Saturday, March 12, 2016

Texas State Board of Education Candidate Embodies the GOP's Embrace of Ignorance

Coming from a family with a long history of Republican ties and having myself been a city committee member and precinct chair for nearly eight (8) years, I continue to be shocked by how low a political party that once thought of itself as educated, moderately cultured and respectful of science and knowledge has become the home base for fringe lunatics and those who frankly need mental health interventions.  On the national scene these low intelligence, low education masses in the GOP base are rallying to Donald Trump's racist and fascist themed campaign.  Shockingly, at the local and state level, things are even scarier.  Texas is seemingly ground zero for such lunacy and a candidate for the state board of education reflects just how sick and ignorance worshiping the Republican Party has become.  The candidate, Mary Lou Bruner, has claimed on social media, among other things, that President Obama had worked as a gay prostitute in his youth, that the United States should ban Islam, that the Democratic Party had John F. Kennedy killed and that the United Nations had hatched a plot to depopulate the world.  Frighteningly, many in today's GOP see nothing wrong with Bruner's insanity.  Moreover, here in Virginia, the Virginia GOP is controlled by many who hold Bruner's beliefs.  Here are highlights from the New York Times:

On Super Tuesday, Dale Clark voted for a local Republican who claimed on social media that President Obama had worked as a gay prostitute in his youth, that the United States should ban Islam, that the Democratic Party had John F. Kennedy killed and that the United Nations had hatched a plot to depopulate the world.

Mr. Clark, 75, was unaware that the candidate he had supported — Mary Lou Bruner, 68, a former kindergarten teacher running for a seat on the State Board of Education — held such views. But as he sat with his wife eating lunch in this East Texas city, Mr. Clark was ready to give Ms. Bruner the benefit of the doubt.

“I would not discount her on the basis of having those beliefs,” said Mr. Clark, a retired pilot. “It convinces me, though, that she’s quite conservative, and if I were going to err either way, I would want to err toward the side of the conservative.”

Ms. Bruner’s anti-Obama, anti-Islam, anti-evolution and anti-gay Facebook posts have generated national headlines and turned an obscure school board election into a glimpse of the outer limits of Texas politics. In a part of the state dominated by conservative Christians and Tea Party activists, Ms. Bruner’s candidacy has posed a question no one can answer with any certainty — how far to the fringe is too far for Texas Republicans?

Because of the board’s clout in selecting textbooks for all of the state’s schools, it can influence the content of textbooks produced nationwide.

Here in Ms. Bruner’s hometown, Mineola, and elsewhere in intensely conservative East Texas, her views fit a widely accepted anti-Obama and conspiracy friendly antigovernment mind-set. Inside Kitchens Hardware and Deli, the combination hardware store and diner where Mr. Clark was eating, a sign on a shelf read, “Hillary for Prison 2016.” A woman in a nearby store who declined to give her name said she would not hold Ms. Bruner’s Facebook posts against her, and spoke at length about her belief that the massacre at Sandy Hook Elementary School in 2012 was a government-staged hoax.

Tammy Blair, the chairwoman of the Republican Party in nearby Cherokee County, said there were differing definitions of extreme, adding that she was sympathetic to the movement to have Texas secede from the United States.  “At the end of the day, is Mary Lou a wacko extremist? No,” Ms. Blair said. 

On her Facebook page, Ms. Bruner called Mr. Obama “Ahab the Arab,” and wrote that he “hates all white people and all wealthy people because to him wealthy means white.” Although she condemned the Ku Klux Klan in one posting, she wrote positively of its roots, writing that it started “as citizens trying to fight back against a corrupt government when there were corrupt officials or no officials at all to keep law and order in the rural areas.” Of Mr. Obama’s youth, she wrote: “I heard from a reliable source that Obama was also a male prostitute for a while when he lived in New York with his male ‘partner.’ How do you think he paid for his drugs?”

Other Republicans have expressed shock and disgust at Ms. Bruner’s comments and primary victory, and have vowed to vote for Mr. Ellis in the May runoff. Her critics include the superintendents of several East Texas school districts.

“Some of the statements that she has made make you question her ability to hold an office,” said Mary Ann Whiteker, the longtime superintendent of the Hudson Independent School District in Lufkin. “It’s very, very frightening to think that she could be giving input on what we ought to be teaching our students.”

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