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Romney and the Far Right: Mainstreaming Extremism

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Mitt Romney's campaign for the presidency has been one long exercise in giving dangerous, harmful, extreme policies a place right at the top of the presidential ticket. Whether the topic is economics, women's health, LGBT equality, religious liberty, the role of government, or the future of the Courts, Romney has sided with the far right, further mainstreaming ideas that were once widely considered to be fringe.

Romney has spent years trying to overcome evangelical concerns about his Mormon faith by pledging his loyalty to religious right leaders' agenda and echoing their concerns about secular government. During the South Carolina primary, he even said at a Ralph Reed rally that defeating Barack Obama would help bring about spiritual awakening and renewal in America. At that same rally, Romney denounced Obama, saying the president wants to replace ambition with envy and "poison the American spirit by replacing a sense of unity with a sense of class warfare." According to Romney, if you believe we are "one nation under God," you are not allowed to notice growing economic inequality and the fact that his economic policies would take a system already rigged for the top 1 percent and make it even more unfair to average Americans.

Here are just some of the ways Mitt Romney has sold out you and your family's future to the far right.

Paul Ryan. Mitt Romney's biggest decision -- the choice of his running mate -- signaled that he has fully embraced his party's far right-wing. Ryan is as far to the right as you can be on both economic and social issues. He combines his hero Ayn Rand's contempt for the social safety net with the religious right's hostility to reproductive choices for women and LGBT equality. Religious right leaders like Tony Perkins, Ralph Reed, and Gary Bauer absolutely gushed over Romney's choice of Ryan. If you ever need a reminder about just how destructive Ryan's proposed budget would be, check in with Sister Simone Campbell, whose Nuns on the Bus tour called attention to the immorality of Ryan's attacks on people who are already suffering.

Bonus: for all his talk of values, Ryan has enthusiastically embraced Romney's central campaign strategy of lying brazenly and shamelessly whenever it might be useful.

The Supreme Court. Do you really need to know more about Mitt Romney than the fact that he chose Robert Bork to head his judicial advisory team? That's the same Bork whose views about the Constitution were so reactionary that his Supreme Court nomination was rejected by a bipartisan vote in the Senate. Unfortunately, sharing Bork's 18th Century views about the Constitution has become virtually required in today's Republican Party. Romney's pledge to nominate more justices in the mold of Antonin Scalia guarantees the continuing sacrifice of individual rights and the public interest to the "rights" of the corporate "persons" who have already been given free rein to buy our elections.

It's also worth noting that Romney's most enthusiastic religious right backer has been Jay Sekulow, who heads the American Center for Law and Justice. Pat Robertson created the ACLJ to use the courts to create an America more to his liking. Sekulow's group is a proponent of "Christian nation" views and a promoter of anti-Muslim bigotry. Sekulow has told religious right activists that when he is preparing for a Supreme Court argument, he's always figuring out how to count to five (a majority on the nine-judge court). But, Sekulow said, once Romney starts putting more of the right kind of justices on the high court, "I'm not going to have to worry about my math skills."

Immigration. Romney has aggressively embraced the worst of his party's anti-immigrant zealots. His immigration policy is essentially to make the lives of undocumented people so miserable that they will choose to "self-deport." He vowed that he would veto the DREAM Act, which would allow undocumented students brought here as children by their parents to attend college. He welcomes anti-immigrant planks in the GOP platform pushed by Kris Kobach, author of Arizona's infamous "show me your papers" law. Romney's immigration policy is so bad that even some conservative evangelical leaders like Richard Land of the Southern Baptists have called it "dismal and indefensible." No wonder Romney has the enthusiastic support of Arizona's infamous Sheriff Joe Arpaio. People For the American Way's Latino Vote Project is getting the word out on Romney's record to voters in six states.

The Republican Party Platform. Mitt Romney handed the Republican platform over to his party's hard right. Tony Perkins of the Family Research Council has bragged how he and pseudo-historian David Barton practically wrote the sections they cared about, such as the one calling for a constitutional amendment to give the legal rights of personhood at the moment of contraception, which would ban virtually all abortion and many of the safest and most common forms of contraception.

Women's Health. The media has focused too much attention on the small differences between Paul Ryan's ultra-extreme views on women's access to safe and legal abortion -- no access to abortion unless a woman's survival is endangered -- and Mitt Romney's only-slightly-less-extreme view -- Ryan's view with additional allowances for victims of rape and incest. The real story is that both men's positions are far to the right of the American public, a majority of which believes that abortion should be legal in all or most cases, an issue for women to decide in consultation with their doctor and their loved ones. Romney has joined the war against Planned Parenthood, backing efforts to destroy an organization that millions of women rely on for basic health care. Recently Romney gave another shake of his etch-a-sketch to make his position sound less extreme than it really is, telling CBS Evening News that he would allow abortions for the "health and life" of the mother. But soon his campaign backtracked, assuring religious right leaders that Romney does NOT support an exception to an abortion ban when a woman's health is at risk.

LGBT Equality. Forget the disinformation put out by Romney apologists like GOProud or the Log Cabin Republicans. Romney has a long and ugly anti-equality track record. When he was governor of Massachusetts, he interfered with the birth certificates of children born to same-sex couples, saying, "It's not right on paper. It's not right in fact. Every child has the right to have a mother and father." He would allow states and hospitals to refuse visitation rights for same-sex partners. As a presidential candidate, he signed a five-point pledge to the National Organization for Marriage, commiting himself to supporting a federal constitutional amendment denying same-sex couples the right to marry anywhere in the U.S.; to defend the Defense of Marriage Act, which requires the federal government to discriminate against married same-sex couples; to appoint judges and an attorney general who "will respect the original meaning" of the Constitution; appoint a commission to investigate "harassment" of anti-equality advocates; and support legislation that would allow marriage equality in the District of Columbia to be put before D.C. voters. Romney is also a donor; one of his PACs gave NOM $10,000 during the Prop 8 fight.

Conspiracy Theories. While Mitt Romney has not actively engaged in the religious right's anti-Muslim fearmongering campaign against the supposed threat that Sharia law poses to the Constitution, he has taken a pass when asked to criticize those who are fanning the flames of anti-Sharia frenzy. When Kobach-backed language on Sharia was adopted as part of the Republican Platform, with no evident objection from Romney, it put the party in the position of endorsing a ludicrous far-right conspiracy theory. This summer, Amy Sullivan wrote in The New Republic:

Many political observers have thought that Romney would be sympathetic to the concerns of American Muslims, since he is part of a minority faith community that has experienced severe persecution in its history. And for all we know, he may be personally sympathetic. But Romney has so far been unwilling to stand up to the purveyors of fear and hate in his party, and to call the crazies "crazies."

Appeals to racial resentment. Seven years after then-RNC chairman Ken Mehlman apologized to African-Americans for the Republican Party's record of seeking political benefit from racial polarization, Romney's campaign and its advisors have openly wallowed in the politics of racial resentment. Romney joked about birther theories while surrogates disparaged Obama polices as "foreign" and "third world." Romney appeals to working class white voters with thinly veiled swipes at lazy welfare recipients; he gloated over being booed at the NAACP by the kind of people who "want free stuff" from the government. Romney advisors have touted his superior "Anglo-Saxon" heritage, complained that President Obama needs to learn to be American, and dismissed Colin Powell's endorsement of Obama as racially motivated. Romney's own campaign contributed to the "othering" of the president with the slogan "Keep America America," barely distinguishable from the KKK's "Keep America American."

Romney has intensely courted conservative evangelical leaders, appearing at religious right conferences and agreeing to give the commencement address at Jerry Falwell-founded Liberty University. In August, he met privately with a group that included James Dobson, Gary Bauer, and retired Gen. Jerry Boykin, whose planned speech at West Point was scuttled earlier this year by a public outcry against Boykin's religious bigotry. Religious right leaders are so eager to replace Barack Obama with Mitt Romney that they have largely set aside their concerns about electing a president whose Mormon faith many evangelicals do not consider Christian. Glenn Beck, the right-wing pundit with a Messiah complex, compared Romney to Abraham Lincolnand George Washington, and decreed that God himself is guiding Romney's campaign to victory.

Theres a good reason -- many good reasons in fact -- that religious right leaders have been urging their followers to ignore Romney's faith and focus on his promises to push right-wing policies and Supreme Court Justices. Americans who don't like the idea of a President Romney giving Pat Robertson and Tony Perkins a close friend in the White House and the Supreme Court of their dreams have a few days to do something about it.