Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker made a big splash at last week’s Conservative Political Action Conference in Washington, D.C. The annual gathering of right-wing activists has gotten to be seen as the coming-out party for the Republican presidential candidates. Never mind that no one has officially declared their candicacy in the 2016 race and that those endorsed by this “red meat” group are usually way too extreme to win favor among the general electorate. This confab has been called the “starting gun of the Republican primary”, and Walker reportedly got off to a good start. (When Jeb Bush spoke, expressing support for Common Core education policies and a path for citizenship for illegal immigrants, a group walked out in protest, lead by a man in a tri-cornered hat. Red meat, indeed!)
Walker got big cheers for having, as he claimed in his speech, “reduced the burden on hard-working taxpayers by nearly $2 billion.”
According to the Los Angeles Times, although the resulting cuts at the University of Wisconsin due to this tax reduction will be controversial in his home state, “they may play well with Republican primary voters, many of whom see universities as hotbeds of liberalism.”
So universities are bad. Well, maybe not bad, but, to these folks, “hotbeds of liberalism” is close enough. Perhaps this is no surprise. After all, not only has there been grumbling about “liberal” college professors – and look at then-California Governor Ronald Reagan’s railing and action against protesting University of California students (it has also been said that Reagan, as governor, began the defunding of the once-great U.C system). It also fits in with conservative voter and leaders’ tendency to discount or deny scientific knowledge or progress, as we see with those who refuse to accept the reality of human-caused climate change.
Another article in Sunday’s Los Angeles Times further illustrated this desire among many conservatives that things not change. The article, headlined “In gun-loving Texas, a new push for open carry,” showed a yearning for a return to the way things used to be, if not the old days. In this case, it seems to be a return to the wild, wild west.
The article focused on a group of gun enthusiasts showing their support for a state law allowing them to openly carry firearms by refusing to leave the office of a Democratic state representative in Austin, Texas. They were armed. The legislator, Alfonso “Poncho” Nevarez, later recalled thinking, “Guess what? They’re armed.” He added, “If they had come here another way, they might have found an ally. I don’t want to reward bad behavior.”
One of those pushing for the open carry law responded by saying, “The only bad behavior there was, was his. He took an oath to defend the Constitution.”
There was a third article in Sunday’s Times that focused on this conservative longing for the old days, good or bad. It was about the effort in small town in South Carolina to change a war memorial that lists those that died in the World Wars as “Colored” and “White.” Some in the small town of Greenwood, including Mayor Welborn Adams, want to replace the monument with one that doesn’t separate the races, reflecting the thinking these days. Others insist that the monument stay as it is, arguing that it is an accurate reflection of the town’s past.
Mayor Adams said that the conflict has made him weep. It is a conflict brought into sharp focus when Richard Whiting, the editor of the local newspaper, the Index-Journal, who worries that the controversy makes the town “look like a bunch of backwoods rednecks,” says that, while most of the town’s residents support racial healing, there are those who “still live with the hope the South will rise again.”