Bob Vander Plaats, head of the right-wing group The Family Leader, told The Hill yesterday that he is still weighing a run for U.S. Senate in his home state of Iowa to replace retiring Democrat Tom Harkin.
We’re not entirely convinced that the Religious Right activist isn’t just putting his name out there to get attention – one Iowa GOP strategist said in 2010 that he had “never witnessed an ego the size and proportion of Bob Vander Plaats” – but he certainly has the connections to raise money and early polls show that he would at least be a contender for the Republican nomination.
Vander Plaats, who lost three consecutive gubernatorial elections in the last decade, is a small-time kingmaker for socially conservative national Republicans. Vander Plaats helped to spearhead Mike Huckabee’s and Rick Santorum’s presidential caucus victories in 2008 and 2012 and hosted a 2012 Republican candidates’ forum that attracted every major presidential candidate except for Mitt Romney.
His biggest political victory to date was in 2010 ,when he ran a successful recall campaign against three state supreme court justices who had ruled in favor of marriage equality the previous year. An attempt to oust another justice two years later was a bust.
Vander Plaats insists that he isn’t too extreme to win a general election in the swing state. “I don’t think I’m an extreme in America in regards to valuing human life, the foundation of family with one-man, one-woman marriage, and religious liberty,” he told The Hill.
We’ll believe that when we see it. Here are just six of the most extreme right-wing items on Vander Plaats’ resume:
1. Suggested African American Families Were Better Off Under Slavery
During the 2012 presidential campaign, Vander Plaats took advantage of Iowa’s outsized influence to convince Republican candidates to participate in a debate hosted by his group and to sign the group’s “Marriage Vow.”
The pledge — signed by Michele Bachmann, Rick Santorum and Rick Perry — suggested that African-American families were better off under slavery than in present day: “Slavery had a disastrous impact on African-American families, yet sadly a child born into slavery in 1860 was more likely to be raised by his mother and father in a two-parent household than was an African-American baby born after the election of the USA’s first African-American President.”
The language was eventually removed, but now Vander Plaats has moved on to comparing marriage equality to slavery and the Dred Scott ruling.
2. Favors Russia’s Anti-Gay Crackdown
After launching a campaign to encourage stronger conservative leadership, Vander Plaats hailed Russian president Vladimir Putin as a great leader for his criminalization of “homosexual propaganda.”
While Vander Plaats commends Putin’s anti-gay crackdown, the conservative crusader hasn’t mentioned if he thinks Putin’s bold leadership includes his suppression of dissent, human rights activism and religious freedom .
3. Uses Toxic Anti-Gay Rhetoric
Vander Plaats has likened homosexuality to second hand smoke, a point emphasized by a Family Leader seminar demonstrating that homosexuality, like smoking, represents a “public health crisis.” He defended the comparison, saying, “If we’re teaching the kids, ‘don’t smoke, because that’s a risky health style,’ the same can be true of the homosexual lifestyle.”
Vander Plaats has even linked homosexuality to the national debt and said that an anti-bullying youth conference dishonors God because it tackles the issue of the bullying of LGBT youth.
According to Vander Plaats, same-sex marriage is akin to polygamy and incest and any marriage equality law is unconstitutional because it “goes against the law of nature.”
4. Loves A Good ‘Faggot’ Joke
Exhibiting great leadership, Vander Plaats burst into laughter in response to a joke about “fags” marrying. When asked why a homophobic joke made him crack up, Vander Plaats explained he was merely trying to “love people” and “speak the truth in love.”
5. Wants to Outlaw Pornography
Vander Plaats wants to outlaw pornography, a principle which he attempted to have presidential candidates endorse in his 2012 “Marriage Vow.” In his 2006 gubernatorial campaign, Vander Plaats cited the work of prominent pornography-ban advocate Judith Reisman.
6. Promotes Birther Conspiracies
A big fan of Donald Trump’s “bold” birther crusade, Vander Plaats remains unconvinced that President Obama has a birth certificate proving his U.S. birth.