Truth or Consequences is a town and county seat of Sierra County in New Mexico, adopting its name from the popular radio show of the same name. The city changed its name from Hot Springs to Truth or Consequences as the result of a radio show contest.
In March 1950, Ralph Edwards, the host of the popular NBC Radio (and later television) quiz show Truth or Consequences, announced that he would air the program on its 10th anniversary from the first town that renamed itself after the show; Hot Springs officially changed its name on March 31, 1950,
On the show, contestants received roughly two seconds to answer a trivia question correctly (usually an off-the-wall question that no one would be able to answer correctly, or a bad joke) before “Beulah the Buzzer” sounded. On the rare occasions that a contestant did answer correctly, the host would reveal that the question had multiple parts. Failing to complete this “truth” portion meant that the contestant had to face “consequences,” typically by performing a zany and embarrassing stunt.
That elections have consequences was a quip offered by President Barack Obama as a message for winners to tell losers to expect disappointment in the face of electoral defeat. It may or may not be apocryphal that President Obama uttered the statement to a group of GOP leaders in 2009 concerning his economic proposals, punctuating the snark with an emphatic “and I won.”
The 2016 election of a Republican-labeled president after Obama’s two terms spawned a viral outbreak of the elections-have-consequences meme that persists to the present. In some respects, sadly, the phrase may have lost some of its meaning.
The Tennessee Republican attorney general successfully petitioned SCOTUS to be permitted to defend the state’s abortion law after a federal appeals panel upheld an earlier federal court decision to strike the legislation. Tennessee’s Democratic governor and health commissioner declined to appeal. Justice Samuel Alito ruled:
A state’s opportunity to defend its laws in federal court should not be lightly cut off. Respect for state sovereignty must also take into account the authority of a state to structure its executive branch in a way that empowers officials to defend its sovereign interests in court.
The decision affords the Volunteer State a second chance to resurrect the efforts of anti-abortion forces to boast that elections have consequences. Alito’s sweeping opinion ignores the previous determinations by elected state officials while affirming the canard about elections and consequences.
In Virginia, the newly elected Republican attorney general recently withdrew from a multi-state lawsuit concerning the recording of the Equal Rights Amendment following its adoption by the Commonwealth’s General Assembly. The withdrawal cited that “Virginia was no longer of the view” that the legislative action was correct.” Presumptuous or merely the elections-have-consequences rule in operation?
Yet, in Virginia, the newly elected Republican attorney general recently withdrew from a multi-state lawsuit concerning the recording of the Equal Rights Amendment following its adoption by the Commonwealth’s General Assembly. The withdrawal cited that “Virginia was no longer of the view” that the legislative action was correct.” Presumptuous or merely the elections-have-consequences rule in operation?
Previously, a Democratic Virginia attorney general over four years defended electoral maps drawn by a Republican-led legislature despite federal court decisions finding the maps to be racially biased. If the lawsuit against the nation’s archivist is successful, one wonders what the mind of Justice Alito might conclude about the absence of Virginia in an appeal to SCOTUS, its sovereignty in question. This observation may, of course, be only speculation but the political decision making in both states is not.
Which Virginia attorney general performed the zany and embarrassing stunt as a consequence and as required on the radio show? Apparently, the Tennessee Republican counsel stood for truth and avoided any consequence. The present Virginia attorney general crafted a version of truth on the back of a narrow popular-vote margin to assert an electoral view that negated a legislative determination.
Elections obviously have consequences, but electorates are often more invested in truth from their elected representatives. Truth or consequences are not mutually exclusive. Voters would not miss “Beulah the Buzzer” in favor of a display of veracity.