12 Extremist GOP Cartoon Characters Just Voted into Office
As progressives wring their hands over what Republican control of Congress will mean, many pundits are looking to history for silver linings. The GOP now has the biggest majority since Herbert Hoover in the 1930s, who did such a lousy job that Americans embraced Franklin Delano Roosevelt and what became the New Deal.
Such fanciful thinking ignores the damage that gets done when right-wingers rule. In 1946, when the GOP won a congressional majority for the first time in two decades, the country was introduced to two of the 20th century’s worst American politicians, Rep. Richard Nixon and Sen. Joseph McCarthy. Two years later, Harry Truman held onto the White House and Democrats retook Congress, but that didn’t stop those toxic men from wreaking havoc for decades.
Is there a 21st-century Nixon or McCarthy in the next Congress? The answer is, quite possibly. The list of potential troublemakers includes newcomers as well as incumbent Republicans such as Texas Sen. Ted Cruz, Florida Sen. Marco Rubio, Utah Sen. Mike Lee, Kentucky Sen. Rand Paul and Wisconsin Rep. Paul Ryan.
After Election Day, Politico penned a much-cited article, "Animal House?" It said, “There could be as many as 10 or 20 [Michelle] Bachmanns coming to Washington,” referring to the loony but retiring Minnesota congresswoman who led the House Tea Party Caucus and ran for president in 2012.
However, Politico only identified four crazed House Republican freshmen: Wisconsin’s Glenn Grothman, Georgia’s Jody Hice, North Carolina’s Mark Walker, and Montana’s Ryan Zinke. AlterNet fills out this list, introducing a dozen newly elected over-the-edge Republicans. These are politicans who believe moderation is a vice, who want to reduce the role of government, and who tend to trust Wall Street and religious institutions more than the public sphere.
One can only hope these extremists will not wreak great havoc before being driven from office, as was the case with Nixon and McCarthy.
1. Glenn Grothman (Wisconsin 6). Maybe the fact that the 6th congressional district is 95.3% white explains how Grothman can get away with mocking the African-American holiday, Kwanzaa, saying it should be treated with “contempt.” Or calling the Martin Luther King Jr. holiday “an insult.” Or saying the anti-poverty food stamp program “encourage(s) sloth.” Or calling teachers who protested GOP Gov. Scott Walker’s anti-union laws “a bunch of slobs.” Or bemoaning the “war on men” to conservative activists. Amazingly, Grothman ended his recent campaign with ads saying he was a quiet guy who wanted to solve problems.
2. Jody Hice (Georgia 10). The 54-year-old reverend and nationally syndicated radio host believes America needs to return to its Christian roots, forgetting the founders intentionally established a separation of church and state. Before running for office, he spent years fighting (and losing in court to) the ACLU over displaying the 10 Commandments in a county courthouse. He’s written a book that says Muslims don’t deserve First Amendment rights and he believes homosexuality is a choice that can be cured with prayer.
3. Mark Walker (North Carolina 6). The 45-year-old Alabama native is a Baptist preacher and worship leader who never held elected office before winning his congressional seat. Apart from his conservative religious views, Walker not only said the National Guard should be deployed on the Mexican border to stop illegal immigration, but that the military should shoot at migrants. “We got to go laser or blitz somebody with a couple of fighter jets for a little while to make our point,” he said in a September debate, prompting the moderator to ask if he was saying the U.S. should start a war with Mexico. “Well, we did it before, if we need to do it again, I don’t have a qualm about it,” he replied.
4. Ryan Zinke (Montana). The state senator-turned-congressman is another loose cannon. Zinke is an ex-Navy commander who spent 23 years as a SEAL and led a stealth assault team. He’s been a darling in right-wing circles for his incessant attacks on the Obama administration, saying, for example, that the president should not take credit for killing Osama Bin Laden. This past January, he called ex-Secretary of State Hillary Clinton “the anti-Christ,” saying, “We need to focus on the real enemy.” Recently, he distanced himself from those remarks, saying he was worked up over the killings of the U.S. ambassador and others in Libya.
5. David Brat (Virginia 7). Brat, a libertarian-minded economics professsor, came out of political nowhere to defeat House Majority Leader Eric Cantor in June's primary. His views are firmly grounded in the GOP’s most fervently anti-government wing. As Mother Jones reported, Brat “appears to endorse slashing Social Security payouts to seniors by two-thirds. He wants to dissolve the IRS. And he has called for drastic cuts to education funding, explaining, ‘My hero Socrates trained in Plato on a rock. How much did that cost? So the greatest minds in history became the greatest minds in history without spending a lot of money.’” Brat also said that “rich” nations have nothing to fear about climate change, MoJo noted.
6. Carlos Curbelo (Florida 26). Before Curbelo ran for Congress, his lobbying and public relations firm, Capitol Gains, notoriously represented two brothers convicted in Ecuador of embezzling hundred of millions of dollars who were in Florida fighting extradition, he told the Miami Herald, bragging part of that work was leading a smear campaign against the Equadoran government for its ethical lapses. He also was taped telling college students that Medicare and Social Security are “a Ponzi scheme” that need extensive reforms in order to remain sustainable, another example of more than just twisting the facts.
7. Barry Loudermilk (Georgia 11). Loudermilk is a state legislator who will represent a district in Atlanta’s northern suburbs known for sending extreme right-wingers to Congress. At the start of the 2013 session, he told one of Georgia’s most senior reporters that its state-run Medicaid, which brings healthcare to poor people, should be repealed. “We need to start in the direction to where we don’t have a Medicaid system, but we turn it back to the way it was before Medicaid, where there were nonprofit hospitals that provided indigent care to the people, that were run by churches and religious organizations,” he said. Georgia, of course, is a red state where ruling Republicans have not expanded Medicaid under Obamacare, and charities have not filled that caregiving void.
8. Rick W. Allen (Georgia 12). The congressman-elect ran a construction company for decades where he forged his extreme views. He’s pro-firearms, wants to slash spending, drill for more oil and gas domestically, gut environmental regulations, spend more on the military, decrease the federal oversight of education, opposes any amnesty for undocumented immigrants, and believes that Wall Street could do a better job than Social Security to provide for seniors—after raising the age when benefits start.
9. Barbara Comstock (Virginia 10). This suburban Washington district elected Comstock, who was a notorious opposition researcher for Republicans and then a lobbyist for a long list of corporate clients, including Koch Industries. Comstock began her career by dishing dirt on the Clinton White House, then became a spokeswoman for U.S. Attorney General John Ashcroft, Blackwater founder Erik Prince, and disgraced Bush White House aide Scooter Libby. She’s as close to Karl Rove and the Kochs as anyone in Congress.
10. Ken Buck (Colorado 4). Buck, who lost a U.S. Senate race in 2010, is a corporate Republican business lobbyists drool over. In addition to being a former prosecutor who refused to go after confessed rapists, he has called homosexuality a lifestyle choice and believes that climate change is not a manmade problem. He opposes most government programs, wants to privatize the Veterans Administration hospital system, has called Social Security “horrible, bad policy,” and wants to repeal Obamacare. “The idea that the federal government should be running healthcare or retirement or any of those programs is fundamentally against what I believe,” he said. “The private sector runs programs like that far better.”
11. Alex Mooney (West Virginia 2). Mooney, 43, has been running for office ever since he was a Dartmouth College student in New Hampshire (where he lost a state assembly race), in Maryland (where he was state GOP chair and elected to the state senate) and in West Virginia, where he moved to run for the House seat held by that state’s new incoming U.S. Senator. In addition to holding all the predictable hard-right positions (pro-guns, pro-coal, anti-EPA, anti-tax, anti-choice) he is a potentially dangerous spokesman for young people, saying that millennials believe Social Security should be turned into private investment accounts, and the retirement age should be raised—which delights Wall St. and does nothing for people doing manual labor for decades.
12. French Hill (Arkansas 2). Millionaire banker J. French Hill is a libertarian who has funded a state-based “free market” think tank now called the Advance Arkansas Institute. The institute has attacked Social Security as a “welfare” program. More recently, French, who held several posts in George H.W. Bush’s administration and worked for Arkansas Republican Gov. Mike Huckabee, has called for extending the George W. Bush administration tax cuts, and stridently opposes Obamacare—even though he has investments in employee health saving accounts. You can bet he will be at Paul Ryan’s side as they seek to slash the federal budget.
There Are Many Others
These 12 newly elected Republican congressmen are the tip of a larger right-wing iceberg. There’s also Utah’s Mia Love, the first female African-American House member, who is a bit of a cipher to those who have watched her career. Then, there are plenty of returning loonies, from Alaska’s Don Young, whose mental fitness recently has been questioned by a prominent Alaska reporter, to hardcore social conservatives such as Kansas’ Tim Heulskamp, a longtime anti-abortion and anti-gay activist.
On the U.S. Senate side, first-termers Joni Ernst from Iowa and Cory Gardner from Colorado share many of the right-wing views of these House freshmen, even as they pretended to moderate them in messages to voters this fall. They will join a handful of right-wing senators seeking to outdo each other as they jockey for the GOP presidential nomiation in 2016, where they’ll also face right-wing governors who are likely to run, such as Wisconsin's Scott Walker and Kansas' Sam Brownback.
When you look at American history, you find the national political pendulum swings back and forth between the major parties in Washington. Unfortunately, in recent history, when that momentum elected Democrats—such as in 2008 when Obama won the presidency and Democrats took both houses of Congress—Democrats spent most of their time cleaning up the many messes created by the Bush administration and its allies. One can only hope this cycle will not repeat itself again; but it probably will.