The Willful Blindness Of America's Conservative Intellectuals
The headline of a Wall Street Journal editorial caught my eye: "Arizona's School Choice Election." Writing as if nothing had changed in American politics since 2011, the editorial board assailed Katie Hobbs, the Democratic candidate for governor, as a tool of the teachers unions for her opposition to school choice. The Journal advised that parents would be well-advised to vote Republican.
There you have it: the failure of the intellectual leaders of conservatism in one editorial. The once magisterial voice of the conservative worldview looked at the race for governor in Arizona and airily overlooked reality. School choice? Are they out of their minds?
Disturbing, extremist, and otherwise unfit candidates dot the national landscape in 2022 like monkeypox, from Doug Mastriano in Pennsylvania to J.D. Vance in Ohio to Don Bolduc in New Hampshire, but Arizona surely takes the highest honors for the sheer concentration of ranting incompetents who threaten the democratic process.
Kari Lake, the Republican candidate for governor, whom the Journal is endorsing, may be in favor of school choice, but that's a little beside the point when you consider the larger picture. Lake has declared that the 2020 election was "corrupt and stolen." Regarding the current president of the United States, she has expressed pity, urging that "Deep down, I think we all know this illegitimate fool in the White House — I feel sorry for him — didn't win. I hope Americans are smart enough to know that." She has no patience for temporizers. "It is not enough to say you are for 'Election Integrity' if you are not for DECERTIFYING the 2020 election if wrongdoing, fraud or different results are revealed," she tweeted last year.
There is no fiction she has not willingly endorsed. She told a group of young women that they shouldn't take precautions about COVID because "The truth is that hydroxychloroquine works and other inexpensive treatments work." A week before the voting, she announced, "We're already detecting some stealing going on." And despite her victory, she carried a sledgehammer onstage on primary night and pantomimed smashing electronic voting machines.
That's the GOP nominee for governor of Arizona. What does the Wall Street Journal do with these awkward realities? The editorial board interprets them as problems only insofar as they make it harder for her to win.
"GOP gubernatorial nominee Kari Lake hasn't helped herself or her party by insisting that the 2020 election was stolen. Her election fraud claims put off many Republicans and independents and are a loser in the general election. A winning and unifying issue for Republicans this November is school choice."
The important thing is for the election-denying cult member to win, so let's find something that can distract disaffected Republicans and independents.
Despite all of the foregoing, it's just possible that Lake is the most mainstream of the major Republican candidates in Arizona this year. The GOP nominee for Senate is Blake Masters, an election denier who spices up the usual fare with "great replacement" talk. "The Democrats dream of mass amnesty, because they want to import a new electorate," he says. He attributes America's problems with gun violence to "Black people, frankly." When asked for a "subversive" thinker he admires, he responded with "How about, like, Theodore Kaczynski?" Yes, Wall Street Journal editorial board, how about that?
But wait, we're not finished with Arizona's contributions to national insanity. The Republican candidate for secretary of state in Arizona is not just an election-denying extremist enemy of democracy, but a card-carrying member of the Oath Keepers, the fine gentlemen who are currently being tried in federal court for seditious conspiracy. Mark Finchem has appeared on QAnon-linked radio talk shows and spoke at a rally in January with Trump, Mike Lindell, and the whole clown car of kooks. His website features a banner inviting readers to "Sign the petition to decertify and set aside AZ electors." Soon he may be the secretary of state of Arizona.
Some are able to see what is at stake here. When Liz Cheney was asked whether she might campaign for Democrat Katie Hobbs, she said yes. "In this election, you have to vote for the person who actually believes in democracy."
Again, I tend to agree with the Journal's editorial board on many policy matters. But they are pretending, or perhaps deluding themselves, that the Republican Party remains, underneath it all, the party of Paul Ryan and Larry Hogan and Chris Sununu, and that the country will be better off if Republicans win elections, full stop.
As Liz Cheney sees and is willing to say, not this Republican Party. This GOP is the party of Mastriano and Vance and, yes, Kari Lake. This is a party that cannot be trusted with power; that openly proclaims its eagerness to overturn elections. Next to that, everything else, including school choice and regulation and taxes, pales to insignificance. The Wall Street Journal editorial board has continuing influence with reasonable center-right voters. They owe them better.
Reprinted with permission from Creators.