Mad Scientists of the Laboratories of Democracy: Senator Stacey Campfield Edition
Ever since the Republican Party’s post-2012 election pursuit of sanity, some very peculiar things have been happening on the national level.
For example, taxes were raised, “Dreamers” were embraced and, just yesterday, in a somewhat jarring demonstration of Fellow Americanism, Rep. Eric Cantor (one of the older-and-wiser Young Guns) took the Republican gospel of self-reliance to “urban” schoolchildren (already on the right track because they attend a charter school). Americans can be forgiven any cynicism regarding these measures, but, you know, at least they’re trying.
Evidently, remoter Republicans toiling away in the “laboratories of Democracy” haven’t received the memo yet because they are still displaying batshit-craziness that, if anything, appears to be somewhat amped-up. Maybe they’re afraid the grown-ups will prevail?
For those unfamiliar with the term “laboratories of Democracy,” it refers to state government. The US basically has a Big League federal government and a “farm team” in each of the 50 states. Chief Supreme Court Justice Louis Brandeis coined the term to describe how a “state may, if its citizens choose, serve as a laboratory; and try novel social and economic experiments without risk to the rest of the country.”
And many states take that role very seriously, especially southern states that would probably just as soon be states in a different union than the one in which they find themselves . . . if you get my drift? One such state is Tennessee, The Volunteer State. Originally part of North Carolina, Tennessee became a state, in its own right, in 1796.
Tennessee was the last state to leave the Union and join the Confederacy at the outbreak of the Civil War in 1861, and the first state to be readmitted to the Union at the end of the war. Tennessee furnished more soldiers for the Confederate Army than any other state, and, at the same time, more soldiers for the Union Army than any other Southern state.
Tennessee is also notorious for some of the nation’s worst racial strife, from the formation of the Ku Klux Klan in Pulaski in 1866 to the assassination of Martin Luther King in Memphis in 1968.
Until as recently as 1953, Tennessee had a poll tax which kept most African Americans and many poor whites, both men and women, off the voter rolls. Even after the poll tax was lifted there were still many subtler barriers to voter registration that didn’t end until passage of the Voting Rights Act of 1965.
That brings me to Sen. Stacey Campfield (R-The Closet), a movement conservative serving in Tennessee’s “laboratory of Democracy,” just waiting to do ever greater things for America.
First elected in 2004, Stacey Campfield’s magnum opus is SB49 The Classroom Protection Act, which would prohibit any instruction or discussion of homosexuality in classrooms from kindergarten through eighth grade because . . . unnatural!! Hence the bill’s popular nickname, the “Don’t Say Gay” bill. Campfield has been flogging this zombie bill for six years now.
It’s most recent demise came in 2011 when it passed the Tennessee Senate, then died in the House.
As Kevin Fallon of the Daily Beast reported:
. . . the bill passed the Senate, ultimately dying an expensive and embarrassing death in the House after two years of debate. “We found out there really is not sex education curriculum in K-8 right now,” GOP Rep. Bill Dunn said at the time, pointing out that sexuality isn’t discussed at all in Tennessee schools until ninth grade, rendering the bill useless.
It took two years to realize this.
Emboldened, I guess, by Republicans’ approval ratings and “success” at the polls in 2012, Campfield resurrected the thing again, last month, and the latest iteration, SB 0234 comes with a new provision: not only would discussing homosexuality in the classroom be banned, but if students seek advice or counseling about being gay, question being gay, or are treated by peers in a way that indicates they are suspected of being gay, school officials must out them to their parents.
Campfield has thought quite a bit about teh gayz problem and has some very interesting theories about homosexuality that he is happy to share.
Like these . . .
On January 26, 2012 in a Sirius XM radio interview with Huffington Post’s Michelangelo Signorile, Campfield explained the origin of the AIDS epidemic to Signorile, thus:
Most people realize that AIDS came from the homosexual community — it was one guy screwing a monkey, if I recall correctly, and then having sex with men. It was an airline pilot, if I recall. My understanding is that it is virtually — not completely, but virtually — impossible to contract AIDS through heterosexual sex…very rarely [transmitted]. What’s the average lifespan of a homosexual? it’s very short. Google it yourself.
Here, Campfield discourses on what he calls the “glorification” of homosexuality in the media:
Homosexuals represent about 2 to 3 percent of the population yet you look at television and plays and theaters, it’s 50 percent of the theaters, probably more than that, 50 percent of the theaters based on something about homosexuality.
Then there’s this on bullying and gay teen suicides:
That bullying thing is the biggest lark out there.
There are sexually confused children who could be pushed into a lifestyle that I don’t think is appropriate with them and it’s not for the norm for society, and they don’t know how they can get back from that. I think a lot of times these young teens and young children, they find it very hard on themselves and unfortunately some of them commit suicide.
Thanks for the “unfortunately,” Senator.
You can listen to the entire interview here (BYOB - bring your own barf bag) . . .
On the other hand, I’m happy to report that Tennesseeans are not all troglodytes and a few came up with creative ways to put a lid on Campfield. Like the students and alumni of Vestal High School, Campfield’s alma mater, who voted to have the senator’s portrait removed from their Wall of Fame after his statements about gays and AIDS went public.
Or, my personal favorite, Martha Boggs, owner of a popular Knoxville restaurant known as The Bistro who recognized Campfield in her lunch crowd, one day, and refused to serve him. Boggs said that she felt she had to take a stand after his remarks about AIDS:
He’s gone from being stupid to dangerous. It’s just my way of standing up to a bully.
The following day she posted the menu (photo below) on the sidewalk in front of her restaurant:
Later, Boggs added that she thought it might do Campfield some good to feel what it’s like to be unfairly discriminated against.
I don’t want to imply, though, that Campfield’s is a single-issue wingnuttery. Aside from his peculiar preoccupation with homosexuals he has also made these legislative contributions:
As a State House freshman, In 2005, Campfield said that he was interested in joining the legislative Black Caucus. He described the group’s bylaws as racist because he said they restrict membership based on race, which he described as being more restrictive than the Ku Klux Klan’s bylaws. The leader of the Black Caucus considered asking members of the group to vote on whether to give Campfield honorary membership, but Campfield said he only wanted full membership.
In 2007, Campfield sponsored a bill to issue death certificates for aborted fetuses. The senator said he wanted people to be able to find out how many abortions were being performed in Tennessee. Tennessee already required abortions to be reported to the Office of Vital Records, and the number of abortions performed in the state was publicly available.
In 2008, Campfield sponsored a bill requiring public colleges in Tennessee to allow their full-time employees with state-issued handgun-carry permits to carry their handguns on campus. The Tennessee Board of Regent opposed the bill, saying that only campus security police at universities should possess weapons on their campuses, and that local police are the best way to protect community college campuses.
In 2008, Campfield proposed a bill to prohibit Tennessee public colleges from admitting illegal immigrants.
In 2009, Campfield introduced a bill to limit lottery winnings to $600 for people on public assistance. Campfield said that people on public assistance should not be buying lottery tickets and instead should be using that money to buy food for their children.
When Todd Akin stepped in it, in 2012, Campfield posted a defense on his personal blog, “Akin Wrong? Not so fast” which linked to an article supporting the idea that stress can cause spontaneous abortions.
In 2013, Campfield introduced Senate Bill 0132 which cuts by 30% the payment made to parents or caretakers of children in families eligible for Tennessee’s Temporary Assistance to Needy Families program, if any of the children fail to meet requirements for school grades or attendance.
Here’s hoping Stacey Campfield never comes up from the “minors” . . .