Some random thoughts on the 2011Republican primaries
VANCOUVER ISLAND, CANADA – On the eve of Super Tuesday, there is no front runner; there are only those who are less despised by some. At this point, mid-March, although Mitt Romney is nominally in the lead, nobody really wants him. They just dislike him marginally less than his opponents. Mitt’s famous proclivity for flip-flopping (latest example: within just hours he came down firmly on both sides of the “Blunt Amendment”) is actually working for him in this instance. People can vote for him by persuading themselves that he is in favour of anything they want, because at one time or another he has supported it; they can disregard his rejection of that position as mere political expediency.
Newt Gingrich is like a freak of nature; he makes you shudder, but you can’t
take your eyes off him. Sort of a Terminator-cockroach, he is apparently unkillable; no matter how many times you step on him, he just pulls himself together and keeps on coming after you. Hard to take seriously because of his history of ethics breaches, he is a favourite of political commentators who can’t help but note his corpulence combined with his quixotic doggedness; he has been described as an “angry attack muffin”, and in yet another sci-fi reference, “The Blob”. He knows that he doesn’t have a chance. He can’t win the nomination, and if, in some alternate universe, it was handed to him, he couldn’t possibly be credible in a general election. He is no passionate ideologue. What the hell is he doing? Why does he keep going? The only reasonable answer seems to be that he is milking his billionaire supporter for funds to cushion his inevitable and imminent retirement.
Ron Paul is, quite simply, nuts. I’d like to think that he just started advocating his brand of libertarianism because at first glance it seems reasonable, and then, having failed to think it through to its logical consequences, realised he had a tiger by the tail and couldn’t let it go. But I don’t really buy that. No; he really does believe in his concept of radical libertarian political philosophy, along with all that it entails. Among the things he would eliminate along with intrusive legislation are: anti-segregation laws; gun control laws; anti-drug (up to and including heroin and methamphetamine) laws. However, he doesn’t see it as unduly intrusive to outlaw abortion and even contraception. He is running far enough behind that his campaign is really more of a sideshow; no one expects anything from his camp other than the occasional belly laugh. He, of course, realises this and seems to see himself as the conscience of the Republican Party; not a viable candidate but someone who reminds the real candidates of issues that need to be addressed.
And then there’s Rick Santorum. The impression that Santorum leaves is that of a hate-filled, intolerant, theocratic demagogue.
He is openly contemptuous of everyone who is not a bigoted, narrow minded, religious fanatic; he seems to despise everyone from foreigners to college students, from women to Muslims. Of course, this evangelical Catholic is a favourite among the Republican base. He is utterly unelectable outside of the Republican hard-core electorate, but that won’t stop Republicans from trying to get him nominated to run against Barack Obama. My favourite moment in Santorum’s chaotic shoestring campaign was when he referred to JFK’s great speech on the necessity of an absolute separation of church and state. Santorum, insisting that theocrats ought to have far more power within the halls of power said that the speech made him, “want to throw up”. That he, as a Catholic, would even be permitted to contend in the Republican primary is largely due to that speech seemed to have escaped him. Equating the use of contraception with sin, his attacks on the country’s most beloved president, his calling Obama a “snob” for encouraging young people to go to college; all help him as he systematically alienates voting blocks, including Catholics, women, students, and rational people.
What we are witnessing is the implosion of the GOP. At this point any reasonable Republican strategist would write off any presidential bid in 2012 and encourage the candidates to continue to self-immolate; the Republicans should recognise that their national party is hopelessly out of touch and cannot conceivably slither into the White House without a complete overhaul. They need to concentrate on winning as many seats in Congress as they possibly can, so that they have some influence over the next 4 years; meanwhile get the backroom boys together and anoint some new faces with the snake oil they sell in the marketplace of ideas. Maybe in’16 they’ll be in a position to field a candidate that doesn’t make the rest of us want to throw up.