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The Iowa GOP platform, more outrageous than ever

COMMENTARY | May 31, 2012

Up for adoption soon, the platform, with 400 planks, is so extreme that an op ed in the Des Moines Register carried the headline, “A letter to the good people of Iowa: Are you crazy?” Aside from that column, however, a check showed no news coverage by the three largest newspapers in the state.

By Herb Strentz
Like Jack Torrance, the crazed axe wielder played by Jack Nicholson in The Shining, the Iowa Republican party platform is ‘BAAAAAACK!” And, like its predecessors over the past decade or so, the draft of the 2012 platform is every bit off its rocker as Jack.
The platform will be up for worship and adoption at the Iowa Republican state convention on June 16. “Worship” is a good word, given the domination of the Iowa GOP by evangelical zealots and the platform’s homage to their takes on Christian doctrine.
The Iowa GOP timing is good, too, given the continuing sesquicentennials of the Civil War events and the platform’s demands to take the nation back to the 1860s. (Just about every federal agency created since then should be abolished the platform says, along with repeal of the 16th and 17th amendments, which established a federal income tax and the popular election of U.S. Senators.) 
The platform is so bizarre that an op-ed piece in the Des Moines Register, by Mark Potok of the Southern Poverty Law Center, carried the headline, “A letter to the good people of Iowa: Are you crazy?”
That question occurred to Potok, as it would to any reasonable person, when he surveyed the 400 planks of the 2012 draft — up 33 from two years ago. Many of those planks were highlighted, too, in the Civic Skinny column in Cityview, the alternative weekly in Des Moines, written most of time by Michael Gartner, former editor of the Register and of the Louisville Courier Journal and former president of NBC News. 
The platform embraces many of the oddest and most extreme positions taken by the religious right, the Tea Party, the Ron Paul faithful and others from what once was the GOP fringe and now apparently has become its base. Those planks for the most part are rehashes of previous platforms that have been reported and parodied on this site over the years.
Here’s a sampling: Plank 1.5 supports a constitutional amendment that “Personhood and life begins at conception;” Plank 15.4 gives juries the right to find laws unconstitutional; Plank 16.1, in the name of state sovereignty, allows Iowa and other states to nullify any “federal oversteps” they don’t like; Plank 4.1 is as adamant as it is ambiguous: “…All efforts by the federal government to redistribute wealth are improper and we demand their immediate elimination;” Plank 9.2, “…claims of human-caused global warming are based on fraudulent, inaccurate information… a plan to take our freedoms and liberties away.” Plank 13.12 probably would bring government to a screeching halt: “…all items to be voted upon by any government body should be posted online at least 120 hours prior to their vote.” Numerous planks make life as miserable for homosexuals as possible. Plank 6.20 says the teaching of creationism should be on par with teaching about evolution. And, of course, the United Nations is “diabolical”(9.6), smoking bans are violations of liberty (5.5), and no fault-divorce and minimum wage laws are unacceptable, (22.7 and 25.2).
In checking the platform, you might bear in mind these observations:
  • Planks that were viewed as extreme by some Republicans six to eight years ago now are part of the party line. Even the nonsense that President Obama is not a citizen because of his supposed foreign birth merits serious attention in the platform.
  • The Iowa press in particular, and the national press as well, generally ignore state platforms because the planks are deemed irrelevant in the grand scheme of things. While Potok and Gartner wrote about the platform, a check of the websites of the three largest papers in the state — in Des Moines, Cedar Rapids and Davenport — found no news story about the release of the platform draft.  (The Ames Tribune, however, weighed in with an editorial on Thursday, characterizing the platform, in part, as "political craziness.) If even two or three of the planks had been drafted in secret, say, and then leaked to the press, there’d be outrage unbounded about an attempted coup of our democracy. But the platform is a public document and therefore of no consequence to watchdog journalists.
  • This bizarre document — viewed as inconsequential by the press — is from a state whose caucuses are important in the selection of presidential candidates and is the product of the zealots who control the GOP caucuses.
  • When a document runs to some 11,500 words, it is bound to make sense in a paragraph here or a sentence there. Like some movies or books tested for obscenity, the platform is “not without socially redeeming value.” For example, Plank 19.1 opposes suspension of civil liberties during wartime and 19.4 opposes renewal of The Patriot Act. But the context and overall tone of the platform make sure that anything resembling common sense is short lived or ambiguous. In the preamble you can read “…we defend each person’s right to engage in any activity that is peaceful and honest, and welcome the diversity that freedom brings.” But the document is laced time and time again with homophobia and the fear of others.
  • Finally, the platform testifies to how the press employs the euphemism “social agenda” when referring to the religious agenda of the political right and its efforts to bring us back to the 1860s.
The hate, conspiracy theories and anti-government mindset are indeed “BAAAAAACK!,” and the watchdog press is generally oblivious.

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