I was enjoying my afternoon, wandering around the back pasture and letting the dogs root and dig and play grab ass with each other. I decided I’d check in on a friend who was having a new floor installed this week. Before you can say “I like to fire people”, our conversation turned to what happened in New Hampshire and what might happen in South Carolina. Neither of us thought any of it mattered, because Romney has the resources, the organization, and now the momentum against the weakest field of candidates known to man. (They aren’t the gang that couldn’t shoot straight, they are the gang that wants to shoot everything.) Clearly, it is Mitt’s to lose. Then, my friend casually remarked that she thought the 2012 Presidential Campaign was going to be the dirtiest, ugliest, and most expensive contest of our lives. Isn’t that disheartening? Especially for those of us over 50. Been there, done that.
Primaries are mutually destructive, ruinous affairs as it is. The last Democratic one led to a permanent fissure in the Democratic Party base. I imagine some of that is good, and there have to be rhetorical suicide bombers in each Party to at least keep the candidates honest on some important but seldom debated issues. How many political martyrs were felled by the mere suggestion that Social Security might one day need restructuring? It was called the third rail of politics for a reason. So I was looking forward to a few months of watching my political adversaries tear into each other. Call it a character flaw. I call it a guilty pleasure, like ice cream. Surprisingly, I grew tired of it almost immediately.
Maybe it isn’t so surprising. I mean, when Democrats have tough primaries, they run to the right. When Republicans have tough primaries, they run to the far right. They trotted out the same tired bogeymen and sounded the same lame dog whistles, and not a single real issue got discussed. When Hillary had to attack candidate Obama, she called him out on his lack of experience, and wondered what the hell he would do when he got the 3:00 a.m. “phone call.” (Pretty sure that issue has been, er, put to bed. Turns out, wake this POTUS up in the middle of the night and he will likely send a Seal Team over to make sure you have a bad day) But it was a legitimate question to ask, and the majority of voters rolled the dice on whether this former Junior Senator from Illinois would keep his legendary composure under fire. We aren’t going to hear that in the Republican Primary, right? I mean, the man way out in front stood way back in the rear during his generation’s call to arms. It is completely reasonable to wonder how Mr. Romney will react when the game of world-wide chess gets escalated to a game of Modern Warfare 5, Global Nuclear Shit-storm. But nobody in his Party seems to want to ask him about his views on, say, dealing with the son of a recently deceased dictatorial mad man, or a regime that plays us because we need at least the appearance of strong allies in that part of the world. They won’t wonder (aloud anyway) what might happen when all that business acumen runs afoul of a nuclear armed “competitor” that may not act in his own self interest?
Instead, we know that he won’t support the Dream Act, but he probably won’t dot the deserts of the Southwest with bouncing bettys either. We know he won’t round up homosexuals and gas them, but he ain’t gonna recognize their marriages either. He won’t totally loot the funding of our social safety net, just siphon a little off to “manage” for us. He’s a taller, younger, better haired John McCain, without any of that bothersome street cred. Boring.
So, being a tried and true Pollyanna, I had hoped to see a Republican candidate stand up to those in his Party who can only be said to possess a rather thumb-less grasp on the real world. Call out your grifters, your charlatans, your snake oil salesmen! Appeal to those who have real, potentially solvable complaints. Government regulation can be murderous to small business. (I must add, though, that of all the evil regulation I have ever been subjected to has been on a local level.) The tax code is chaotic. Money collected from taxpayers should be treated like a scarce resource, but that must apply to military expenditures and domestic programs equally. If we can’t fund Headstart, we can’t build that new Drone that is the size of a pimple but can level a city block. In short, there are compelling arguments to be made on a whole range of issues, and I had hoped that this time, our political process would produce an intellectual debate over our common problems. Lucy/football, and all that.
I thought, for a minute, anyway, that a smart, well traveled and well mannered Republican candidate would give President Obama a run. I’m pretty confident that the President could hold his own with Mr. Huntsman, but he would be forced to take a firmer position on some important issues that he has regarded as, well, fluid. Win/win, am I right?
Not gonna happen, even if somehow, some way, a dead girl/live boy type scandal were to render Romney moot and elevate Mr. Huntsman, the SuperPacs would still make daily runs to the ATM. There will be billions spent turning both candidates into grotesquely shaped, foul smelling monsters from which we must be saved. Thanks, SCOTUS!
At least I don’t have cable.