As a father, I’ve figured out that nothing – nothing – is more adorable than when little kids use big words that they don’t understand.
In fact, when I was a little kid, my parents used to take me to their favorite seafood restaurant. Sometimes, my mother would get a buttered lobster. I would stare at the red lobster shell, enthralled by the claws and eyes. Finally, in the loudest voice I could muster, I blurted out:
“Mom, are you going to eat the testicles?”
Of course, I meant tentacles. The restaurant stopped and looked at our table. My mother covered her face in horror. I don’t remember us ever going back.
As it turns out, in the Wisconsin Republican gubernatorial primary, we’re seeing one of the candidates misuse a word – and it’s adorable. Seems that Mark Neumann is claiming to be a “conservative,” without really knowing what the word means. And you just want to pat him on the head and pinch his little cheeks.
While crashing the Democratic convention last week, Neumann, a former congressman who has repeatedly claimed to be the “only conservative” in the race for governor, was asked a question regarding what he thought about the U.S. Supreme Court’s Citizen United decision. The decision, handed down several months ago, affirmed the right of third party organizations to run advertisements during campaigns. The ruling struck down a portion of the McCain/Feingold campaign finance law that banned issue advertisements close to election day. In effect, the Court limited the government’s ability to regulate the timing and content of political speech.
But when asked about Citizens United, Mark Neumann bristled. Here’s a video of his response:
[flv:http://www.wpri.org/blog/wp-content/uploads/multimedia/videos/Mark_Neumann_on_Citizens_United.flv 480 360]
You heard that right. Said Neumann:
“I think they should shut down every outside source of information in this campaign except the candidates themselves…”
“Whether that’s not constitutional so we obviously can’t do that. But if Mark Neumann got to have what he wished, that’s what would happen, sir.”
Neumann would actually support governmental censorship of political speech – if only that pesky Constitution didn’t get in the way. He would trust the government to determine what is and isn’t a political ad, and allow it to ban whatever it believes to be objectionable.
There isn’t a “conservative” alive that would trust the federal government with that much power to abridge the First Amendment. At least none with a fundamental understanding of what conservatism means.
What would the effect of Neumann’s ban on political speech be? Studies have shown that in races where third parties buy advertising, voters know more about the candidates, and vote in greater numbers. Apparently Neumann would like less informed voters who don’t bother to vote as often.
Strict campaign finance regulations also heavily benefit incumbents. Elected officials already in office build themselves huge advantages using taxpayer resources. Often times, challengers need help from third party groups to bring issues to the forefront that aid them in overcoming this natural incumbent advantage. Shutting down political speech insulates incumbents from much of the criticism they’ve earned during their tenure.
Of course, if individual citizens are prohibited from engaging in political speech, it always favors candidates with boatloads of personal money who are willing to spend it. Candidates exactly like Mark Neumann, who appears to be spending millions of his own dollars without getting much bang for his buck.
By condemning free campaign speech, Neumann is casting his lot with liberal boobs like Ed Garvey, who actually claimed the Citizens United decision was worse than Pearl Harbor. (Do not adjust your computer – he actually said it.) Mike McCabe of the left wing Wisconsin Democracy Campaign claimed the decision was worse than Dred Scott. And if he had heard of any other Supreme Court cases, he’d totally think it was as bad as them, too. (Incidentally, the Citizens United decision clearly hasn’t meant the end of democracy, as liberals predicted. For dozens more posts about the folly of campaign finance reform, go here.)
I had a friend in college who was terrible with directions. He thought what ever way his car was pointed was north. It seems like Neumann is working off the same plan – “I’m a conservative, so whatever I say must be conservative, too.” Only it’s not.
So while it does make you want to mess up his hair and buy him an orange push-up, Neumann’s claim that he’s the “conservative” in the race for governor has now lost all meaning. Republicans now don’t have to worry about whether there’s any validity to his claim, as Neumann clearly himself doesn’t know what the term means.
[Note: WPRI does not endorse candidates – it’s up to you to decide who you support. But we will discuss candidates when they pitch goofball ideas.]