Surrendering To The Extremes: Meet Some of 2012’s Scariest Candidates

When Todd Akin, Republican nominee for the US Senate in Missouri, picked the wrong words to describe what has become mainstream pro-life doctrine, he ignited a firestorm. The Republican Party is still smarting from the 2010 losses of Christine O’Donnell, Sharron Angle and Ken Buck, which cost them the Senate. So the GOP machine turned on Akin with such sharpness and certainty, you’d almost think he’d suggested Mitt Romney pay a normal tax rate.

But Akin isn’t some fringe figure. He is the GOP mainstream. He wasn’t even the Tea Party candidate in the primary — that was Sarah Steelman,  endorsed by Sarah Palin herself. What Akin is running on  — taking health insurance from at least 30 million Americans, gutting government, and lowering taxes for the richest — is pretty much what every Republican in the country is running on. On Tuesday, the GOP officially approved Akin’s “offensive” views on women’s health in the form of the “human life amendment,” making them central to the party’s 2012 platform.

The scariest thing about the GOP is how the fringe has taken over the party. But here are four candidates who personify just how extreme the Republican Party has become.

Photo by AP Photo/Orlin Wagner

Ted Cruz

Ted Cruz, Republican nominee for the U.S. Senate from Texas, is an Ivy League-educated lawyer. So how do you make a member of the “elite” palatable to the Tea Partiers? As Sarah Palin told a rally of Cruz supporters, “Ted is not going to D.C. to make nice with the frou-frou, chichi cocktail crowd.” Cruz rejects academic thought on the stump; instead he focuses on imaginary conspiracies that involve the World Bank and the UN. When he won his primary, George F. Will nearly had a George F. Willgasm, praising it as a victory for the “Madisonian.” Will neglected the fact that James Madison was the man who led the effort to pass the Virginia Statute for Religious Freedom, written by Thomas Jefferson. Ted Cruz on the other hand authored the Supreme Court brief that preserved the words “under God” in the Pledge of Allegiance. Reconciling the fundamentalism of tea partiers like Cruz with the Founders is nearly impossible, which is why David Barton, a historian who specializes in that speciousness, just had his book on Jefferson pulled from the shelf.

Photo by Gage Skidmore via

Tim Walberg

The Congressman from Michigan’s Seventh District has all the usual extreme right wing credentials, including traces of birtherism. What makes Walberg expecially scary isn’t his own agenda, it’s the agenda of the group that’s most responsible for getting him into power: the Club for Growth, a private committee of bankers and financiers mostly based in New York. The “Club” helped Walberg defeat a moderate Republican in his primary. They look at Paul Ryan’s plan to gut government services and consider it too far left. The Club for Growth takes Grover Norquist’s taxpayer pledge a step further; they ceaselessly push to eliminate government services in exchange for more tax cuts for the richest, despite the lowest tax burden in generations. Special interests like the Club for Growth are the reason that Republicans as a whole have served the extremes. One wrong vote and they could face an extremely well funded challenger from their own party, chosen by the Club.

Steve King

Representing Iowa’s Fifth Congressional District, King may even produce more horrifying statements than better-known colleagues like Michele Bachmann (R-MN) and Allen West (R-FL) combined. He was the sole member of Congress willing to go on record to voice what countless xenophobes across America were likely thinking in 2008: “When you think about the optics of a Barack Obama potentially getting elected President of the United States — I mean, what does this look like to the rest of the world?” King asked. “What does it look like to the world of Islam? I will tell you that, if he is elected president, then the radical Islamists, the al-Qaida, the radical Islamists and their supporters, will be dancing in the streets in greater numbers than they did on September 11 because they will declare victory in this War on Terror. “

King led the effort to replace the judges who voted to legalize gay marriage in Iowa and is a consistent voice for what he imagines is the most persecuted group in America: straight white males. That’s probably why was one of the few Republicans to voice support for Todd Akin as he echoed many of the statements that got the candidate from Missouri in so much trouble.

What’s the scariest thing about Steve King? He claims that if Mitt Romney and Paul Ryan are elected he’ll have the vice-president’s ear. “Paul listens to me,” King recently said. Which leads us to…

Paul Ryan

What makes the congressman from Wisconsin’s First District and soon-to-be GOP nominee for vice president so scary is how presentable and benign he seems to be. He’s expert in using appearances to cloak his intentions. Ryan has presented a plan to cut the deficit that grows the deficit. A plan to “save” Medicare that will end Medicare as we know it. And huge cuts to the federal government that will cut almost every domestic program out of existence by 2050 while growing the military exponentially. Before Ryan’s Budget, these ideas would have been laughed out of the Capitol. But at a time when we need government the most and government can borrow money at almost no cost, he’s paired austerity with trickle-down economics. This is a pairing that could turn this jobs crisis into a depression in just months, should Ryan ever have the chance to actually implement it. And with Grover Norquist imagining Paul Ryan as economic “Cheney,” that disaster could be only one election away.

Photo by AP Photo/John Heller

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