by Max Brantley
In this bizarro world, Lt. Gov. Ted Dewhurst, and his leading backer, Gov. Rick Perry, are considered squishy. Too moderate.
We saw this in some Arkansas Republican Senate primaries. The extremist Republicans won every time.
We got another taste of this coming Republican tsunami this morning in a Democrat-Gazette article that raised a question of whether there's fraud in the qualification process for ARKids, the Arkansas program to provide medical coverage for children of the working poor. House Minority Leader Bruce Westerman seems sure there must be fraud. He has no proof. He just assumes with money at issue somebody must be up to no good. As with Mike Huckabee's lifelong obsession with material goods, this presumption of fraud says more about Westerman than it does about others. Westerman's feint on fraud is analagous to the Republican voter fraud noise machine. Vote fraud must exist. In Bizarro World, an absence of proof is proof.
There is, of course, no aspect of human endeavor in which fraud or impropriety doesn't occur. But, because people cheat on their income tax deductions, I don't hear the Bruce Westermans of the world calling for an end to tax deductions for, say, church contributions.
Of course, rooting out fraud is not the aim of these time-tested Republican strategies. It is the message-tested way to achieve more damaging goals:
1) HEALTH CARE FOR KIDS: Westerman and his ilk want to reduce the amount we spend on providing health insurance for poor kids. Nice guy. And pound-foolish, given the costs of untreated basic needs when left to fester. (More here on ARKids, a triumph of the Huckabee years, ironic given Republican aims to slash it.)
2) VOTING: Republicans — Rep. Nate Bell, the Mena extremist noisiest among them —- want it to be harder to vote because they don't want the Democratically inclined, particularly student, elderly, poor and minority voters, to be counted.
UPDATE: How extreme are Republicans these days? Jeb Bush says his father and Ronald Reagan couldn't win Republican primaries today.