Wednesday, August 12, 2020

#2369: Bob Vander Plaats

Bob Vander Plaats is a wingnut activist and politician (running for governor of Iowa on numerous occasions and even gaining the endorsement of Chuck Norris), CEO of the organization The Family Leader, and the National Co-Chair for Ted Cruz for President in 2016 – though Vander Plaats later claimed that God intervened to elect Trump. He has previously endorsed a range of religious-right-sympathetic political candidates. 

As a political activist, Vander Plaats has a straightforwardly theocratic vision of governance, where any policy must accord with his interpretation of the word of God: presidents, Congress and judges today “have forgotten who is the Lawgiver. That God institution (sic) government. He has three institutions: He has the Church, he has the family, and he has government. Where those three intersect, that is the focus of The Family Leader.” As such, his principles for running government are fairly straightforward: “You apply his principles and precepts to economics, then your economic house is in order. You apply his principles and precepts to marriage and the family, well marriage and family is in order. You apply his principles and precepts to foreign policy, and foreign policy is in order.” At least he didn’t claim, when the Iowa House of Representatives had an opening invocation given by a Wiccan priestess in 2015, that it was a violation of his religious freedom; he did warn them that it might cause God to exact some sort of retribution, however. 


His group The Family Leader is an umbrella group that includes the Iowa Family Policy Center, Marriage Matters, and a political action committee, the goal being to focus the efforts of religious-right groups to ensure a stronger influence on political campaigns.


Family values

“Family” is of course usually just a code for anti-gay bigotry in Vander Plaats’s speeches and columns. According to Vander Plaats, the Supreme Court’s 2013 DOMA ruling would cause a “constitutional crisis” because the ruling defied “the law of nature and the law of nature’s God.” In fairness, however, he has already made it clear that he doesn’t understand the Constitution. When a Kentucky judge struck down Kentucky’s same-sex marriage ban, Vander Plaats insisted that the decision “runs contrary to liberty” and defies the Declaration of Independence (he failed to offer further clarification). Then he suggested that Congress should defund courts and judges that come to conclusions he disagrees with, just to emphasize once again his abject failure to understand the fundamentals of that Constitution thing. He did, on the other hand, praise Russia’s criminalization of speech supportive of gay rights, something that apparently makes Russia a beacon of liberty and a model for how to enforce the American constitutional amendments.


Here is Vander Plaats saying amazingly silly things about the 2014 Utah marriage ruling. One the one hand, Vander Plaats is a fierce defender of states’ rights and a critic of federal judges coming to decisions that aren’t in line with what he would like them to conclude with state constitutions, having even urged states to ignore Supreme Court rulings they don’t like; on the other hand, he is vehemently opposed to the “leave it to the states” position on marriage equality because gay marriage, like slavery, is something “you don’t leave up to the states. Of course, ultimately he is, of course, just against same sex marriage, and will use whatever argument is ready at hand – being concerned with contradictions is anti-American. 


Meanwhile, supporters of gay rights and marriage equality are really campaigning against liberty and America. Gay rights activists are, according to Vander Plaats,  “always going to throw stones” because Satan “wants to discourage” conservative Christians. He also links gay rights advocacy to advocacy for pot legalization to terrorism, and has compared a gay pride event with the Boston Marathon bombing. He has elsewhere argued (but of course) that legalization of same-sex marriage would lead to legalization of pedophilia and criminalization of the Bible, applying his usual aptitude for facts, reasoning and obvious distinctions. 


Note, however, that Vander Plaats is not merely the crazy fundie conspiracy theorist with a website he should have been, but someone with actual political power. In 2010, for instance, he led the (successful) campaign against the retention of three members of the Iowa Supreme Court who had voted to overturn Iowa’s Defense of Marriage Act in Varnum v. Brien.


In fairness, and as opposed to many family values advocates, Vander Plaats has been a critic of the Trump administration’s family separation policy at the Mexican border, calling it “unconscionable. Inexcusable.”


There is a good Vander Plaats resource here.


Diagnosis: Lunatic bigot with a frightening amount of power and influence. It says, unfortunately, a lot about many of the good people of Iowa that he has this power.

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