With the 60-odd gains for the House Republicans, let’s take a special look at a particular brand of Republicans, whose ranks have potentially been enlarged tonight: The Crazy Caucus, those members of Congress who become especially well known for saying and doing things that are not just very conservative, not just right-wing…but really out there.
[TPM SLIDESHOW: Meet Your New U.S. Senators]
Current folks that we’ve kept track of have included Rep. Michele Bachmann (R-MN), Rep. Steve King (R-IA), and Rep. Paul Broun (R-GA). It can be hard, looking at a crop of 60 incoming freshmen, to know exactly who will or won’t distinguish themselves in this area. But in particular, four GOP pickups offer a lot of promise.
Other folks could very well pop up in the next two years, but these four bear close watching.
Allen West (R-FL)
Without a doubt, Allen West is going to become a new star all around — adored on the right, and a bogeyman of the left. First of all, West built his conservative political career on a particular event from his own military service — when he tortured an Iraqi policeman, and was proud of it.
Since then, his attitudes on foreign policy haven’t changed much: “A nation goes to war against an ideology. We are against something that is a totalitarian, theocratic, political ideology, and it is called Islam.”
The incident ended his time in uniform, and launched him on a track to Republican politics. West ran against then-freshman Democratic Rep. Ron Klein in 2008, losing by 55%-45%. In this strong Republican year, he won by 54%-46%.
Also during this past campaign, West faced questions over his campaign’s ties to a criminal biker gang, The Outlaws. And at one of his events, a group of leather-clad men ejected a Democratic video tracker, as West got the crowd cheering. (It is unclear whether these same security men were Outlaws. In addition, West has pointed out that he could not possibly be an Outlaw himself — they do not accept African-Americans as members.)
Renee Ellmers (R-NC)
Ellmers won an upset 50%-48% victory against seven-term Democratic Bob Etheridge. (And Etheridge was no angel — he had previously distinguished himself by manhandling a conservative video-blogger.)
What issue did Ellmers run on? Why, it was her vigorous anti-mosque campaigning. Check out this ad, in which Ellmers campaigned on her opposition to the Park 51 “Ground Zero Mosque,” calling it a part of a historic Muslim pattern of creating “victory mosques” in places they have conquered:
This led to an interesting interview with Anderson Cooper, in which Cooper pointed out that all religious groups have built houses of worship in places they conquered — such as the Catholic Church, for example. In response, Ellmers accused Cooper of being anti-Christian.
A former state Representative, Hartzler defeated 17-term Democratic Rep. Ike Skelton by a margin of 50%-45%. Previously, she had distinguished herself through her anti-gay marriage campaigns, leading the charge to amend the state constitution.
But that’s not all. Hartzler belongs to that particular branch of conservative politicians, such as Michele Bachmann, who have described their political careers as callings from God. In fact, she wrote a campaign handbook for similarly-minded aspiring politicians, Running God’s Way.
The religious-right American Family Association profiled Hartzler and her book:
At the same time, she remembered being a child of 9 when she began asking God what she should do to serve people when she grew up. Even at that young age, the idea of being a state representative came to her mind.
So she was not totally surprised a local political activist approached her about running for state representative.
Tim Walberg (R-MI)
Walberg is not actually new — he’s an previous guy coming back, and bringing new levels of The Crazy. He was first elected in 2006, as a Club For Growth primary challenger against moderate Republican Rep. Joe Schwarz. Then in 2008, he was defeated by Democrat Mark Schauer, then came back this year to win by 50%-45%.
So what gets him a place on our list? Well, during his time in the wilderness, as he was climbing back as a candidate, Walberg became birther-curious, telling a questioner at an event that the matter of the president’s citizenship wasn’t resolved. He also said that if he were Obama, he would show his birth certificate to various public officials and talk-radio hosts — and that the matter could be handled through impeachment investigations if Republicans won a majority.