Rep. Jason Lewis and His ‘Garage Logic’

I was happy to see that CNN is giving Rep. Jason Lewis (R-MN) some well-deserved national attention, but definitely not the good kind. From 2009 until 2014, Lewis hosted a syndicated radio show where he said things like this:

When radio host Rush Limbaugh called women’s rights activists and then-graduate student Sandra Fluke “a slut” in February 2012, Lewis repeatedly expressed disbelief that people could no longer refer to women as sluts.

“Well, the thing is, can we call anybody a slut? This is what begs the question. Take this woman out of it, take Rush out of it for a moment,” Lewis said in a March 2012 episode. “Does a woman now have the right to behave — and I know there’s a double standard between the way men chase women and running and running around — you know, I’m not going to get there, but you know what I’m talking about. But it used to be that women were held to a little bit of a higher standard. We required modesty from women. Now, are we beyond those days where a woman can behave as a slut, but you can’t call her a slut?”…

Lewis, who was a regular fill-in for Limbaugh’s national radio show, also offered a defense of the right-wing radio host for his comments on Fluke, saying, “Now Limbaugh’s reasoning was, look, if you’re demanding that the taxpayers pay for your contraception, you must use a lot of them and therefore, ergo, you’re very sexually active and in the old days, what we used to call people who were in college or even graduate school who were sexually active, we called them sluts.”

Lewis also had some pretty horrific ideas about why women tend to vote for Democrats.

On an August 2012 show, Lewis speculated that then-President Barack Obama led with women because of this.

“To the degree that the Republicans or conservatives or Mitt Romney has an issue with the women, maybe it isn’t Mitt Romney or his positions. Maybe it’s the women,” Lewis said. “We all know that women tend to vote more liberal than men. It is the women who are guided by more emotion than reason. ‘Oh, here we go, stereotyping, stereotyping females once again. What are you doing?’ Well, I’m not running for anything. I’m just making an observation.”…

…Lewis argued that “young single women” who voted based on coverage of birth control pills had ceased to be human beings.

“You can be bought off for that?” he said. “I mean, boy, that’s the, all the other issues: the Hispanic problem, social issues, class warfare, you know, we can figure out a way to tackle those. This one, if you’re that far down the road and you say you’re a human being, I’ve got my suspicions. You’re not, you’re without a brain. You have no, you have no cognitive function whatsoever. If that’s all it takes to buy you off.”

Those of us who live in Minnesota have known about Jason Lewis for a long time. On his radio show, he used to refer to this kind of thinking as “garage logic.” The idea is that these are the pearls of wisdom men share with each other while hanging out in the garage, or as Trump would say, it’s “locker room talk.” The funny thing is that garage logic seems to be infused with huge portions of sexism and racism.

Lewis seems to have a bit of an obsession with slavery in the United States.

In his book, “Power Divided is Power Checked: The Argument for States’ Rights” Lewis also wrote that President Abraham Lincoln “exploited the issue” of slavery, adding the Civil War, or what Lewis called the “War Between the States,” had “more to do with secession” than slavery.

When asked if the Civil War was worth fighting during an interview in 2011 about his book, Lewis did not respond with a clear answer and eventually said it was “kinda hard to say.”

He backed that lie up with a call for a constitutional amendment that would allow any state to peaceably leave the union. Nevertheless, Lewis likes to compare other issues to slavery, like taxing rich people.

[T]his whole notion of taxing—taxing America’s labor—you know, I don’t know how else you describe what this sordid experience of slavery was when you take away somebody’s ability to engage in the marketplace with the fruits of their labor. … During the times of slavery, we targeted black folks. Well, now I guess it’s OK to target wealthy folks. Either way, you’re taking something that doesn’t belong to you.

He also invoked slavery in reference to the Supreme Court’s decision on marriage equality.

In fact, if you really want to be quite frank about it, how does somebody else owning a slave affect me? It doesn’t. If I don’t think it is right, I won’t own one. And people always say, ‘Well, if you don’t want to marry somebody of the same sex, you don’t have to, but why tell somebody else they can’t.’ Uh, you know, if you don’t want to own a slave, don’t. But don’t tell other people they can’t.

Of course, all that happened before Jason Lewis decided to run for Congress. He dismisses it all by saying that it was his job to be “provocative” as a radio host. One can only assume that being a successful “shock jock” requires one to spew the most vile forms of racism and sexism.

If you’d like some idea of what Lewis has done during his first year and a half in congress, the group End Citizens United compiles a list of the “Big Money 20.” After less than one term, Jason Lewis made the cut based on the big money he received from the telecom companies while pushing for an end to “net neutrality” as well as financial institutions while advocating for the roll back banking oversight and consumer protections. He also supports getting rid of the so-called “Johnson amendment” in order to allow churches and nonprofits to funnel dark money to political candidates. Of course he voted for the repeal of Obamacare and the Republican tax cuts focused on the richest Americans.

In 2016, Lewis beat Democrat Angie Craig by less than two points in a suburban district that Trump won by only one point. Prior to that, Minnesota’s second congressional district went closely for Obama while electing the more moderate Republican John Kline. In other words, it is a classic suburban swing district.

For the 2018 midterms, Angie Craig will once again run against Lewis.

This year suburban voters are increasingly repelled by Donald Trump and his “mini-me’s” while women, people of color and LGBT citizens are gearing up to fight back. Let’s hope that spells the end of garage logic once and for all.

Nancy LeTourneau

Nancy LeTourneau is a contributing writer for the Washington Monthly. Follow her on Twitter @Smartypants60 .