On Tuesday, well-known Republican consultant Liz Mair resigned from a position she had held with Wisconsin governor Scott Walker’s percolating presidential bid for a day. Her crime was tweeting against Iowa.
The whole incident, which spanned only a few hours, was an excellent introduction to how 140-character opinions can inflate any controversy into a never-ending spiral of takes, counter-takes, and follow-up questions that probably didn’t need addressing in the first place.
Mair’s quick exit from the Walker campaign began when the Des Moines Register noticed that she tweeted in January, "In other news, I see Iowa is once again embarrassing itself, and the GOP, this morning. Thanks, guys."
That comment provided enough tinder to keep conservative Twitter on fire for days. Matt Boyle at Breitbart News wrote several stories about Mair on Tuesday. One noted that her “support for amnesty for illegal aliens, wide-open-borders immigration policies, and public advocacy for the Senate ‘Gang of Eight’ amnesty bill is sure to dog Walker in Iowa, South Carolina, and other early presidential states.” Another post involved questions about Mair’s dual citizenship.
Breitbart News had asked Mair a pair of questions about her decision to attain dual citizenship. “1.) When did you get UK citizenship? What were the circumstances under which you obtained dual citizenship? You weren’t born with dual citizenship right?” And: “2.) Why wasn’t US citizenship good enough? Why did you seek out dual citizenship in the first place?”
Since Mair hasn’t answered the questions—and has since refused to—it’s unclear whether she was born with dual citizenship or whether she sought it out as an adult after she moved to the U.K. later in life. This could complicate her situation with the Walker campaign, especially after scrutiny of her disdain for Iowans—which was exposed by the Des Moines Register on Monday—or her support of abortion, amnesty for illegal aliens and gay marriage already has.
And what began as a reminder of the dangers of social media in a campaign culture of nitpickers transmogrified into a reminder of how Twitter controversies are also highly contagious and can quickly infect entire communities.
Other conservatives on Twitter began defending Mair, who has been open about the fact that her politics aren’t always identical to her clients, against the attacks about her Americanness.
Over in Iowa, however, Republicans were still angry about the tweets and what it meant for how they were going to feel about Scott Walker next January. State Republican chair Jeff Kaufmann told the New York Times, “I find her to be shallow and ignorant, and I’ll tell you, if I was Governor Walker, I’d send her her walking papers.” Plenty of people on Twitter also thought that was ridiculous. RedState’s Erick Erickson wrote a post arguing that Walker "should stand up here and keep Liz Mair. This tempest in a tea pot will die down. And if it doesn’t, it is just freaking Iowa."
In the end, as happens with nearly all Twitter controversies, Mair ended up losing her position on the Walker team. Although the initial prompt for the outrage has been resolved, the tweets and angry emails inspired by the resulting outrage offshoots will likely continue forever, as rage at what happens fades into rage at wasting so many words discussing it in the first place, and rage at the people responsible for making them waste so much time, namely Breitbart News.
However — as with all Twitter controversies — everyone took comfort in the fact that this outrage would fade into nothingness, unlike the tweet they rescued from the abyss, soon after everyone finished processing what it all meant, and far before the election.
By Wednesday night, everyone on conservative Twitter had already found a new obsession. Rick Wilson, a GOP consultant who also had many thoughts on the Mair controversy, was sending dozens of tweets about a mysterious person in Florida conservative circles he was threatening to doxx.
Tune in next week, when a controversy prompted by an angry tweet about the New Hampshire primary ends with a potential presidential candidate taking a selfie in a pond of maple syrup and yet another social media consultant becoming unemployed.