That’s Wisconsin state senator Glenn Grothman, currently the Republican nominee to replace US Rep. Tom Petri, arguing that there are too many yes-men in Congress. “Glenn Grothman knows when it’s time to stand up and say no,” the ad assures us. Of course, the 113th Congress is on track to pass fewer laws than any in US history. There appears to be an unprecedented number of representatives willing to stand up and say no, but in Grothman’s mind Congress is a handmaiden to the president. His bizarre claim reflects an article of faith among contemporary conservatives: that the United States has somehow become pervasively, oppressively liberal.
One of the problems of contemporary conservatism is that it is largely theoretical. A lot of ideas now fashionable in the Republican Party are hard to evaluate on their merits, because they have never been tried. Some, like abolishing the Federal Reserve or income tax, remain theoretical because they would require us to reverse history. Others, like the belief that lowering taxes on the wealthy stimulates economic growth, are unfalsifiable because they have been stymied by political opposition. But no such opposition has existed in Kansas, where former Senator Sam Brownback was elected governor in 2010. For almost four years now, Brownback has conducted a “red-state experiment,” cutting taxes, restricting abortion, and dramatically reducing spending on schools. He put conservative theory into practice, and the results are in: poverty went up, the state budget faces a $300 million shortfall, and the Kansas economy has grown at half the rate of its four neighbors.
Those impartial inquirers over at The Daily Beast have “caught” Joni Ernst, Republican candidate for Iowa’s Senate seat, saying that states can nullify federal laws. Really, she didn’t say that. She said that as a federal legislator, she would not pass the kind of laws that states would consider nullifying. She also said it last September, at the Iowa Faith and Freedom Coalition, while standing in front of a drum set. So grain of salt, but here she is:
You know we have talked about this at the state legislature before, nullification. But, bottom line is, as U.S. Senator why should we be passing laws that the states are considering nullifying? Bottom line: our legislators at the federal level should not be passing those laws. We’re right…we’ve gone 200-plus years of federal legislators going against the Tenth Amendment’s states’ rights. We are way overstepping bounds as federal legislators. So, bottom line, no we should not be passing laws as federal legislators—as senators or congressman—that the states would even consider nullifying. Bottom line.
If Ernst wants to pay my exorbitant consulting fee, I can think of a phrase that she uses too much. Also, let’s take a second to talk about nullification, which is a hot topic in American politics for the first time since 1832.
In the same way that the foreign exchange student was weirdly the most candid person at your high school, foreign news services are a great way to catch up on long-running* stories that you somehow missed. Besides describing state senators’ flight to Illinois as “an almost comic move,” this article from the Guardian neatly sums up what’s going on in Wisconsin. Perhaps you’ve heard about this, but they’ve got some law up there nobody can agree about. Newly-elected governor Scott Walker, with the support of a Republican senate, wants to address the state’s budget shortfall by cutting benefits to schoolteachers and other state employees. He also wants to eliminate collective bargaining rights for same. Exactly what teachers’ right to negotiate as a union might have to do with the state’s fiscal problems is just one of the many fun complications people are yelling about in Wisconsin.
While I was languishing in the airport yesterday, beacon of vigilance Ben Fowlkes sent me the most recent Daily Kos/Research 2000 poll of registered Republicans. It is disturbing. It starts off okay, with a healthy number of respondents expressing their intention to vote in the 2010 congressional election and their reluctance to settle on a candidate for president in 2012. It’s disappointing to see Sarah Palin in the lead—and terrifying to see Dick Cheney in third—but three years ahead of the actual election, name recognition is pretty much all there is. Things start to get a little crazy with question three, in which 39% of Republicans opine that President Obama should be impeached. Exactly what crime he has committed goes unspecified, but perhaps respondents were rushing to get to the next question, in which nearly two-thirds of those polled agree that the president is a socialist. Thus begins a series of money shots, in a barrage of insanity that leaves the reader crouched numbly on the floor like a Japanese girl on the internet. If this poll is to be believed, 73% of Republicans think homosexuals shouldn’t be allowed to be schoolteachers. Seventy-seven percent want the Biblical account of creation from Genesis to be taught in public schools. Thirty-one percent want to outlaw contraception. And fully 23% of Republicans believe that their state should secede from the United States of America.