Scott Walker and the “Gotcha” Question

Scott WalkerKevin Drum asks a fair question, Is It Fair to Keep Peppering Scott Walker With Gotcha Questions? Basically, is it right to ask him if he believes in evolution? The whole thing brings me back to a quote I heard from an ex-conservative who said that the hardest thing about being a conservatives was always having to lie about what you really thought. And that, I’m afraid, is why questions about evolution are hard for Republicans.

Let’s look at the position that Walker is in regarding evolution. I suspect that he actually does believe in evolution. He’s a reasonably bright guy who is surrounded by educated and sophisticated people. He may have compartmentalized the issue, but I doubt seriously that he thinks evolution is a big conspiracy by atheist scientists. The problem is that the base, which is going to vote for whomever the Republicans nominate, are the ones who want him to be a creationist. But in a general election, the non-base who might vote for a Republican don’t want to vote for one of those crazy Republicans.

So I think it is certainly okay to ask him “gotcha” questions. It isn’t because any reporter cares whether he truly believes in evolution or the president’s love for the country, but rather because it tests him as a politician. Look at Todd Akin. He didn’t lose because of his loony ideas about rape and abortion; he lost because he was loony enough to talk about it in public. That’s a key distinction. And in Scott Walker’s case, we know that he’s as loony in his beliefs as Todd Akin. The question is how he’s going to finesse his looniness publicly.

I wish we didn’t have these “gotcha” questions. I wish instead that reporters were interested in actual policy. Walker has been allowed for years to go around and not answer the question of whether he would sign a “right to work” law. Instead, he was allowed to claim that he didn’t think that any such law would come across his desk. Fundamentally, that’s the same thing. But if his really vile conservative ideology had been forced into the light of day, a lot of people would have voted against him for the same reason they voted against Todd Akin.

Now the core of Kevin Drum’s article is actually about why it is that “gotcha” questions always seem to get given to Republicans and not Democrats. The only “gotcha” question I can remember recently was Alison Lundergan Grimes’ refusal to say if she voted for Obama. Of course, that wasn’t a “gotcha” question originally; it was just made into one by her. But it was meant in the same way as the questions that Walker was asked. Who cares who Grimes voted for? Who cares if Walker thinks Obama loves the country?

But this all gets to the heart of a major difference between Republicans and Democrats. Other than a strong tendency among Democrats to have no spine about the simplest of issues (whether they vote for members of their own parties), Democrats don’t have to hide what they really believe. And that is because the vast majority of the things that Democrats really believe are hugely popular. What does Scott Walker believe regarding the economy that is popular? I know of nothing. To Walker, asking about the minimum wage is a “gotcha” question that sends him spinning. “Minimum wage?” The real reason people make so little is Obamacare!

I can see some difficult questions that the Democratic candidates for president might be asked. In particular, they are going to have to deal with Obama’s executive action on immigration. But even there, I suspect that smart politicians will say, “Hell yes, I’m continuing it!” Because the people who really care about killing it will certainly vote for the Republican no matter what. So I don’t see a big problem for the Democrats.

Ultimately, the “gotcha” question is an invention of the Republican Party. It is part of their decades long campaign to “work the refs.” It is meant to intimidate reporters into not asking questions that the Republicans don’t want to answer. For Sarah Palin, a “gotcha” question what what magazines she reads. That’s right up there with, “What’s your favorite breed of dog?” So I hope the gotcha questions keep coming. Because the American people need to know as much as they can about Scott Walker. He’s a bad guy and if the electorate knows what he really stands for, it will rightly run away from him.

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About Frank Moraes

Frank Moraes is a freelance writer and editor online and in print. He is educated as a scientist with a PhD in Atmospheric Physics. He has worked in climate science, remote sensing, throughout the computer industry, and as a college physics instructor. Find out more at About Frank Moraes.

2 thoughts on “Scott Walker and the “Gotcha” Question

  1. He was pretty clear.

    “It’s not going to get to my desk. I’m going to do everything in my power to make sure it isn’t there because my focal point, (is) private sector unions have overwhelmingly come to the table to be my partner in economic development”?

    Scott Walker
    2012

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