American elections, especially general elections, are strange affairs rife with money, lies, special interests’ influence, misinformation, and a display of extreme positions. That is the nature of Republican politics leading up to the convention to nominate a candidate to challenge President Obama for the White House. Although tomorrow’s Iowa caucuses mark the first electoral event of the 2012 election, it feels as though Republicans seeking the nomination for the presidency have been campaigning for an eternity; not because there were profound revelations from the candidates, but because the level of insanity and extremism steadily increased making one wonder what is so important about Iowa.
Pollsters readily admit that predicting which Republican candidate has the most support in Iowa is difficult, and indeed, nearly all of the candidates held the top spot at one point depending on who made the most egregious gaffe during the many Republican debates. This year, it is apparent Republicans are jockeying to outdo each others’ extreme positions to earn a victory in Iowa even though winning there is not a guarantee to go on and win the nomination. If taking radical positions is necessary to win the Iowa caucuses, then the contest will be a draw because each candidate has made some extreme overture to appeal to caucus delegates.
Most of the extreme positions were made during the plethora of Republican debates regardless of who sponsored them. Besides the debates, there were various forums where candidates made their cases before, for example, special interest groups like the Thanksgiving Family Forum in Des Moines, Iowa sponsored by Bob Vander Plaats, head of the controversial conservative group Family Leader. As Iowa caucuses drew nearer, whether at debates or Christian family values forums, the candidates made more outrageous statements of policy leading one to believe that Iowa delegates are as crazy as the Republicans seeking their votes.
It is challenging to determine which candidate is most extreme, but suffice it to say that each candidate took their opponents most radical position and took it two steps farther. What is discouraging is that the candidates were not only pandering to Iowa voters; they all were looking forward to the subsequent state’s primaries giving Americans a glimpse of the tenor of the 2012 campaign for the presidency on the Republican side. First, it is noteworthy that two candidates that appeared most reasonable on first glance changed their positions often to pander to the neo-conservative, evangelical voters in Iowa and Deep South states. Willard Romney and Jon Huntsman distinguished themselves as the ultimate flip-floppers and because they did not have integrity or conviction in their positions, voters should reject them as dangerous for lacking intestinal fortitude to hold fast to their beliefs. A candidate who changes their position on important issues to meet, what they perceive as, the voters’ expectations, does not warrant primary support, much less a vote in an election.
The rest of the Republicans did not have problems maintaining integrity of their beliefs, but instead of staking out a position and holding fast; they waited to hear their opponents’ position and exceeded the level of severity as if voters in Iowa were searching for the most radical candidate to support. For example, Rick Perry proffered his plan of eliminating 3 departments of government only to be bested by Ron Paul who promised to eliminate 5 departments such as Energy, Commerce, Housing and Urban Development, Interior, and Education.
The evangelical wing of the Republican candidates all spoke out against abortion and in support of family values, but Michele Bachmann took it to the extreme by asserting that President Obama is “putting abortion pills for young minors, girls as young as 8 years of age or 11 years of age, on the bubblegum aisle.” For the record, the president overrode an FDA recommendation to make emergency over the counter contraception available for all ages and the result was angering women’s health advocates. Bachmann could not take a chance at not being the most extreme candidate with pro-life voters and acted accordingly. Rick Santorum had no compulsion to hold back and said he would, as president, talk about “the dangers of contraception in this country.”
Santorum promised to abolish the 9th Circuit Court for being a “pox on the Western part of the country,” and not to be outdone, Newt Gingrich promised to arrest judges who did not agree with him. Rick Perry joined that anti-judiciary frenzy and decided, if he was elected president, to unilaterally change the Constitution by not appointing judges for life. It is worth watching closely the candidates’ statements as the state primaries approach to see which candidate promises to abolish the judicial branch of government altogether to appear most extreme with neo-conservative voters.
Romney has emerged as the most extreme in many ways and unfortunately, he is not just pandering to Iowa voters; he is expressing views held by hard-right conservatives who yearn for a return to the Bush administration in 2012. Romney said Dick Cheney was a man to be admired and was the “kind of person I’d like to have. A person of wisdom and judgment.” Willard also defended banks and suggested not trying “to stop the foreclosure process,” and that instead, “let it run its course and hit the bottom.” Romney also told Iowa voters that “corporations are people” referencing the despicable Citizens United decision that allows unrestricted campaign contributions by corporations that amounts to buying elections.
There is no end to the extreme positions Republicans espoused in courting Iowa caucus delegates, but it is unfair to portray Iowa as the reason for their insane positions. Each of the candidates is pandering to Iowa delegates, but they are also putting their extreme positions out for state primary voters to support. It is sad, no, tragic, that to garner support, these Republicans have taken such extreme positions and it informs the rest of America that there are millions of Americans who crave a theocratic government owned and operated by a few wealthy industrialists. The most outrageous aspect of this current group of candidates is that in varying degrees, they truly believe their positions are not extreme and will pursue them with unrelenting tenacity. One can only hope more Americans are repulsed by neo-conservative, theocratic policies than support the agendas that will take this country back to the Dark Ages, and will reject extremism and instead embrace reason and moderation.
The Iowa caucuses will give a glimpse of the upcoming election year and although Iowa is not (hopefully) representative of the entire country, the results of delegates’ votes should set the pace for what is guaranteed to be the most extreme candidate’s positions in recent memory. One thing is certain, regardless of which side Americans support, the Republican campaign will only get stranger and more extreme and it should frighten the life out of every voter in America.
Audio engineer and instructor for SAE. Writes op/ed commentary supporting Secular Humanist causes, and exposing suppression of women, the poor, and minorities. An advocate for freedom of religion and particularly, freedom of NO religion.
Born in the South, raised in the Mid-West and California for a well-rounded view of America; it doesn’t look good.
Former minister, lifelong musician, Mahayana Zen-Buddhist.