Sunday, November 04, 2012

DATELINE AMERICA—GOP sets own pants on fire, likes it

(Or: Remember when everybody thought the beltway Republicans would engulf and devour the Tea Party freshmen, not the other way around?)

A dozen years into the 21st century, when we have tools like video clips, recorded sound bytes and the internet so we don’t have to trust our lyin’ eyes or fading memories, roughly half the population has chosen to willfully ignore said evidence of their own senses and vote for a candidate who they know is flat-out lying to them.

Roughly half of our countrymen and -women have made the decision that they’ll countenance being lied to—in such a bald-faced way that it can’t be intended as anything other than an insult directed at the collective intelligence of his constituency—because of one of four reasons:

One, party loyalty. Some people just turn off the critical thinking portion of their brains and repeat Fox News-based talking points. Their think-boxes are not open to new business.

[Let me drop an important caveat here: To the extent that partisans on The Left also turn off their think-boxes when presented with ideas that clash with their personal world-view, and all quote from the same, single media news source—in their case NPR, sorry msnbc—they don’t exactly have the high ground on this bullet point. Partisans are boring and unhelpful to the overall process, but lots of people on both sides feel much better hearing their own opinions repeated back to them and just enjoying the ride.]

Getting back to the four basic food groups of Mitt Romney’s hopes for conquest, we’ve checked off party fealty.

Number Two are rabid single-issue voters like gun enthusiasts, pro-lifers, birthers, born-againers, etc. ... Oh yeah, and the anti-gay people; they always come out to vote. If you’re a single-issue voter, unless your single issue is pro-abortion or pro-gay rights, chances are Mr. Romney already has your vote locked up.

Three, people who are all about the cash, from the comfortably well-heeled who expect a President Romney will help them erect further legislative firewalls around their capital reserves, to well-meaning Regular Joes and Janes who are scared about what the anticipated looming debt crisis will mean to their kids and have decided President Obama doesn’t have what it takes to solve the problem and maybe this guy who has been awfully successful at staying rich, does. Or some combination of the above.

And four, people who just really hate the current president. To be fair, we on the Left had a number of those people ourselves during the Bush years, but our reasons were mostly based on the invasion of Iraq and actual subsequent policy decisions, where the conspiracy theories about Mr. Obama started circulating long before his election and can be generously summed up as, some people plain don’t like the cut of his jib and didn’t before he ever even opened his mouth.

All of these people are Americans, and patriots in their hearts. The problems with the affairs of men rarely proceed from the rank and file, they are almost always the result of the machinations of the well-positioned and deeply-invested.

Now I’m not completely naïve. I expect politicians to lie. It should be written into the oath of office. “Do you promise to lie to the American people during your term of office?” [pause for laughter] “Indeed I do, Mr. Chief Justice!”

But in my whole life, I’ve never seen a politician who only lies like Mr. Romney. And even when he’s not overtly lying, the words coming out of his mouth could be literally anything, depending on which audience he’s speaking to, and when he’s speaking to them. I’m not going to cite already too-familiar chapter and verse; it’s all a quick Googling away.

Most confounding, everyone knows Mr. Romney is full of hooey and it’s still a tight race.

Here’s what I don’t understand, and it ought to concern all four pillars of Mr. Romney’s support: Why in God’s name would anyone believe anything this man has promised, when over the course of his career—even just this campaign—he has promised everything on every side of every issue, depending on the political expediency of the moment? Frequently literally on the same day. 

By his actions, he has proven himself to be fundamentally, reflexively dishonest. More than anything else, it is the one political characteristic for which he has come to be renowned. He not only lacks the courage of his own convictions, he couldn’t identify them if they bumped into him in broad daylight and handed him a campaign contribution.

Even if you hate Mr. Obama for whatever reason you hate him for, even if he’s wrong on your pivotal voting issue, even if he’s from the wrong party or his fiscal policy is a mess or Libya, Libya, Libya… whatever your beef is, as legitimate as it may be… do you really want a President Romney who experience has shown explicitly, time and time again, can’t be trusted to have your back? Who recent experience has demonstrated will abandon any core voting issue the minute its poll numbers begin to slip, or the room he’s addressing doesn’t approve?

Why vote on your one top-priority voting issue—unless your issue involves taxes, corporate deregulation or asset protection, on which I will concede he has been pretty consistent—if you know you can’t trust your candidate to defend it because you don’t know how he actually feels about it, because he’s taken public positions on every possible permutation of it?

With Mr. Obama, like him or not, you mostly know where stands on stuff. Chances are, those are the things you hate about him! But he stands on his positions and he takes shit for them, often from his own side of the aisle.

There is an admirable quality to that. Republicans thought so, too, as recently as George W Bush’s tenure in office.

Mr. Romney, on the other hand, doesn’t dig in his heels for anything except The Win. Even well-intentioned but wrong-headed principled stands are out of his wheelhouse.

You know, the GOP keeps pointing to Ronald Reagan as the standard-bearer of the modern Republican party, but that’s not true any longer. These days, former president Bush is a more accurate reflection of where the party is. Consciously willing to deny facts if they stand in the way of conclusions long drawn; a platform-sanctioned preference for religion over science; a disinterest in foreign affairs which in George Bush’s case led to disaster; good Lord, Mr. Romney has even assembled key elements of W’s foreign policy team as his top advisors on the subject.

Today’s Republican party is no longer the party of Lincoln or even Reagan. They are a party that has looked at the awful fix we’re in and collectively chosen to put their trust in a man whose greatest, most public claim to fame is his untrustworthiness.

Somewhere, William F Buckley is making an eloquent, well-informed quip about rolling over in his grave.

Thursday, November 01, 2012

Swallowed Up