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Contributed photo from Hasbro via AP/This photo provided by Hasbro shows the new Potato Head world. Mr. Potato Head is no longer a mister. Hasbro, the company that makes the potato-shaped plastic toy, is giving the spud a gender neutral new name: Potato Head. The change will appear on boxes this year and some conservatives say they are outraged.

Don't you find this odd? Poll after poll — the latest from Morning Consult — finds 77% of Americans (and 59% of Republicans) say they support a COVID-19 relief bill. Yet this legislation — this long-awaited and too-long delayed lifeline to Americans and their pocketbooks — got zero Republican votes in the House and likely will get zero nods in the Senate.

What do you hear from the GOP about this — other than weeks-old grumblings about a proposed minimum wage increase that is all but dead and now grandstanding maneuvers to read the 600 pages of the bill during the Senate session to simply stall the inevitable? Crickets. That's what you hear.

Poll after poll seems to indicate this may be one of the most popular pieces of major legislation in history. And why not? It contains money to fight COVID, help Americans hurt by COVID, help small businesses and towns and cities and counties and schools hurt by a year of COVID misery. (And, yes, even if some cities aren't hurt as badly as they expected to be, they won't come back as fast as they hope, either.)

But, wait. There are some other things that have caused GOP pants to twist enough to bring yelps from our Republican friends.

Just ask them about transgender fairness. "It will ruin girls' sports," comes a crescendo of conservative bleats.

And listen to the absolute fury of right-wing talk hosts about the imaginary "banning" of six Dr. Seuss books. (No, they aren't banned. They are being allowed to go out of print.)

Don't forget the "Mr." Potato Head scandal.

And now there's a kerfuffle over a Gannett Co. corporate decision to "pluck" the conservative comic strip "Mallard Fillmore" from its newspapers — ostensibly, according to conservative pundits — because two strips have now been critical of President Biden and transgender participation in (you guessed it) women's sports.

To quote the conservative Washington Times:

"The roasting of 'Mallard Fillmore' comes with outrage rising on the right over cancel culture, the social phenomenon blamed for incidents such as the Disney firing last month of actress Gina Carano from 'The Mandalorian' and the Tuesday decision by Dr. Seuss Enterprises to stop publishing six books."

In the interest of fair play, let us now quote the liberal Washington Post's Paul Waldman:

"[T]his latest manufactured controversy is also proof of something that would disturb conservatives if it were spoken aloud: Donald Trump's presidency, for all they might have celebrated it, was a failure. It broke its fundamental promise to them, and now all the right can do is wallow in its defeat. It may not be a coincidence that this spectacularly inane culture war outburst is happening at a moment when Democrats are about to pass a COVID relief bill that looks to be one of the most popular pieces of major legislation in history. So if the conservative base won't get mad about President Biden's first legislative initiative, what can they get worked up about? Dr. Seuss."

And, yeah, transgender sports — something about which lawmakers in more than 20 states, including Tennessee and Georgia, have introduced bills this year. In almost every case (including Tennessee and Georgia) sponsors cannot cite a single instance in their own state or region where such participation has caused problems.

In Tennessee, House Speaker Cameron Sexton conceded there may not actually be transgender students in middle and high school sports, but the state could be "proactive."

In Georgia during a Wednesday hearing, Matt Sharp, a lawyer for Alliance Defending Freedom, the conservative legal group quarterbacking (pun intended) the push in a number of states, said he didn't know a number, but "it just takes a short period of time for women's sports to be decimated."

Yeah. And let us just say it just takes a short period of time for Republicans and conservatives to manufacture horse hockey.

This is especially true when there is something happening in Congress that is of real import for all of us: COVID relief — that thing immensely popular with 77% of us that Republicans won't have any thing to do with because their president botched any effort to curb COVID-19 or help Americans suffer less from it.

The bill is even more like kryptonite to the GOP in that it might bring more appreciation of President Joe Biden's praiseworthy work on ramping up both vaccines and their distribution. Republicans don't support it, but they dare not loudly criticize it either — at least not until it's done and they can label it something that the Democrats did without so-called "bipartisan unity."

So they deflect and distract. And with the GOP's mantra of "cancel culture," now a mainstay of their rhetoric, they have a two-for-one weapon.

Decrying things like allowing a 1950 children's book to go out of print allows the right to reinforce a sense that the world is changing around them and to blame the left for attacking tradition or conservative values.

Simultaneously, the right uses its manufactured outrage like click bait to distract from the fact that so-called conservative lawmakers don't give a flip about helping us recover from the worst pandemic in modern history — not if a Democratic president might get some credit for it.

What's more important to you? Getting Americans well, out of their houses and back to work, or letting a few racist drawings and poems fade into the sunset where they belong?

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