Tuesday, July 07, 2009


You may know that Republican senator John Cornyn was booed at a tea party on July 4 in Austin, Texas, because he voted for the Wall Street bailout. It was a tough crowd -- another guy who got booed was the governor of Texas, Rick Perry:

Perry also drew some boos on his support of toll roads to alleviate traffic congestion.

What's odd about this is that Perry doesn't just support toll roads. Perry supports the most Republican toll roads imaginable:

Texas spent the past six years leading the nation in its pursuit of private toll roads. Now, it looks to be among the first to call a timeout.

Lawmakers quit the Capitol on Thursday after refusing Gov. Rick Perry's pleas to extend the state's authority to enter long-term contracts with private toll-road developers beyond this summer.

The decision won't kill all private toll roads in Texas -- not yet. But it signals a significant halt to one of Perry's signature initiatives...

Perry's policies, first given life by the Legislature in 2003, have meant both billions of dollars in new highways constructed and ever-higher tolls for millions of Texans.

... the Spanish firm Cintra has agreed to spend billions to rebuild LBJ Freeway in Dallas and to construct the North Tarrant Express near Fort Worth. Both projects involve a mix of tax dollars and private funds, and will result in highways with free lanes and tolled managed lanes....

And even when private firms don't get the contracts, it's because government agencies manage to outbid them, taking on comparable amounts of debt (i.e., a lot of debt) in the process -- that is, they become very much like private firms.

(The result, by the way, is high tolls and what seem to be complex pricing structures: "Rates that were less than 10 cents a mile just a few years ago are about to be 14.5 cents per mile. Rates on so-called managed lane projects, where drivers are given the choice of driving on optional tolled HOV lanes, could be 50 cents to 75 cents a mile, or even more, during rush hour.")

This is classic Reagan/post-Reagan Republicanism. Government is the problem. Private industry is the solution. Unleash capitalism and all our problems will solved. Unfortunately for Perry, it isn't really a magic wand -- hey, you get more stuff and pay less money! it's Walmart government! -- so the teabaggers don't like it.

I think this is a sign of why we're seeing polls like the new Gallup survey in which Americans are calling themselves more conservative -- while other polls show that the "Republican brand" continues to be toxic. You have to remember to add the people who think the GOP is too wingnutty to the people who think it isn't wingnutty enough.

I'm reminded of something Tom Hilton posted last week about a San Francisco Chronicle story on California's most Republican county. Modoc County. The residents range from cattlemen to hippies, but they really don't like government -- oh, except sometimes:

Most folks up here will tell you that no matter who is in office or what the big-city politicians do, the dearest wish of anyone living in Modoc is to be left alone -- except for a little help for core needs like hospitals and schools.

Yup -- except for that. But I bet it shouldn't cost anything:

...they say ... swing the budget ax on bloated-big-government-style frills -- for instance, state-paid cars for legislators and misguided environmental regulations, though they don't always agree on which ones are misguided.

Uh-huh. Got it.

And if you cut off our funding even for [hospitals and schools], they say, we won't like it -- but we'll get by. We're independent....

"Well, we'll just get by the way we did in the Great Depression -- on our own," [Ken] McGarva said, swatting mosquitoes on his porch after another hard day of herding dogies on his 1,000-head ranch. "We'll grow a vegetable garden, we'll use milk cows." If the roads are closed, he said, they always have horses....

This is delusional -- but it's increasingly widespread, and you should think of it as the wingnut version of late-'60s/early-'70s back-to-the-landism (which could also be pretty damn delusional). These folks don't have a coherent plan, but they think they have solid principles: Tax us less! Spend less! Oh, but give us everything we need from government. Just cut waste!

The next election cycle is going to be 1972, except in reverse. The out party's presidential candidate is going to have to seem sympathetic to those who wave the freak flag high. That's why Sarah Palin is still very much in the running. And if there's more right-wing violence in the next couple of years, the analogy could be even more precise, and Barack Obama's 2012 numbers could look like Nixon's forty years earlier.

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