Outside-the-beltway extremism

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The radicalism of Republican lawmakers in Washington tends to help explain the breakdown in American governance at the federal level. But to find breathtaking extremism, you’ll have to look outside the Beltway.

The new Iowa Republican Party platform raised some eyebrows overnight, as we learned that it “intentionally questions” President Obama’s citizenship, putting an entire state party apparatus on record as Birthers. To be sure, it’s disheartening to see the Iowa GOP drift so far into madness.

But Ed Kilgore went further and read the rest of the Iowa Republican Party platform, and discovered that “the birth certificate requirement is far from the crankiest of provisions.”

It calls for the abolition of the federal Departments of Agriculture, Education, Homeland Security, Housing and Urban Development, Health and Human Services, Energy, Interior, Labor, and Commerce. It demands a phase-out of Social Security, Medicare, and Medicaid and immediate provisions to make Social Security voluntary. Though it’s a bit confusing on this point, it seems to call for the abolition of public education, or, as it often refers to them, “government schools.”

It calls for U.S. withdrawal from the United Nations and the repeal of all hate crimes and non-discrimination legislation. It endorses a Fetal Personhood Amendment. It demands permanent restriction of total federal spending to 10% of GDP (the draconian right-wing Cut, Cap and Balance Act would limit it to 19.9% of GDP), and reversal of the Supreme Court precedents that made possible the New Deal and civil rights laws.

At a certain level, I can appreciate why party platforms, especially at the state level, seem largely irrelevant, and have little practical value. It’s not like GOP officials in Iowa are bound to honor (or even read) its provisions.

So why does it matter that the Iowa Republican Party platform is a ridiculous wish list of loony right-wing fantasies? A few reasons, actually.

For one thing, party platforms are shaped by party activists, who happen to be the folks who vote in primaries and elect policymakers at every level. Reckless activists tend to support reckless candidates who in turn pursue reckless policies.

For another, some of the same party officials who help write party platforms tend to seek elective office themselves. If they’re pushing for bizarre, right-wing ideas in the platform, they’ll probably push for bizarre, right-wing ideas when in office.

And finally, there’s simply the matter of perceptions and fairness: if a state Democratic Party approved a radical, left-wing platform that called for a 100% top income tax rate for the wealthy and the elimination of the military, not only would we hear plenty about it from major media outlets, but Democratic officials would be pressed with one simple question: do you support or oppose that state party platform?

With that in mind, maybe major GOP candidates in Iowa – including, say, those seeking Iowa’s electoral votes – should say whether they’re on board with the wish list in the party platform?

Outside-the-beltway extremism

Updated