Back in 2000, Mike Pence’s family business — before it went bankrupt, sticking the state with a $20 million toxic waste cleanup bill — was called Tobacco Road; it was a local Indiana chain of convenience stores specializing in selling cigarettes.
That’s probably why in 2000 Mike Pence wrote an op-ed saying that cigarettes don’t cause cancer. Whenever it came up later in campaigns, though, he’d change the subject and talk about abortion instead.
Now Republicans in Colorado are trying the same little trick only this time with meat.
Governor Jared Polis signed one of those everyday, routine proclamations that governors sign pretty much every day dedicating a Post Office or proclaiming Colorado Wildflower Day; this was suggesting that March 20 should be a day that everybody takes a break from meat. A meatless Sunday.
It would’ve vanished into the quiet little news vacuum where such proclamations usually end up, except that Colorado’s Republicans were desperately looking for some way to avoid discussing how opposed they all are to the American Rescue Plan, or the For The People Act (HR1), or how much they want to try to stop anybody who might be a Democrat from voting.
Instead, just like Pence and the tobacco industry were outraged — outraged, I’ll tell you! — back in the 1990s when the Clinton administration had the temerity to suggest that tobacco causes cancer and government should do something about it, Colorado Republicans are joining the Colorado beef industry on their fainting couch.
Governor Polis issued the proclamation back in February, and rightwing hate radio across the state has been hysterical about it ever since, doing their best to use it every single day (including weekends!) as a distraction from treason and other crimes being committed in the name of their party.
Now, Colorado Representative Lauren Boebert (R-Qanon) has proclaimed Sunday the 20th as a “statewide barbecue day,” hoping to jump on the culture wars bandwagon so we’ll all forget her involvement in the treasonous January 6 Republican attempt to end democracy in America.
Beef is a substantial and important industry in Colorado, and Governor Polis is no vegetarian. In fact, although his partner is a vegan, Polis has been a big booster of Colorado’s beef industry and loves to share his favorite brisket recipe.
And Coloradans taking a break from meat, even if just one day a year, does make a lot of sense. The governor’s proclamation points out that beef contributes to heart disease, and that’s just the beginning. Numerous studies over the years have shown that meat consumption is also tied to higher levels of cancer, high blood pressure, stroke, and even obesity.
But the health of Coloradans is not, and never really has been, a concern of the Republican Party. If it was, they’d support Democratic efforts to expand healthcare for all people across the United States and they wouldn’t have fought efforts to outlaw asbestos, make cigarettes inaccessible to children, and reduce air pollution.
Instead, they see the meat kerfuffle as a twofer.
First, they get to play up the macho card, like they did 30 years ago when the GOP was at the forefront of fighting attempts to stop smoking on airplanes and in restaurants, and Republican men all wanted to think of themselves as John Wayne.
And second, they can use the “meat scandal” to change the subject away from how Republican politicians regularly stab working people in the back and how Trump and Jared totally screwed up America’s response to the worst pandemic in a century, killing a half-million Americans. And how badly they’re doing with voters in Colorado.
Sadly, as with so many of their other “culture war” efforts to distract Americans from actual issues, the GOP is fighting the tide of history.
The science is in, public opinion is changing, meatless burgers are on the menu at McDonald’s, and Americans would really rather have a conversation about ending the pandemic, their right to vote, or rebuilding the crumbling American infrastructure that’s Reagan’s legacy.
But Republicans have nothing to offer Coloradans or Americans more generally, so they fall back on distraction and outrage. Which is, itself, the true outrage.