Paula Deen Paula Deen (Carlo Allegri/Associated Press)

Some recent poll results have reminded me why I am a Democrat. When Republicans in the state of Georgia were asked their feelings toward a variety of modern and historical public figures, they rated Paula Deen ahead of Martin Luther King, and it wasn’t close.

The question was a pollster’s trick, designed for a little fun and publicity, like asking whether you would rather be stuck in an elevator with a giant python or Sen. Mitch McConnell, or meet up with Anthony Weiner or Whitey Bulger in a dark alley. But the fact Georgia Republicans have a higher opinion of a disgraced talk show host who, at best, is racially ignorant, than one of the greatest moral leaders in history tells us how low the party has sunk in some parts of the country. North Carolina, for example, where Republicans control the legislature and the governor’s office and are imposing an agenda that makes a mockery of the state’s mostly moderate traditions.

The Republican legislature there recently repealed the state’s Racial Justice Act which had allowed death row convicts to be spared if they could prove racial bias in their cases. Racial bias in death penalty cases has been well-documented, and doesn’t it seem obscene, even to death penalty proponents, that a black person is more likely than a white one to get the death sentence for a similar crime? Well, that bias has just been sanctioned by law. This is not just racist language, as practiced by Deen, it enables the ultimate racist act. And, of course, there are other terribly regressive laws on abortion and education being passed in other Republican-led legislatures across the country.

I have written a lot about the hijacking of the Republican agenda by zealots and its implications for the party’s political prospects. The story’s not new, but it continues to surprise in its changing and twisted manifestations. A portion of the party is baring a very ugly and angry soul to the nation. They will not triumph, but they will do a lot of damage before they fail. In the meantime, they make it easier to be a Democrat. Finally, for the record, I would choose Sen. McConnell and Whitey Bulger.