Quote of the Day: Waste, Fraud, and Abuse Are Just a Con

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From David French, complaining about Donald Trump’s rather gleeful lack of policy knowledge:

When a politician claims he’ll fix the budget by eliminating “waste, fraud, and abuse,” he’s appealing to don’t know/don’t cares.

Sure, and Trump is more brazen and more stupid about this than most. But come on. Conservative politicians have been railing about the immense cost of waste, fraud, and abuse for decades. They do it because (a) it’s a good applause line, (b) its size is nice and vague, and (c) they’re afraid to propose major cuts to the big programs people actually care about (Social Security, Medicare, defense, etc.).

During this time, the conservative intelligentsia has happily gone along with this charade. Now Trump is using it to great effect, and apparently the blame for this lies with lazy voters:

The problem comes, however, when — during an election cycle — voters don’t even try. They ignore their responsibilities as citizens and become content with ignorance, happy to shortcut real evaluations with a number tried-and-true tricks. The identity of the speaker matters more than the content of the speech (We tune out the “establishment” or the “media” or “pundits.”) The tone matters more than substance (I’m not sure about Trump’s math, but he sure sounds presidential.) And narrative hovers over everything.

It’s hard for a democracy to thrive without good leaders, but it can’t survive without good voters. And if you watch a debate without the slightest clue (or perhaps even concern) as to who’s telling the truth, you’re simply not doing your job.

Donald Trump is so brain-dead ignorant that it beggars the imagination. But for decades conservatives have been training their followers to wallow in ignorance, tune out the media, and pay more attention to narrative than to basic arithmetic. And they’ve happily embraced the public faces of that ignorance, people like Rush Limbaugh, Sarah Palin, Glenn Beck, and Matt Drudge.

The old WFA con has been part of this all along. But now the conservative movement’s leaders are complaining that the rubes didn’t realize all along that it was just a bit of cynical rabble-rousing never meant to be taken seriously? Give me a break.

POSTSCRIPT: On the bright side, props to French for endorsing the Oxford comma.

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THE TRUTH...

is the first thing despots go after. An unwavering commitment to it is probably what draws you to Mother Jones' journalism. And as we're seeing in the US and the world around, authoritarians seek to poison the discourse and the way we relate to each other because they can't stand people coming together around a shared sense of the truth—it's a huge threat to them.

Which is also a pretty great way to describe Mother Jones' mission: People coming together around the truth to hold power accountable.

And right now, we need to raise about $400,000 from our online readers over the next two months to hit our annual goal and make good on that mission. Read more about the information war we find ourselves in and how people-powered, independent reporting can and must rise to the challenge—and please support our team's truth-telling journalism with a donation if you can right now.

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