calves the size of cantaloupes.” Meanwhile, at an invitation-only confab in Palm Springs, a few more prospective candidates competed to kiss the rings of the Koch brothers. And meanwhile, down in Louisiana, prospective candidate Bobby Jindal prayed for America at a confab sponsored by the American Family Association, a right-wing group that seeks to spread The Word that gays are “in the clasp of Satan” and “should be disqualified from public office.”
So much pandermania packed into one weekend, it’s hard to know where to look first…
OK, Iowa. The very fact that Republican hopefuls actually pay obeisance to Steve King, of all people, is proof positive that the GOP hostage, more than ever, to its primitive wing. Last week alone, King took aim at one of Michelle Obama’s State of the Union guests, calling her a “deportable,” but no matter. Iowa goes first during the primary season, the caucus electorate is dominated by out-of-the-mainstream conservatives and evangelicals, and apparently those are sufficient reasons to pander. Even though Iowa’s last two winners – Mike Huckabee and Rick Santorum – flamed out on the campaign trail.
So what we saw, in Iowa, was the usual red meat on high flame – with various candidates attacking Chris Christie for physically touching Barack Obama after Sandy hit Jersey; with Donald Trump and his hair assailing the immigrants (“Half of them are criminals!”), with Jeb Bush’s potential rivals attacking Jeb Bush in absentia (because he supports national education standards), with Sarah Palin conducting yet another master class in free-associative incoherence. Plus, the hopefuls – including Christie, Santorum, Scott Walker, Ben Carson, Rick Perry, and Mike Huckabee – had to sit for a video and answer six queries, including: “Does erotic liberty trump religious liberty?” and “”What will you do about the impending Supreme Court marriage case if it goes against state constitutions?” (The sane answer to the latter question is, “Obey the law,” but, in the Iowa caucuses, that would probably land you in last place.)
Ted Cruz won the weekend prize for Most Energy, because he managed to indulge Steve King and fly to California for the Koch brothers. He was joined by Marco Rubio and Rand Paul, and as they auditioned in front of the fossil-fuel magnates for the big corporate money, rest assured that they never mentioned the latest study in the journal Nature, which reports that the rate of sea- level rise is 25 percent faster than in the previous best estimates; or the latest study in the journal Science, which reports that oceans are facing “a major extinction event”; or the latst NASA-NOAA study, which says that of the 10 warmest years since 1880, nine were in this young century. Blasphemies like that would clash with the Koch agenda, which a Koch associate describes as “free markets and advancing a free society.”
As for Bobby Jindal, he opted to stay home in Louisiana and curry favor with the same religious right group that partnered in 2011 with Rick Perry. And like Perry did, when the American Family Association staged its prayer confab in Texas, Jindal said it was time to save America with Christian prayer (“we need a spiritual revival to fix what ails our country”). He also signaled on TV yesterday that if the Supreme Court rules this year for marriage equality, he’d support a constitutional amendment canceling equality and codifying bigotry – because his religious faith compels him to impose his morals on others: “Marriage is between a man and a woman….My Christian faith teaches me that.”
Ah. If only Jindal had gone to Iowa, he could’ve answered that questionnaire in the Correct way. Because surely what Republicans need most right now is yet another tug to the intolerant right, ever farther from the American mainstream.
But hey, that’s what Steve King wants – and he vows to keep on tugging. Referring to the pandering candidates, he said: “We can shape them, we can hone them.” You do that, Steve. See where it puts the party in 2016.