THE MOST CYNICAL OF CALCULATIONS…. Part of me wondered if, after the Senate overcame a Republican filibuster on Wall Street reform, several GOP senators would go ahead and vote for it. After all, at that point, everyone knew it would pass, and who wants to take a stand against safeguards and accountability for a financial industry that nearly collapsed the global economy? Republicans had done what they could to kill the legislation, but going ahead and supporting final passage was a freebie.

Of course, that didn’t happen, and only three Republicans broke ranks. An identical number of House Republicans voted with Democrats on the same bill a few weeks ago. With just four months to go before the midterm elections, what makes the GOP think it’s a good idea to stand, en masse, with Wall Street lobbyists against a measure to bring greater economic security and stability in the wake of a crash?

The AP reported yesterday that Republicans have a plan. It’s predicated on exploiting public confusion.

Not too long ago, senators from both parties imagined a bill with broad bipartisan support that reflected a consensus that the financial sector needed a new set of rules. These days, though, Republicans liken the legislation to Obama’s health care legislation and the $862 billion economic stimulus package — two initiatives that have not rallied public support. […]

Republican operatives believe the complexity of the bill gives them an advantage.

“This bill, in the minds of most Americans, is just a big amoeba,” said John Feehery, a Washington-based GOP strategist. “Because this bill is so complicated, it makes it easier for Republicans to oppose it, and by opposing it, call it a job killer.”

Greg Sargent summarized the GOP line: “Never mind what the bill actually does. Never mind that the set of problems it’s meant to address — problems that brought about the near-collapse of our economy — are also rather complex. As long as the public remains confused about it, so much the better for us!”

Republicans aren’t just treating the public like fools, they’re counting on the public to be dupes. When an entire political party takes on the role of a con man, on purpose, because it sees the electorate as a bunch of suckers, it’s really not healthy for the political system.

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Follow Steve on Twitter @stevebenen. Steve Benen is a producer at MSNBC's The Rachel Maddow Show. He was the principal contributor to the Washington Monthly's Political Animal blog from August 2008 until January 2012.