It will be quite a contest this year for who takes home People For the American Way’s annual Equine Posterior Achievement Award, which “honors” the individuals leading the Radical Right’s extreme and intolerant agenda.
As the presidential campaign continues to bring out the worst in conservative politics, with the help of right-wing politicians and pundits, there are many possibilities to choose from.
The 2015 Nominees:
Donald Trump: Who would’ve guessed that Donald Trump, who pushed discredited birther smears of President Obama during the 2012 election, would run such a vile and repugnant presidential campaign?
Whatever he’s doing, it’s working, as GOP voters have rallied behind the candidate who wants to ban all Muslims from entering the country, hopes to round up and deport over 11 million undocumented immigrants, demonizes Mexican immigrants as rapists and murderers, levels sexist insults, makes up brazenly false claims about 9/11, tweets fake crime “statistics” based on a neo-Nazi graphic and pokes fun of POWs and people with disabilities.
Trump’s toxic politics of resentment and paranoia, however, hasn’t elicited strong rebukes from Republican leaders, who have seldom criticized the business mogul and have almost unanimously said that they would support him in a general election if he wins the GOP nomination.
Ted Cruz: The winner of the 2013 and 2014 “awards,” Ted Cruz, has maintained his image as a favorite of the Tea Party and the Religious Right movements, even though his only accomplishment in Congress seems to have been putting up pointless political battles, including one which led to a wasteful government shutdown, and becoming the most despised member of the Senate.
He has refused to condemn Donald Trump’s bigoted tirades and policies, while at the same time launching into his own rants about what he sees as the real source of intolerance in America: a nonexistent gay “jihad” on Christians.
Cruz is so intent on appealing to the extreme anti-gay Right that he has even courted the support of a pastor who wants the government to put gay people to death. The Texas senator has also vowed to criminalize abortion and maybe even certain forms of birth control, touting the support of an anti-abortion radical who has said that a just government would execute abortion providers.
Ben Carson: Ben Carson may think that “the power of God” is behind his campaign, but his poll numbers have been falling after he made a litany of false statements, flubbed basic questions about foreignaffairs and economics and ran a campaign based on absurd conspiracy theories, including his frequent claim that modern America is just like Nazi Germany. Carson does, however, have a few new policy ideas: the restoration of McCarthyism and the monitoring of liberal speech on college campuses.
But maybe the retired neurosurgeon will be vindicated if President Obama decides to cancel the 2016 election, a scenario he once warned of.
Mike Huckabee: While former Arkansas governor and Fox News pundit Mike Huckabee may be failing to break out in the polls, he has been effective in bringing farcical ideas once considered to be firmly on the fringe into the political mainstream. For example, Huckabee has touted a radical plan to issue an executive decree outlawing abortion and claimed that as president he would defy the Supreme Court’s landmark marriage equality ruling, which he warned will destroy America.
Huckabee is always on hand to cheerlead for the Religious Right celebrity of the moment, defending Josh Duggar after he faced scrutiny over a sex scandal and championing Kim Davis, the rogue Kentucky clerk who repeatedly flouted court orders to comply with the Supreme Court’s gay marriage decision, even self-righteously volunteering to go to jail in her place. He also told pastors that the gay community seeks to destroy all of the churches in the U.S.
Greg Abbott: Texas Gov. Greg Abbott has continued his predecessor Rick Perry’s legacy of turning the governor’s office into a source of national ridicule. He gained notoriety for describing discrimination as a Texas value, unsuccessfully attempting to prevent refugees from entering the state and embracing far-right fears that the Jade Helm 15 military exercises would lead to a federal takeover of Texas and imposition of martial law.
He ordered the Texas State Guard to monitor and regularly update him on the Jade Helm 15 trainings, after conservative politicians and media pundits whipped up suspicions that the Obama administration would use the drills to arrest Christians, conservatives and patriotic Americans. When Jade Helm 15 ended in September without any of these dire predictions materializing, Abbott’s office offered little information about what he discovered in his briefings on the matter.
Sarah Palin: After kicking off the year with an incomprehensible and winding speech to a conservative activist group and later losing her Fox News job, Sarah Palin is trying to return to the spotlight by angling for a spot in a future President Trump administration and promoting her new book, “Sweet Freedom.” Palin has used the book tour to promote her characteristically puzzling and vague policy ideas, such as her recent suggestion that we defeat ISIS by … defeating ISIS.
Mat Staver: When Kentucky clerk Kim Davis needed legal representation after she decided to defy the Supreme Court and block her county office from issuing marriage licenses to same-sex couples, she turned to one of country’s most virulently anti-gay lawyers, Liberty Counsel founder Mat Staver. Staver brought his penchant for dramatic remarks about the supposed persecution of Christians in America to Davis’ case, repeatedly comparing the rogue county clerk to a Jewish person during the Holocaust. He even tried to help Davis by making demonstrably false claims about a massive prayer rally in Peru, support from Pope Francis and death threats from the hosts of “The View.”
While his ludicrous legal arguments were ultimately unsuccessful and Davis eventually stopped preventing her deputy clerks from issuing marriage licenses, Staver used the case to capture the limelight for himself and raise money for his legal group, all the while insisting that Davis’ brief incarceration proved his point that American Christians are in fact under siege.
Ann Coulter: Conservative firebrand and author Ann Coulter has become an outspoken supporter of Donald Trump’s presidential campaign, even crediting her new book , “Adios America,” for inspiring the Republican frontrunner’s harsh anti-immigrant ideas. At a rally with the GOP frontrunner, Coulter said that Trump’s campaign is proof that “God hasn’t given up on America yet,” hailed his plan to ban Muslim immigration as her “best birthday gift ever” and fantasized about serving as Trump’s secretary of homeland security.
Coulter has still found the time to talk about issues outside of immigration reform, such as her belief that women should be stripped of the right to vote:
Jim Bakker: Televangelist andsurvivalistfood salesman Jim Bakker has presented many doomsday prophecies to his viewers, specifically claiming that in the month of September, America would experience an enormous financial collapse, natural disasters and terrorist attacks, including one involving Pope Francis’ visit to the U.S.
While his September prophecies didn’t pan out, Bakker still has other dire visions, including his suggestion that ISIS has infiltrated every single church in the U.S., America is on the verge of descending into cannibalism and that he and others may go to jail due to the Jade Helm 15 military exercises and for criticizing political leaders.
Kevin Swanson: Colorado-based pastor and radio host Kevin Swanson had his breakout moment this year when Cruz and Huckabee appeared at his National Religious Liberties Conference, where Swanson repeated his claim that the government must execute gay people who fail to repent, declared that Harry Potter will lead to divine destruction of America, and advised that the best way to respond to a gay family member’s wedding is to show up covered in cow manure.
The event capped off quite a year for Swanson, who on his radio show criticized the victims of the Paris terrorist attacks as devil-worshippers, labeled HIV/AIDS as a sign of “God’s kindness” and “retribution” for gay people’s “sexual habit,” railed against “the homosexual Borg” and Taylor Swift’s “demon songs,” and warned that the U.S. Women’s World Cup team and the Girl Scouts would turn girls into lesbians.