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Sep 29 2009

Republican presidential hopefuls and the nutters

(My latest book God vs. Darwin: The War Between Evolution and Creationism in the Classroom has just been released and is now available through the usual outlets. You can order it from the publishers Rowman & Littlefield for $34.95, from Amazon for $31.65, from Barnes and Noble for $26.21 ($23.58 for members), and also through your local bookstores. For more on the book, see here.)

Telling indicators of the strength of the nutter movement (consisting of birthers, deathers, and tenthers) within the party has been the fortunes of the prospective Republican candidates for the presidency. Sarah Palin is, of course, a true nutter and has always been much beloved by this group so her presence does not tell us anything new. But a good sign of the increasing nutter influence is that Palin’s fellow nutter, congresswoman Michelle Bachman (R-Minn), seems to be hoping that god will speak to her and tell her to run for the presidency, and former senator Rick Santorum is also toying with the idea although he was drubbed in his last campaign for re-election as US senator from Pennsylvania. Any party with a reasonable grip on reality would be embarrassed to have these people as prominent members, let alone have them as potential standard bearers.

What is even more significant has been the shifting of the rhetoric by people like Mike Huckabee and Tim Pawlenty in efforts to woo the nutters. These two are conservative ideologically but up until recently they had seemed to be reality-based people. (See my earlier posts about Huckabee’s and Pawlenty’s politics.). In fact, Pawlenty is currently the governor of Minnesota, a state that usually elects moderate politicians, though Bachmann is putting a strain on that reputation. But he is not running for re-election, allowing him to pander shamelessly to the nutters, which he has decided to do by appealing to the tenthers and the deathers. The fact that both are moving towards nutterdom means that they think that this is where the future of the party lies.

In this they are emulating the 2008 strategy of Mitt Romney who seemed to be a moderate while governor of Massachusetts but moved quite a bit to the right when running for the Republican nomination in 2008.

Romney has not yet gone full-bore nutter but is also a good weathervane indicator of the strength of the nutter movement. As far as can be determined, Romney has no deep principles that he believes in, except that he thinks he should be president, so he can shift directions without much angst. Logic would suggest that he run as a sensible conservative and appeal to the adults in the party, and let the nutters split their votes among the panderers such Palin, Bachmann, Santorum, Huckabee, Pawlenty, and Newt Gingrich. But if Romney also starts competing strongly for the nutter vote, then it is clear that the nutters have taken over the Republican Party.

The nutters and their allies gathered together at the Values Voter Summit held in Washington, DC, earlier this month. Nearly all the potential presidential candidates were featured speakers at the summit, although Sarah Palin* was once again a no-show, the asterisk (signifying ‘unconfirmed’) that accompanies her name in the publicity for these events seeming to be a permanent fixture as organizers become increasingly aware of her penchant for backing out of engagements at the last minute, claiming that she never agreed to attend in the first place.

In a straw poll on presidential preferences conducted at the meeting, the results were as follows: Huckabee received 29%, Romney, Pawlenty, Palin and congressman Mike Pence (R-Indiana) each got about 12%. Gingrich, Bobby Jindal, Ron Paul, and Santorum had single-digit shares of the vote. Romney won the last poll in 2007. You can draw your own conclusions as to what, if anything, this means.

The titles and descriptions of their breakout sessions reveal nuttiness in all its glory. I would have particularly liked to attend the one titled SPEECHLESS – SILENCING THE CHRISTIANS, where they promised to reveal how Christians are a persecuted group in the US. Here’s the description of the session:

Americans are at a greater risk of losing their basic freedoms today than ever before in the history of this nation. Political correctness and the voice of the liberal minority are undermining the morals and values of main-stream America. Christians are being silenced all across America: in the political debate, the public square, the schools, the workplace, and even in the sanctuary of their own churches. Through video, renowned author and commentator, Janet Parshall, takes you on a journey across the country to meet citizens who have been arrested for speaking out at a public rally, students who are being forced to attend classes that require them to recite verses from the Koran and to stage their own Jihad and activists pushing social tolerance to such an extreme that the Bible itself is being labeled “hate speech.”

Who knew? There is probably a Islamocommunofascistic jihadi re-education camp in your own neighborhood!

Next: So where does this leave the old-style conservatives?

POST SCRIPT: Jon Stewart on the Values Voter Summit

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