Sunday, January 22, 2012

Fewer Republican Candidates Narrows the Field but Doesn't Broaden the Appeal

Here it is out front: I don't like these guys. And for a simple reason: whether they're likable, like Ron Paul, dignified, like Mitt Romney, earnest, like Rick Santorum, or flamboyant, like Newt Gingrich, there's one consistent characteristic they all share. They're duplicitous scoundrels. (See, I can offer a negative characterization of them without calling them assholes. That was easy.)

Mitt Romney lies, probably because the truth doesn't serve him or, worse, he's a truthseeker who keeps trying on different ones to see if any fit (none have so far). He's out of touch with reality, which really flummoxes him because it all seems so real to him. Another bubble boy, fer chrissake.

Ron Paul is charming and off his rocker. He's likable partly because he's sincere. You get the feeling that no matter how crazy his beliefs are they're believable because he's so consistent in their explication. I'm not crazy because my world view is consistent. Oh, and I'm not a racist because I consistently don't say anything racist anymore. I'm not a racist, I'm just a whacky old man! So you can totally vote for me.

Rick Santorum, what a concept. If you've got a preexisting condition, you should pay more because that's the way insurance works! You should die if you shoot yourself in the head because that's the way guns work! Don't use contraception because it's immoral, don't get an abortion if you get preggers, even if you're broke and raped by dad, because that's immoral, and, by the way, that's how sex works! Being a woman is a preexisting condition, so live with it! That's why God invented men, to rule the world while women get preggers.

Newt Gingrich. Jeesh. What can you say about him he hasn't already said himself? He's a bold idea man! He wants to radically, fundamentally, literally change the way we do business in Washington! I'm not a lobbyist, I'm an historian! I'm not a serial philanderer, I'm a romantic -- who's been redeemed by God, just ask Rick Perry! We should destroy Fannie and Freddie because I've already milked them enough. And Calista's going to make me president. Don't try to resist!

There's one fundamental truth about all of these men: they want to become president because THEY WANT POWER. Period.

Are there any implications to that? And what are they?
  • They may brag that they want to lower taxes, and they might. But they won't stop spending because that's not how POWER works.
  • They may say they can create jobs, but they can't. Why? Because they'll be too busy diverting money to their friends. That's how POWER works.
  • They will dismantle the social safety net, but that won't save Americans money because Americans will be spending every penny they have on healthcare until they're broke. Except their rich friends will be okay because they won't run out of money. Nothing fuzzy about that math.
  • They will start wars because that's where the glory is. Oh, and also where the money is.
It's the weirdest deal I've ever seen, watching South Carolinians weighing the pros and cons, trying to figure out who to support. Rick's a really moral person, but Newt's a real leader, but Romney's got business experience, but Ron Paul wants to give me more freedom.

Here are the questions they aren't asking themselves:
  • Santorum's morality will give them what?
  • Newt's going to lead them where?
  • Romney's business experience is going to help them how?
  • Ron Paul's going to give them what freedom they they don't already have?
I didn't listen to every speech by every candidate, but I do know one thing: Newt Gingrich beat Mitt Romney the old-fashioned way, with racist buzz words and violent rhetoric. Mitt Romney beat himself by being an unmitigated weasel, period. Oh, and he didn't use enough racist buzz words.

Am I calling South Carolina a racist state? Uh, yeah. Are they? Maybe. I vacationed there a few years back and found the residents uncommonly hospitable. Then again, I'm white, too, so what does that mean?

The rump Republican Party is itself a white, male-dominated group, currently dedicated to dispatching the Black Man in the White House, and South Carolinian Republicans epitomize the core of the national party. Gingrich won South Carolina because he seemed the most anti-black of them all. Calling Barack Obama the food-stamp president was key. His earlier statements about hiring "poor" kids from "poor" neighborhoods to be the janitors in schools was the setup. "Food-stamp president" was the slam down. If you think this isn't racist talk, you haven't been paying attention.

We may be post-racial as a nation, but not in South Carolina, and Newt just proved it. Yet, what has he proved? Since South Carolina doesn't register voters by party affiliation, data is unclear; I found one set that put Republicans with 44% of the voters in the state. So if Gingrich garnered 40% of Republicans, that means 17.6% of the state's voters endorse his rhetoric.

I may have undermined my own point, but I don't think so. I always keep in mind the sword fight scene in Romeo and Juliet, which began with an almost friendly duel between Romeo's sidekick Mercutio and the doomed Tybalt. Romeo the peacemaker steps in to stop the duel and in doing so causes Tilbolt's blade to strike home.

     Benvolio: What, art thou hurt?

     Mercutio: Ay, ay, a scratch, a scratch; marry, 'tis enough.

Of course, Mercutio died, and Romeo revenged his death by killing Tybalt, setting the stage for the tragedies to follow. My point is a bullet or a blade is a small thing. But, as Mercutio said, 'tis enough. And so the seeds of racism embraced by a few voters is enough to change the course of history. Every Republican president since Ronald Reagan, who began his 1980 campaign in Philadelphia, Mississippi. George H. W. Bush? Willie Horton. George W. Bush? Speaking at Bob Jones University.

The irony here is that those most opposed to the Gingrich surge are the Republican establishment. They'd make strange bedfellows with the Democratic Party, if it weren't for the fact that the Democrats are praying that Newt remains on top.

I'm left to reflect, as a Democratic partisan, how painful it is to pray that Newt Gingrich's poisonous rhetoric -- that sustains the least palatable beliefs of his party -- might sustain him to the nomination. Instead, we should fight the rot wherever we see it. And, boy, was it visible in South Carolina last week.

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