Slide Show: 13 Republicans Too Radical For Their Constituents | The Nation

Slide Show: 13 Republicans Too Radical For Their Constituents

  • 13 first-term Republicans who have gone too far (1 of 14)

    There's no doubt voters were upset last November—frustrated by a poor economy and inaction from Washington, they sent a rebuke to the party in power. But was it an endorsement of Republicans and their ultra-conservative ideology? At the time, many Republicans wisely said it was not. "We make a grave mistake if we believe that tonight these results are somehow an embrace of the Republican Party," said freshly elected Senator Marco Rubio on election night. "This is not necessarily 'we love Republicans.' This is, 'change course, the country’s on the wrong track,'" said Representative Paul Ryan shortly thereafter.


    Unfortunately, since taking power, Republicans have acted as if they have an enormous mandate—Ryan, of course, turned around and proposed the end of Medicare. Have Republicans gone too far? Will it cost them? As The Nation’s George Zornick looks through these 13 newly elected conservatives in the slides that follow, the answer seems to be yes. Since taking office in January, these men and women have embraced some truly radical policies, and are already paying the price.


    Images: AP Images 

  • Representative Allen West (FL) (2 of 14)

    Allen West is no shrinking violet. Since announcing his run for Congress, he has insisted that Islam is a “totalitarian theocratic political ideology,” not a religion, and said that Representative Keith Ellison, a Muslim, represents the “antithesis of the principles on which this country was established.” He decried “chicken” leaders who read “memos from the feminists,” and hired a bombastic talk radio host as his chief of staff—after she said during the election that “if ballots don’t work, bullets will.”


    Perhaps this would get West re-elected in a deeply Republican area, but his Florida district actually has slightly more Democrats than Republicans. West will be a top target of the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee (DCCC) in 2012, and is being challenged by West Palm Beach Mayor Lois Frankel.


    Credit: AP Images 

  • Governor Rick Scott (FL) (3 of 14)

    It only took Rick Scott six months to become literally the least popular governor in America, and it’s not hard to see why. In no particular order, Scott has: cut unemployment benefits, killed a popular high-speed rail project, privatized the state’s Medicaid program, slashed funds for the developmentally disabled, mandated that all state workers be subject to random drug testing, tried to disband the Florida Highway Patrol and took a “wrecking ball” to the state’s public education system.


    Florida voters have rewarded Scott with a 33 percent approval rating, the worst in the nation. Many Republicans in Florida are “deeply worried” about Scott’s unpopularity, and a new poll shows former Governor Charlie Crist absolutely crushing Scott in a theoretical contest.


    Credit: AP Images 

  • Governor Scott Walker (WI) (4 of 14)

    Walker’s huge miscalculation is now internationally infamous—in a state with 7.3 percent unemployment, he spent his first months in office stripping public employees of their collective bargaining rights. The massive public battle that followed saw massive crowds of protesters flood the state Capitol, and Walker became a national target of labor groups and Democrats. He has followed that up with deep education cuts and even a measure that would hurt locally owned small beer breweries. 


    Walker’s polarizing moves have deeply divided his state: polls show that Republicans absolutely love him, and Democrats give him an approval rating similar to what one might expect for tuberculosis. The 2014 election is looking to be very tight for Walker—if he makes it there. Wisconsin Democrats plan to launch a drive to recall Walker from office.


    Credit: AP Images 

  • Representative Sean Duffy (WI) (5 of 14)

    This former MTV reality star didn’t get off to a great start in Congress. He quickly endorsed the Ryan budget, and subsequently faced large protests at town hall events back home. Duffy didn’t handle the criticism very well—he told one constituent to go “have your own town hall.” At another event, Duffy complained to an underemployed construction worker about his $174,000 Congressional salary. He also helped lead the charge against the popular Consumer Financial Protection Bureau, offering one measure that would severely limit its power.


    President Obama won Duffy’s district by 13 points in 2008, so this first-term representative will no doubt face a tough race in 2012. The DCCC has already launched an online campaign against Duffy well over a year before the election, accusing him of “selling out Wisconsin workers.”


    Credit: AP Images 

  • Representative Charlie Bass (NH) (6 of 14)

    Bass is another freshman Republican sitting on a trap door; Obama won his district by 13 points in 2008. In order to stay in Congress, Bass might have pursued a moderate path—but instead he voted for the Ryan budget. He, too, faced town hall anger, as constituents accused him of supporting a Republican “divide and conquer” strategy. Bass is also involved in an ethics scandal revolving around favors for a New Hampshire lumber company. 


    Credit: AP Images 

  • Governor Paul LePage (ME) (7 of 14)

    Much like Rick Scott in Florida, LePage has kicked off his gubernatorial term with a stunning procession of radical policy changes. His budget raised the retirement age of public workers while freezing their cost-of-living adjustments, cut prescription drug and health coverage to working parents, and ended property tax relief—but also managed to cut taxes by hundreds of millions of dollars, mainly for upper-income Mainers. He also supported a bill that would roll back state child labor laws, and advocated for the deregulation of BPA, a dangerous chemical. At the time, he joked that “the worst case is some women may have little beards.”


    In addition to his policies, LePage’s abrasive public persona has helped to torpedo his approval ratings. He not only refused an invitation from the NAACP to attend a Martin Luther King, Jr. Day event, but told the group to “kiss my butt.” LePage ordered a 36-foot mural depicting the history of worker’s rights in Maine to be removed from the state Department of Labor offices, and even admitted to stealing candy from children.


    Credit: AP Images 

  • Representative Ann Marie Buerkle (NY) (8 of 14)

    Buerkle, a former nurse, voted for the Ryan budget and soon met with protests from angry constituents. As a Republican who barely won her seat in deep-blue New York state, Buerkle was already on shaky ground—and her vote to end Medicare presents an additional challenge. Her district is older than the population as a whole, with 14.1 percent over the age of 65 compared to 12.6 percent nationwide, according to 2010 Census data.


    Credit: AP Images 

  • Representative Lou Barletta (PA) (9 of 14)

    Barletta defeated longtime Representative Paul Kanjorski, but it’s been a rocky start for the former mayor of Hazelton, Pennsylvania. He, too, came under intense fire from his constituents after voting for the Ryan budget. Barletta also holds a number of controversial views on immigration—as mayor, he tried to rescind the business licenses from any company that employed undocumented workers and the rental licenses from landlords who gave them a place to stay. He’s taken his act to Congress, where he has formed the Freshman Immigration Caucus and introduced a bill to combat “sanctuary cities.” His district has a lot more Democratic voters than Republicans, and re-election won’t be easy.


    Credit: AP Images 

  • Representative David Rivera (FL) (10 of 14)

    Rivera joins Bass as the two freshman members of Congress who were embroiled in ethics scandals before January ended.  Rivera is accused of misusing campaign money, and is facing several different probes at once over undisclosed loans from a company owned by his mother. Even Republicans in Washington don’t like him; they describe Rivera as being “less than candid” or “not forthcoming” about his ethics problems. His Florida district has never elected a Democrat, but encountering a major ethics scandal 19 days into office might doom Rivera in 2012.


    Credit: AP Images 

  • Representative Justin Amash (MI) (11 of 14)

    Amash has pulled off a pretty amazing feat: angering not only seniors and independents in his district by voting for the Ryan budget plan, but ticking off the Tea Party at the same time with a number of moderate moves. “He has voted against his party on important symbolic measures, like one that would strip financing from Planned Parenthood, and those most minor, like a measure to amend the Ronald Reagan Centennial Commission Act to extend its termination date,” the New York Times reported in April. He might have to first survive a Tea Party primary before he even worries about the Democratic candidate.


    Credit: AP Images 

  • Senator Pat Toomey (PA) (12 of 14)

    Pennsylvania was a bloodbath for Democrats in 2010, but former Wall Street pro Pat Toomey barely eked out a win for Senate over ex-Representative Joe Sestak. Since then, Toomey has largely kept his head down in the upper chamber, except to see the Senate reject his own radical, hypocritical budget proposal. His plan would cut funds for “transportation and infrastructure, the FBI, most of homeland security activities…elementary and secondary education, National Institutes of Health cancer and other health research, environmental protection, and a vast array of other significant programs,” according to the Center for Budget and Policy Priorities. Maybe that makes sense in the political climate of early 2011, but how will Pennsylvania voters feel when Toomey has to face them in 2016?


    Credit: AP Images 

  • Senator Scott Brown (MA) (13 of 14)

    The accepted wisdom in Washington is that Brown is unbeatable, because polls showed for months that he was the most popular officeholder in Massachusetts. Brown has already lost that somewhat inexplicable distinction, however—his approval rating has dropped far below that of the state’s other Senator, John Kerry.


    Representing an extreme party in deep-blue Massachusetts automatically puts Brown at risk, and his attempts to back away from the GOP might hurt him with Republican voters. He voted against the Ryan budget, against defunding Planned Parenthood and for financial reform. That won’t endear him to Republican voters, and Democrats might find a certain consumer advocate to be a much more attractive candidate—meaning Brown could be a man without a home in 2012.


    Credit: AP Images 

  • Representative Steve Stivers (OH) (14 of 14)

    After defeating freshman Representative Mary Jo Kilroy in a purple district, Steve Stivers came to Washington and voted to dismantle Medicare by supporting the Ryan budget. As his 2012 opponent will no doubt note, during his 2008 and 2010 runs for Congress Stivers received nearly $340,000 in campaign contributions from the health insurance industry, according to the Center for Responsive Politics. During the 2010 campaign Stivers talked a great Tea Party game, suggesting that all but four federal departments (State, Defense, Justice, Treasury) be eliminated. He’s going to have to bet that’s still a popular message next year.


    For more on the backlash against the Republicans' extreme policy proposals, read George Zornick's updates on The Notion.


    Research for this slide show provided by Zachary Newkirk


    Credit: AP Images 

  • Share
  • Decrease text size Increase text size