Joe the Plumber Is the Ultimate Republican Voter

Joe the Plumber

Joe the Plumber is a joke on the left. For those that don’t remember, he had a conversation with Barack Obama during the 2008 campaign. He claimed that he was thinking of starting a plumbing business. As a result, he was very concerned about Obama’s plan to raise taxes on incomes over a quarter-million dollars. (Obviously, this shows the usual ignorance of how marginal taxes work.)

It was preposterous. For one thing, he wasn’t a plumber. For another thing, I don’t think he ever made anything close to that amount of money. So his entire argument was that he had a dream that someday he would make so much money that he would be affected by this tax.

In this way, he is the ultimate example of the Republican voter. He wasn’t thinking about what his actual interests were. He was thinking about what his interests were in his fantasy.

Voting Your Interests

I’ve been a strong critic of the notion the people should vote their own interests. I don’t vote my own interest. I vote the way that I consider to be morally right. But Joe the Plumber shows that this is not generally true of Republicans.

They generally do not vote their interests. But this is not because they are wedded to some higher calling. It is because they don’t even know what their interests are. They are, in a word, marks.

This is discussed in the movie 1776 where John Dickinson says, “Don’t forget that most men with nothing would rather protect the possibility of becoming rich than face the reality of being poor. And that is why they will follow us to the right!”

Parties may change but conservatives are always the same.

Small Business Delusions

You see this most distinctly with small business people. This is something I know a lot about because my parents were small business people and I have generally been one too. Most of them are extremely conservative. And they vote reliably Republican.

But why? The Republican Party is not good for small businesses. Sure, they talk about small businesses all the time. But their policies benefit multinational corporations. If you’re a small-business person, you’re screwed by the Republicans. And it is amazing that small business people so rarely see this reality.

They are all Joe the Plumber. The Republican Party may not help him today but just you wait! In a couple of years they will have a huge business too! And they will have an army of lobbyists and then all their support of the Republican party will pay off!

Linus makes the case for voting Republican.

Small Business Flattery

But there is something that the Republicans give small business owners: all that smoke that gets blown up their asses.

Sure, the Republican Party may make it harder for them to run their businesses. But what is that compared to being told that you are a Little John Galt?! And that, I suppose, is worth something. We all have our delusions.

Of course, this is all on the margins. The elephant in the Elephant’s Room is racism. But that certainly isn’t the story The Republican voters tell themselves. They don’t see themselves as racist even if they are extremely so.

But it hardly matters. They vote Republican because they think the party supports people like them. The difference is that when it comes to racism that’s true. When it comes to small business policy it isn’t. And that makes the small business owner a bigger mark than the unrepentant bigot.


Image cropped from Joe the Plumber in Elyria today by Rona Proudfoot under CC BY-SA 2.0.

Absurd Commentary on the Lab Leak Theory

Lab Zombies

I think we have a problem when we talk about the lab leak theory. There is not one. The original theory was a full-out conspiracy: China had developed it as a biological weapon and then they released it on the world to harm us.

Now the same people who pushed that conspiracy theory want us to believe that the notion that the virus may have leaked from a lab proves them correct. Well, it doesn’t.

So let’s look at the theories here. The Chinese government:

  1. Created a biological weapon that they knowingly released to the world.
  2. Created a biological weapon that they accidentally released to the world.
  3. Was doing work on viruses that was accidentally released to the world.

The first one is absolutely ridiculous. If the Chinese government wanted to release a biological weapon on the world, they wouldn’t do it to their own people much less to the people right outside the lab where they created it.

The second one is less ridiculous but still absurd. This is a really inefficient biological weapon. But more important there’s absolutely no evidence that this virus was created as a biological weapon. This is pure conjecture.

Reasonable Theory

So this leaves us with the third possibility. Scientists were studying this virus and it got out of the lab. This kind of thing does happen. And we should be concerned about this regardless of whether or not it happened in this instance.

Lab safety is an important issue. I’ve heard people suggest things like locating these labs far away from populated areas and requiring quarantine periods for travel from the facilities.

But note that this is never been a concern of the loudest voices regarding the lab leak theory. The number one concern of these proponents is simply to blame China. Implicit in this is to exonerate the Trump administration.

(Note the absurdity here: as though the source of the virus justifies a terrible response. New Zealand was attacked as much as the United States and yet they did a good job of managing the pandemic. No origin story justifies the terrible governmental response to COVID-19.)

Liberal Response

What bugs me about all this is not that Republican apologists are weaponizing it. What bugs me is that liberals are so quick to jump on board. They are so concerned about being seen as anti-science that they jump to the other side of this issue. And then they criticize the left for dismissing this theory in the first place.

In addition to this unfortunate tendency of liberals to attack their own side, there are major problems here. The first is that most people on the left always said that it was possible that COVID-19 came from a lab leak.

Second we still have no actual evidence that it was a lab leak. We are in exactly the same position we were a year ago. It’s possible it was a leak but it still looks unlikely.

The truth is if we get ironclad evidence that this was a naturally occurring virus, the usual suspects will never accept it. And decades from now, we will continue to hear about how the Chinese government released the virus to get rid of the Trump presidency.

Note that this would never happen if the sides were reversed. Conservatives never take the very possibility that they might have been wrong to turn on themselves. In fact, conservatives rarely take ironclad evidence that they were wrong to criticize themselves.

What actually happened was that there was no reason to believe that the source of COVID-19 was a lab leak so it was generally ignored. The theory was used on Facebook and other places to push absurd conspiracy theories. And a year later, we have liberal-ish commentators attacking the left.

That’s almost as absurd as the conservative conspiracy theories.


Lab Zombies image (cropped) by Pop Culture Geek via CC BY-NC 2.0.