I understand that Republican candidates for president feel that they need to run as far to the right as possible, in order to get the nomination. Mitt Romney, of course, famously ran so far to the right that he became near-unrecognizable from his moderate Massachusetts roots, and ultimately he became a man without convictions and lost a race in a year the GOP should have cleaned-up. But sometimes, candidates out-do the norm and risk falling off the edge.
This year, that crown appears to be going to Gov. Scott Walker (R-WI). I get the sense that after he gained so much popularity on the lunatic fringe right for creating cutbacks for unions and those nasty teachers, that he's figured if it worked once, it ought to keep working. The problem -- as he might have learned from Mr. Romney -- is that it paints you deep into a corner in the general election it's hard to get out of, without getting wet paint all over your footsteps, so voters can see everyone you've been wandering.
In Mr. Walker's case there's a difference with Mitt Romney. He's not someone running from his past, but with his past blowing him from the back and pushing him on. Mind you, I don't know how much of this he actually believes -- it might be all, it might be none -- but since he's largely the poster child of the Koch Bros., I get the sense that he'll say whatever it is he thinks they want. Or knows they want.
The latest is his lawsuit -- yes, lawsuit -- against the U.S. government (yes, against the government) to allow the state of Wisconsin to drug test single, childless recipients of Food Stamps. So that -- well, I don't know, Republicans are always pissed off about what people buy with Food Stamps. All those caviar and lobster dinners, you know. The thing is, there's a problem with this action of the governor. Well...okay, there are a bunch of problems, but one in particular: it's illegal to drug test Food Stamp recipients.
This pesky problems leads to my favorite quote about the situation. It's from Tom Vilsack, the U.S. Secretary of Agriculture. the department that oversees Food Stamps, and so he knows a thing or two about the program. "Gov. Walker hasn’t read the law. It’s always a good idea before you start litigation to understand what the law is."
As I said, though, there are other problems with what Gov. Walker is trying to do.
For starters, I always get the sense that Republicans keep trying to push for drug testing of Food Stamp recipients because they think most of them, or all of them, are black people. I can't prove that, but I've rarely seen the GOP push back against things that will hurt white people all that much, just minorities usually. The thing is, I'm sure that a whole lot of while people get food stamps, if not most of the recipients -- especially in Wisconsin. (I'm from Illinois, only about an hour drive from the Wisconsin border. I spent part of a dozen summers in Wisconsin. My brother lived in Wisconsin for decades. And from all my time in the state, what with all the snow they get, the populace tends to blend in.)
But further, the Republican Party is (supposedly) all about personal responsibility and keeping the government out of our lives -- unless it relates to a woman's body or who you're in love with -- so I can never wrap my mind around Republicans trying to tell people what foods they should be allowed to buy with Food Stamps. And what they do with their lives to qualify for the Food Stamps. One would have thought that "being poor" would have been enough.
And of course, there's one other big problem with the law suit and with Republicans' general desire to drug test that nasty Food Stamp recipients -- and Welfare recipients. And that's: if you want to insist on drug testing all those irresponsible people who get government handouts...why then shouldn't you drug test the executives of Oil Companies and Big Pharma and every corporation that receives government subsidies?
All these are secondary issues, though, to the point at hand. And that's the corner Scott Walker is painting himself in to become the darling of the radical farm right fringe of the Republican Party. Because if he gets the party's nomination, he has zero wiggle room that Mitt Romney had to even try to move to the center. And that didn't work him. So, Scott Walker risks running in tiny circles at the edge in order to not fall off.
Robert J. Elisberg is a political commentator, screenwriter, novelist, tech writer and also some other things that I just tend to keep forgetting.
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