Posted by: Ali Davis | November 21, 2011

The Three Scariest Topics from Saturday’s GOP Debate

This Saturday was the “Thanksgiving Family Forum,” a Republican debate minus Mormons Mitt Romney and Jon Huntsman, who wanted to avoid the very real possibility of the incredibly far-right audience – and maybe one or two of the candidates – screeching “EEEEEK Satan Cult! Satan Cult! Not real Christians!”

(On a side note, let’s remember that the Mormon church leaders spent tens of millions of dollars to stop gay marriage in California and other states, at least in part as an attempt to gain street cred with far-right Evangelical churches. It must hurt to be subjected to so much garden-variety fear and bigotry when they put so much effort into spreading slightly different garden-variety fear and bigotry. No, those aren’t tears of joyous laughter. I have something in my eye.)

The forum was sponsored by The Family Leader, Focus on the Family, and the National Organization for Marriage, so everyone already knew it would be a Who Hates the Gays the Most Derby. But, perhaps more important, it started at 5 p.m. Eastern time on a Saturday and was only broadcast on the Internet. Even journalists weren’t watching this thing. The tally on my livestream never got above 20,000 people.

So instead of the usual dogwhistle far-right pandering, the candidates felt free to really cut loose. Here’s the most terrifying stuff you may have missed.

1. They’re not even pretending it’s about abortion anymore. It’s about personhood.

Radical anti-choicers used to hide behind abortion as a principled stand in favor of life. But they’ve won enough battles there – making abortion effectively illegal or impossible to obtain in great swathes of the country – that they’re pushing it a step forward. They’re also giving the game away, but it seems like they feel confident in doing that.

Personhood laws are not about abortion. They are about outlawing many forms of birth control. The IUD and most forms of the pill would be illegal in any areas where these laws pass, as would, arguably, chemotherapy for pregnant women with cancer.

If there is one thing to be clear on, it is this: The personhood movement is not about stopping abortions or saving lives.

They are trying to take away your control of your own fertility. Even if you are part of a married, straight couple, these people want to take away your right to decide how many children you will have and when.

You want to put your financial resources and time into raising two kids as well as you can and within your means? Too bad. Michele Bachmann, the personhood movement, and, apparently, Jesus want you to keep having them until you are cast into poverty and/or the mother dies in childbirth.

And if you don’t like those options, they want you to just stop having sex. Again, not dirty, bad premarital sex or even scarier, dirty same-sex sex. They want to control what married, straight couples can do in the privacy of their own homes. They want to force a choice between years of abstinence or kids until you’re broken.

Nice folks, huh?

Speaking of which…

2. They hate and fear members of the LGBT community even more than they usually let on.

I can’t even begin to chronicle how much they blamed on the LGBT community and how much they want us disappeared, or at least penned into some sort of offshore island. Long story short, we are physically ripping apart the fabric of all that is good and America itself.

Well, at least we know now that the huge increase in low-level earthquakes isn’t from fracking.

Rick Santorum has been savvy enough lately to start using a take on this in which (surprise!) he is the real victim here. He says he doesn’t hate The Gays – He loves them! Loves them so much! – it’s just that he has sincere religious beliefs that he is entitled to write into the law for all of us. And to accuse him (or Bachmann, or Paul, or Newt, or Cain, or Perry, or Romney, or the sponsors of the Thanksgiving Family Forum) of bigotry is actually evidence that you, the accuser, are the real bigot here.

Oh, really? Try saying the things they say routinely, in public, as though they are matters of not just common sense but vital national interest, about any other group.

“People of Belgian descent should not be allowed to marry each other, and the government should not force me as a Christian to tolerate that.”

“We cannot allow anyone under 5′ 8″ to adopt children.”

“Children need to have two parents who are college-educated. Allowing people who don’t have at least a four-year bachelor’s degree to raise kids is akin to abuse. Those kids are better off in the foster care system.”

Those statements clearly carry animosity. They are prejudiced and hateful. So you don’t get to claim they aren’t if you’re just popping new subjects into the same templates.

Just because it makes Santorum, Bachmann et al get a case of the sads when you point out that they are vicious bigots who are actively spreading hate and fear does not mean that it isn’t true.

The current crop of GOP candidates, with the exception of Huntsman, is in favor of incorporating open bigotry into our national policy. Huntsman is widely seen as having no chance whatsoever. Largely because he refuses to participate in the open bigotry.

Conservatives claim they are the party of personal responsibility. They should take responsibility for the cupcakes iced with bile that they’ve been handing out.

3. These supposed Constitution fetishists want to destroy the judicial branch of our government.

Even though they were clearly pandering to the event sponsors, I was astonished at how hard all the candidates came out against the third branch of our government.

I honestly couldn’t tell if it’s because they don’t know how the government is supposed to work – Bachmann said, for real, “Why is it that the big decisions always get made by the Supreme Court?” – or if they know but want to pander to the stupid and people who are angry enough that they just don’t care.

In this case, I think I was actually giving them too much credit as decent human beings by assuming, at first, that they were that ignorant about the basic makeup of  government they hoped to lead.

But look at those first two items again. These candidates, collectively if not individually, know exactly what they’re doing.

Our government was set up with checks and balances to stop legislators from overstepping and trampling on people’s rights.

But trampling on people’s rights is what’s on the agenda here. It is the main thrust of the current GOP platform – we didn’t even get to the part where they want to legalize stopping brown people on the street for looking too foreign in more states than they already have.

For today’s GOP, trampling rights is second in importance only to protecting multimillionaires from taxation. It even ranks above constant, bloody, macho-boosting warfare!

The radical right, which has become the mainsteam GOP, wants to try to legislate gay, lesbian, bisexual, and transgender people out of existence – or, failing that, into the closet, and out of the workplace. They want to stop any woman – any couple – from choosing whether or not to have children, and when, and how many. They want to stop even married, straight couples from having nonprocreative sex.

You’d better believe they hate judges. Judges are there to hold the line. The judges are the ones who are supposed to tell them no, you cannot legislate discrimination; no, you cannot control the sex lives of consenting adults; no, your narrow interpretation of a single religion cannot be imposed as everyone’s law.

And this crop of candidates wants to stop that. They know what judges do: Judges thwart the far right’s cruelest instincts, and the far right cannot stand it.

They talked about term limits for Supreme Court justices – because what we need is for that institution to become even more politicized and subject to the whims of the moment – and actually talked about allowing Congress to eliminate entire courts that are “unnecessary,” by which they mean courts that stand in the way by producing rulings the Bigot Brigade doesn’t like.

Gingrich even talked about eliminating a specific judge whose ruling Newt didn’t like. Attempting to intimidate a judge is a felony… Unless you do so as a part of your presidential campaign.

These candidates will shred anything that stands in their way, including the Constitution, and, if you’re not careful, including you.

Even if you’re a white, straight, conservative, married, native-born Christian, don’t get cocky. Romney and Huntsman didn’t skip the Thanksgiving Family Forum because it was impossible to attend it and look like adults. They skipped it because they knew that one false move could get them, the wrong kind of Christians, thrown under the steamroller.

And you never know where that steamroller will point next.


  1. So help me I will never understand “Log Cabin Republicans”. Most of the GOP Nutterati would have LGBT citizens tossed in a gulag-or worse.

    I can have an intelligent conversation about free markets and the effect of too much regulation on innovation, but the GOP don’t just want to roll back the 60s, or the New Deal: They want to undo The Enlightenment.

    Are lower capital gains taxes worth that?

    Oh: Brill piece of writing, as always.

  2. The USA sounds like a very scary place if people such as these are taken seriously. I’m so glad I don’t live there.

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