One of the never-ending mysteries of American conservatism is whether these people really believe their rhetoric, or whether they know it’s all a preposterous lie but say it anyway.
I know, I know—they can’t possibly believe it, you say. No one can truly believe, for example, that a tax that affects only two out of every 1,000 people who die (the estate tax)—but doesn’t even really affect them, since they’re dead, and instead helps their kids, who were simply lucky to be born their kids and not somebody else’s kids—is unfair or a drag on the economy. But they sure say it with conviction.
Then there are the times when conservatives say that, actually, we have them all wrong. They believe in all the good things the rest of us believe. That has rarely been said in recent times with more seeming conviction than the way Rebekah Mercer said it last week in a Wall Street Journal op-ed onto which the editors pasted the portentous headline “Forget the Media Caricature. Here’s What I Believe.” It’s paywalled, so I won’t link to it, but here’s a little chunk from the top:
Some have recklessly described me as supporting toxic ideologies such as racism and anti-Semitism. More recently I have been accused of being “anti-science.” These absurd smears have inspired a few gullible, but vicious, characters to make credible death threats against my family and me.
Last month a writer for the Financial Times suggested mysteriously that my “political goals are something she has never publicly defined.” In broad strokes this is what I believe:
I believe in a kind and generous United States, where the hungry are fed, the sick are cared for, and the homeless are sheltered. All American citizens deserve equality and fairness before the law. All people should be treated with dignity and compassion. I support a United States that welcomes immigrants and refugees to apply for entry and ultimately citizenship. I reject as venomous and ignorant any discrimination based on race, gender, creed, ethnicity or sexual orientation.
Well. Tell us, Rebekah: What is it about the Andrew Breitbart-Steve Bannon worldview you have embraced so wholeheartedly that emphasizes a kind and generous United States where the hungry are fed?
Rebekah, do you understand which party you support? It’s the Republican Party. There is a party that keeps wanting to increase, say, money for the food-stamps program, which puts food in the mouths of hungry children. But it’s not the Republicans. In fact, the Republicans keep slashing that. Recently, the president you love proposed cutting the program even more and giving recipients their quota not in stamps but in canned goods. In case you missed this article, you should read it. It describes how two administration officials know the plan has no chance of passage but is a bid by “fiscal hawks” to press for $85 billion in other food-assistance cuts. Big-hearted!
Likewise, there’s a party that just tried to expand health care. You may have heard about that. That also was not the Republican Party. In fact the Republican Party has tried to move heaven and earth for the last seven years to do away with it. Oh, and get this: Back then, the federal government offered the states free money to sign their people up to new health-care coverage. Most Democratic governors took advantage of that, and most Republican governors did not. I’m only telling you because it seems like you’d like to know.
Finally, there’s also a party that keeps wanting to devote more resources to helping the homeless. Guess what? Also not the Republican Party! In fact, the Republican president, whom you avow that you support in this very same Journal column, tried to cut the entire budget of the U.S. Interagency Council on Homelessness. That entire budget, by the way, is a measly $3.5 million. You could cover that yourself!
Folks, maybe I’m judging her too harshly. Maybe, despite her political views, she’s a good-hearted person who donates many millions to the causes of feeding the hungry, caring for the sick, housing the homeless. There is a Mercer Family Foundation, after all, of which she is apparently the president. So let’s have a look under that rock.
Hmmm. According to the foundation’s 2015 990s, it did indeed give a lot of money away. About $24.5 million. Must’ve fed a lot of starving people! Let’s see: $5 million to George W. Bush’s library; $3 million to the Media Research Center, a right-wing media-monitoring group; $2.3 million to the Federalist Society; $2 million to the foundation of Stony Brook University; $1.7 million to the Government Accountability Institute; $1.1 million to Young America’s Foundation. And so on and so on.
Probably not much food for hungry being doled out at many of those places (although probably plenty of canapes for sated strict constructionists). Oh wait! Here at the very bottom of the list is $10,000 to the Massachusetts General Cancer Center. Now that’s putting her money where her mouth is.
Clearly, Ms. Mercer is confused. And she’s double-backflip confused about “venomous and ignorant discrimination.” In what precise way does she oppose venomous discrimination on the basis of race and ethnicity? By supporting Donald Trump?
She also prattles on about how she believes in science and free inquiry and open debate. Why, she has degrees from Stanford in “biology, mathematics, and operations research and engineering economic systems.” She makes reference to the beleaguered scientists who face “career-ending backlash and persecution” if they ask certain questions. So she thinks, what… that the 98 percent of the world’s scientists who believe that climate change is real and that human activity has worsened it are the ones who are persecuting the brave 2 percent of “truth-tellers.”
All right. Enough. She doesn’t believe a word of that Journal column. Or worse, she actually thinks she believes it. In either case, if she keeps writing multimillion-dollar checks to candidates and groups that so plainly oppose her dearly held beliefs, the caricatures will keep coming, and she might sit down and think about why.