Wearing a black leather vest that barely covered the cigar tucked into his pocket, a man named Harley Brown was allowed to join the debate among candidates for governor of Idaho last week, holding forth on discrimination against bikers and the presidential seal tattooed on his shoulder after God told him he would one day occupy the White House.
Another candidate, Walt Bayes, railed against "a bunch of eastern idiots" pushing the country toward Sodom and Gomorrah. If you thought that this was nothing but a stunt designed by Gov. Butch Otter to distract attention from his real opponent, you’d be right. But you’d also be missing the larger point: Republican primaries around the country have largely degenerated into self-parodies. They may lack the flowing beards of Brown and Bayes, but many of the other candidates in the party’s primaries — a large number of which happened Tuesday —- are running on ideas only slightly less extreme.
One of the candidates with a serious shot at making the primary runoff in the House race for Georgia’s 10th district is Jody Hice, a pastor and talk-show host who says homosexuals have the right to be married, just not to each other. (In 2010, he ran billboards linking President Barack Obama with the hammer and sickle.) Another is Mike Collins, a trucking executive who demonstrated the perils of the Affordable Care Act by running a video that showed him riding between two trucks, stuntman style.
The congressman that both are hoping to replace is Paul Broun, a Tea Party adherent who is running for the nomination for an open Georgia Senate seat against six others in a field that has moved ludicrously far to the right. Broun, best known for calling evolution "lies straight from the pit of hell," gave up his House seat to run, as did Phil Gingrey, who thinks there’s some truth to the idea that after a "legitimate rape," women’s bodies can shut down conception.
In Kentucky’s Senate primary, the Tea Party candidate, Matt Bevin, has accused the Senate minority leader, Mitch McConnell — one of two men most responsible for immobilizing Congress and preventing the passage of job-creating legislation — of being insufficiently conservative.
The list goes on and on. No Republican has a shot in this year’s party primaries without paying homage to extremist ideas. Whether the Tea Party is still a political force is a moot point; the radicalism of 2010 and 2012 is very much alive in 2014.
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