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Monday, December 05, 2011

The Average 'Deeply-Held Conservative Belief' Probably has a Shelf-Life of Six Months

Last week, I wrote about one of the hallmarks of modern Republican thought; believing what they want to believe. In that post, I focused mainly on a completely backwards economic philosophy that basically argues that if you put more bread on store shelves, more customers will magically appear to buy it. In the alternate reality that the GOP want so badly to inhabit, supply drives demand. Employers don't hire people because they need them, they hire people because they can afford them. In GOPWorld, if you hire someone you don't need, you're "growing your business" and customers will start beating down your door. Therefore, the road to universal prosperity is paved with tax cuts, so everyone can afford to hire a whole bunch of people that they currently don't need.

If that makes absolutely no sense at all to you, then congratulations; you're not stupid. Economic growth is consumer-driven, not employer-driven. And if you're hiring people to make bread for non-existent customers, that bread will rot on the shelves and you'll go broke. The supply-side fairy who waves a wand to create customers out of thin air doesn't exist, sorry. But Republicans don't want to hear that, so it's just not true at all for them.

But it's possible for a species to be unique for more than one trait. And Republicans also share another trait that separates them from you or me; shameless hypocrisy. It actually goes hand in hand with believing what you want to believe; the marriage results in cognitive dissonance.


The most recent national example of this may be the now-derailed Herman Cain Train. Prior to revelations of sexual harassment and affairs, Herman Cain and Republicans had all but declared racism dead in America. After the news broke and they went into spin mode, the blame went to Democrats and a media who were afraid of a black conservative. Where racism didn't exist before Cain got into trouble, it was the sole driving force behind the scandal afterward. Conservatives did a complete 180 and few of them blinked. What was true last week wasn't true this week. But be ready, because it could become true again. It really depends on what they need to be true at the moment.

Take, for instance, a less national (but perhaps more important) example, offered by John Nichols this weekend in Wisconsin's The Capital Times:

Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker’s campaign is spending a lot of the money it has collected from out-of-state billionaires to fund a television ad campaign that preaches against recall elections.

The governor’s “Recall: No” campaign, which has been augmented by a push from Americans for Prosperity, a project of the billionaire brothers Charles and David Koch, argues that the push for a recall election is simply “sour grapes.” Walker and Lt. Gov. Rebecca Kleefisch won the 2010 election, the line goes, so Wisconsinites should swallow hard and shut up for four years.

This fantasy, that elections produce a “king for four years” or an “elected despot” (to borrow phrases from Thomas Jefferson and James Madison), has been promoted by the governor in interviews with right-wing talk radio and regular appearances on Fox News and CNBC programs.

“A minority of voters will get to force a new election in Wisconsin … costing millions of dollars to the taxpayers this spring,” Walker griped in the latest of the appearances on programs that he makes as part of a fundraising push.

Walker's complaints strike "a particularly hypocritical note," writes Nichols.

Back when he was a state legislator, Walker was an enthusiastic proponent of recall elections. In fact, he was one of only a handful of state legislators who aligned with — and ultimately took money from — a group that was seeking to recall U.S. Sens. Russ Feingold and Herb Kohl.

Walker got even more enthusiastic about recalls in 2002, when he became the favored candidate of the group seeking to remove Milwaukee County Executive Tom Ament. After Ament resigned, Walker was elected to replace him.

"You know the folks that were angry about this started a recall and they were told they needed to collect 73,000 signatures in 60 days," Walker said of the Milwaukee County recall. "Well, not hundreds, not thousands, but tens of thousands of ordinary people did an extraordinary thing. They stood up and took their government back. In less than 30 days they collected more than 150,000 signatures. It was at that moment I realized the real emotion on display in my county wasn't just about anger. You see, if it had been about anger, it would have been about people checking out and moving out or giving up. But instead what happened was really amazing. You saw people standing up shoulder to shoulder, neighbor to neighbor and saying we want our government back. And in doing so the real emotion on display was about hope."

Where recall elections were an exercise in democracy that brought a tear to Walker's eye in 2002, they're a costly temper tantrum from sore losers now.

Whether it's Herman Cain cries of racism or Walker's newly-found opposition to recall elections or a host of other GOP flip-flops, you can boil it down to one argument; it's only OK when Republicans do it.


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