Note: this is an outtake from a column by Charles P. Pierce who writes the Politics blog for Esquire magazine. Mr. Pierce is one of the funniest, yet most insightful commentators around. This week he discusses the hypocrisy of the Republican Party. This one really hits the mark squarely
Tout le Beltway is a’twitter about this commercial that Wendy Davis ran in her race for governor of Texas. The commercial makes the point that Greg Abbott, her Republican opponent and the state’s attorney general, who is confined to a wheelchair after being paralyzed in a freak accident for which he sued and won a massive, $10 million settlement, has spent his whole career in office advocating against the kinds of lawsuits that made Abbott rich. (Here’s Abbott suing to overturn the Americans With Disabilities Act, which was signed by that RINO bastard from Texas, George H.W. Bush.) It has been a tough campaign down there, but, for some reason, the Davis ad has allowed Abbott to gin up a firestorm in the mainstream media about what a terrible injustice has been done to him, Greg Abbott. Outside of the wingnut blogosphere, Aaron Blake of The Washington Post got the ball rolling, and Ben Dreyfuss in Mother Jones turned in the mother of all misinterpretations, missing the point of the ad by a mere half-a-continent or so. There’s barely any room on the fainting couch, what with all this bipartisanship.
We will set aside all discussion of whether the commercial was worth the candle politically; Davis has been less of a candidate than people thought she would be, and remains likely to lose the election. And we will set aside the simple argument about whether Abbott’s actions in office make him a hypocrite. The Davis ad is an important one because it strikes at the heart of what movement conservatism has made of the Republican party, which once was the party of the Pure Food and Drug Act, trust-busting, the Interstate Highway System, the Clean Water Act, and the EPA. Over the past three decades, however, beginning with that epochal moment when Ronald Reagan said, in his first inaugural, that government was the problem — not if you were a defense contractor, one thinks, or a mullah who wanted missiles — the Republican party has profited uniquely from a massive internal contradiction that would have given a less well-funded institution the blind staggers. And the party has doubled down on that contradiction year after year, decade after decade. Simply put, the Republican party deliberately has transformed itself from the Party of Lincoln to the Party of I’ve Got Mine, Jack. And it rarely, if ever, gets called to account for that. As a result, and without substantial notice or paying a substantial price, and on many issues, individual Republicans have been able to justify the benefits they’ve received from government activity that they now oppose in theory and in practice. This is not “hypocrisy.” That is too mild a word. This is the regulatory capture of the government for personal benefit. That it makes a lie, again and again, of the basic principles of modern conservatism — indeed, that it shows those principles to be a sham — is certainly worthy of notice and debate. It is certainly worthy of notice and debate that the conservative idea of the benefits of a political commonwealth means those benefits run only one way. Modern conservatism is not about making the government smaller. It’s about making the government exclusive. It’s not about streamlining the benefits of the political commonwealth. It’s about making sure those benefits flow only to those people who have proven through their ability to work all the other levers of power that they deserve those benefits.
The contradiction never should have been allowed to grow this way. Clarence Thomas should have been defined by his hysterical opposition to the affirmative action programs that helped him get out of Georgia and into Holy Cross, and not by what he may or may not have said to Anita Hill, as egregious as those comments may have been. Paul Ryan should have had the Social Security survivors benefits that got him through high school and college hung around his entire political career and draped like an iron shroud over every dystopian “budget” he ever proposed. (And, no, his sudden tenderness towards the generosity of his fellow citizens doesn’t count. You’re welcome, dickhead.) Every Republican congressman who begged for money from the stimulus package he otherwise condemned — like Paul Ryan, now that I think about it — should have had that request become a liability, and not an asset. And, since the elite political press pretty much has chickened out on its job of highlighting how the entire modern conservative ideology is built on this kind of slippery manure, it’s up to the Democratic party to do it, and the Democratic party has been terrible at the job, too. This is why Wendy Davis’s commercial is not only fair, it’s an important moment that needs to be replicated where applicable all over the country until the message sinks in. Either government is the problem or it is not. If it’s a problem for the country as a whole, then it’s also a problem in Greg Abbott’s personal life, and he should have been more concerned than he was about those personal injury lawsuits that are clogging up the courts. After all, they’re the real job-killers.
Ed. note: My bolding and the pictures did not come with the column. I could have easily bolded it all.The big takeaway is that Republicans get away with this because the media aids them. Plus the Democrats do not stand up to them, mostly because of fear of media ridicule I would guess.