If you ever wondered what is wrong with the GOP, look no further than the candidates running in the Republican primary for retiring Congressman Howard Coble’s seat. In a single forum, they laid out their bigotry, callousness and ignorance. To a group of school kids.

In front of an audience of middle school students at Greensboro Montessori School, the GOP made sure that their ignorance was on full display. First, two candidates cast doubt about climate change. Only in America is there widespread doubt about climate change–and that only comes from one party. One candidate even went so far as to say we should be worried about a looming Ice Age. So much for science.

And then there’s frontrunner Phil Berger, Jr. When a sixth-grade girl asked him about his support for marriage equality, she says he compared it to people marrying dogs. Maybe he said it and maybe he didn’t but she heard it from somewhere and it’s been an acceptable line of reasoning for bigots that the GOP refuses to condemn. The goal of arguments like that is to make people less than human to justify discrimination and  abuse. Phil Berger, Jr., needs deny that he made that argument and then condemn it and the people who perpetuate it.

On the coal ash spill, the candidates sided squarely with Duke Energy. One said “accidents do happen” (Duke is the largest power company in the world, not a toddler at the dinner table) and we shouldn’t “encroach on the rights of companies.” Screw the rights of those downstream. And Berger is concerned that Duke might be punished at all. He wants to move regulatory control to Congress so any regulations can get bottled up in gridlock like everything else in Washington.

On too many issues, the GOP is the party of deceit–and they are seriously fooling themselves. Right now, they are cheering for voter fraud in order to justify voter suppression. They deny climate change to justify polluting. And like the bigots who defended slavery and segregation, they use religion to justify their discrimination against gay people.

I don’t believe most of the Republican leadership really buys these arguments. They just use them because the ends justifies the means. And the end here is more profit and the voting support of provincial and narrow-minded people. It’s a disgraceful and shortsighted way to run a party. While the GOP may benefit in the short-term, they’ll pay a price in the long run. That’s how politics works.

Combined, these candidates make one helluva case to elect Laura Fjeld.