At tonight’s debate Romney offered an aggressive mixture of right-wing myths, Republican economic magic beans, sheer lies and a new make-believe moderate Mitt Romney and Obama’s response was not to seem to mind. Go figure.
Romney’s victorious debate performance could be viewed as an apt metaphor for the Republican Party at its most successful: a party and a philosophy that largely succeeds when it does by never selling what it actually believes, what it really intends, what it really will do, and by never copping to whom and what it actually represents (The top five percent, corporate hegemony and a rigged game against workers, consumers and the middle class).
Romney, drooling rabid right-wing saliva about the safety net before tonight’s debate gave it a warm and entirely phony hug. And Obama let him. Romney sold out the hard-right views of the contemporary Republican Party one could fairly say, though Republicans won’t mind a single bit, because: a) They understood Romney’s performance as the model (that metaphor) for how Republicans traditionally win, and b) Romney rolled over an inexplicably supine Obama.
However, historical perspective is important too. Incumbents are almost invariably horrible in their first debates. Most who watched the first Reagan vs. Mondale debate in 1984 concluded that Mondale all but rolled Reagan’s comatose body up in a rug and dumped it in a local landfill. The polls took a dive for Ronnie and suddenly his re-election was very much in question. Yet after a Lazarus worthy rebound in his second debate Reagan resumed his momentum and won his landslide. In 2004,Dubya came across in his first debate against contender John Kerry as even more befuddled than his usual Gumpian self. And of course to the great regret of approximately 75% of the American voting public who would suffer mightily from the many calamities he perpetrated went on to win the usual second term.
In other words, Republican glee is likely to expire quickly. Nevertheless Obama watched the political world’s most brazen and transparent congenital liar since the Prince of Darkness Richard Nixon bloodily murder the truth tonight, and did little more about it than shrug his shoulders.
What do you think about how the Internet age affects the presidential election? I think the incumbency advantage enjoyed by local and regional representatives is now poised to carry over to nationally elected reps, if it hasn’t already. Short of a colossal scandal or fuck-up during a first term, I don’t see any president losing out on his second term anytime soon.
Historically, incumbency has always been a powerful advantage at every level, and incumbent presidents are re-elected with very few exceptions. Incumbents are a known quantity, so lying about the incumbent isn’t likely to be successful, especially if the incumbent is as well-liked personally as President Obama is. However, lying by a challenger about himself and his own record is especially useful, a strategy no aspirant has used so blatantly since Tricky Dick as Mitt Romney with his ever-changing positions and non-existent principles. The media landscape is such these days that truth is mostly beside the point, as there are no central arbiters anymore, or central clearinghouses for assertions, so propaganda can circumvent and at times defeat truth and facts. In the way that Wayne Ellington is a natural and pure jump shooter Mitt Romney is a natural and pure liar. Even Obama found out last night what a challenge that can be (though I think Obama just wasn’t present last night, for whatever reason.
But Americans like Obama, and most apparently believe he has done as well as a president possibly could, given the circumstances he inherited and the determined and calculated obstructionism he faced from the very start. So whatever shape-shifting persona Romney shows up with on any given day may in the end simply be irrelevant because enough voters have made up their minds about Obama. Romney is the classic Republican and classic corporate shill, confident he can always sell shit as shinola to any consumer. But if consumers like their incumbent they won’t be in a buying mood. Let’s hope that’s the case, otherwise the human grease pit that is Mitt Romney, and his Reactionary Brotherhood will be leading the country to the next set of catastrophes and social and economic regression.