Baseball season is upon us. And if each state’s congressional delegation can be thought of as a Major League ball club, many consider the state legislature back home to be the team’s AAA affiliate — grooming future national leaders and sending the most talented up to the big leagues.
Many legislators scoff at that comparison. It’s certainly true that the legislatures in, say, Wisconsin and Minnesota have had more direct impact on citizens’ lives than Congress has in recent years. But it’s equally true that every time a roster spot opens in Congress, the state legislature is always the “Great Mentioner’s” first stop.
Except, in recent years, Republicans haven’t been promoting based on talent. And this issue is one of the most poorly understood factors driving the gridlock and dysfunction crippling Washington.
Earlier this year, a Florida Republican, a candidate for a competitive state House seat, called for President Barack Obama to be hanged — on Martin Luther King Jr. Day.
In Florida’s neighbor to the north Georgia, a Republican state representative filed bills to legalize shooting police officers in certain circumstances and to let convicted sex offenders loiter in playgrounds.
And just north of Georgia, Tennessee has become a hotbed of extremism. Two Republican state legislators signed up to speak at a white supremacist rally; two other GOP legislators accused the state capitol’s architect of promoting Sharia law after they thought a new mop sink was a “Muslim foot-washing sink;” and yet another GOP lawmaker sponsored a bill to legalize discrimination against gays.
Recently, the Democratic Legislative Campaign Committee rolled out a list of what we’re calling the “Worst of the Worst” — examples of Republican antics so “out there” that it’s hard to believe actual, elected state legislators are behind them.
We set out to create a list of the 10 worst Republican state legislators’ misdeeds of all time.
After just an hour of research, we realized we’d have to limit ourselves to incidents after the last elections. Then we realized we’d have to double the size of this initial list and then keep adding to it as Republican legislators keep saying and doing absolutely astounding things.
These legislators are Washington’s “farm team,” and it’s clear that Republicans are no longer promoting based on talent and statesmanship.
Democrats have “called up” state legislators such as Barack Obama, Jeff Merkley and Jon Tester to federal office. Republicans answered with state Sen. Michele Bachmann, previously best known for lurking in the bushes at gay pride parades. Her antics since then have been well-documented.
This cycle, it looks like Wisconsin state Sen. Glenn Grothman and Virginia Del. Bob Marshall may be getting the call. Grothman’s primary challenge just forced Rep. Tom Petri, R-Wis., into retirement, and Marshall has a respectable chance of beating establishment designate Barbara Comstock in the race to replace moderate Republican Frank R. Wolf.
Grothman, when he’s not accusing MLK Day and Kwanzaa celebrants of wanting to destroy America, spends his time explaining to women why “money is more important to men.”
Marshall, when he’s not accusing Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender Pride celebrants of wanting to destroy America, spends his time explaining to women why babies born with birth defects are God’s “special punishment” for people who have had abortions.
Notice a pattern?
As more and more state legislators like Bachmann, Grothman and Marshall join the national conversation, the conversation itself has changed into gridlock and stagnation.
In the Washington molded by the current Republican farm team system, conservatism is no longer measured by voting records or interest group scores. “True” conservatives must now be destructive and corrosive as well. If a Republican isn’t taking hostages and shutting down the government, or demonizing every nonwhite male demographic in America, then he or she is no better than a Republican in name only.
For that change, we can thank the lunatics in the dugout of America’s Republican-led legislatures. Now that so many of them are in Congress (with more on the way), it’s no mystery why the national Republican Party has gotten so far off base.
Michael Sargeant is the executive director of the Democratic Legislative Campaign Committee.