I’m aware numerous prognosticators, numbers whizzes and political savants have rung the alarm that Barack Obama is vulnerable in his re-election bid. It is rightly noted that high unemployment and a weak-kneed economy historically have been incumbent poison. But it is no less valid today after the first presidential primary (caucus, whatever) that the Republican field of presidential candidates including its front-runners is little more than representative specimens from a lab experiment gone gruesomely wrong, otherwise known as the Republican Party.
Months of healthy competition among aspirants for the votes of the Republican base (insert picture of St. Elizabeths Hospital here) well prepares a candidate for a general election campaign on the planet Gliese 581c, not Earth. One may be excused for taking the deployment of mighty battalions from the Media-Industrial Complex wearing their serious faces while covering Iowa as an indication we’re really getting down to serious political business here. I don’t think so. Deep thinking about the fine distinctions between personhood laws and opposition to abortion even in the case of rape or incest (Hint: both positions are crazy as shit) is not persuasive that we’re engaged in some kind of sober process by any historical standard or comparison (1964, perhaps, though unlike then, this is more likely the real Omega rather than unexpected Alpha of the modern reactionary movement).
While the punditocracy naturally was giddy to have the opportunity to christen Rick Santorum the Joe Frazier to Romney’s Ali, I’m not really feeling the weightiness or drama of this epic battle. They’re still ideologically wayward featherweights, and this primary process now under way is going to produce severely damaged goods. And even without such preeminent dunderheads as Perry and Bachmann, it is a process that will continue to be little more than nutters and numbskulls bantering myths, superstitions, irrationalities and non-facts as they strive to impress an intellectually corrupted and excitable rank and file with the potency and vintage of their extremist sympathies and the wantonness of their blithe hyperbole.
Gingrich will be good for his reliable combination of laughs and revulsion, a sleazy, fatuous maniac who still could win one here or there, so weak and adulterated is the field, and so weird and unstable the pool of voters. As a candidate, he’s what I picture the half-man, half-pig Pigman from Seinfeld would be if he threw his hat into the ring. Paul, a certifiable kook, will always get respectable numbers, buoyed by his army of naifs, lemmings and lost souls, though the ceiling for him is modest and rigid.
Mitt Romney, holding a wad of dough and the backing of those in his party who are what pass for the embodiment of establishment pragmatism in that neck of the woods will tear apart the electability of the hapless Rick, unceremoniously dumped from his senate incumbency not that long ago. The base may not get fuzzy and warm thinking about Mitt, and Rick may be the genuine ideological caveman for whom they lust, but Romney and his money and his establishment clout likely will chop Little Ricky up in fairly short order anyhow.
What’s left is Obama at the other end, who will tower above any Republican nominee like Gort from The Day the Earth Stood Still. If Obama has proven anything over the last 3 years he has proven he is not wacky, he is not dumb, he is not precipitous, he is not weak on defense, he is not rigidly ideological and he is nothing less than compelling and inspiring when he puts his mind to it, which admittedly isn’t often enough. He has certainly disappointed, signing the National Defense Authorization Act for instance, making numerous sucker deals with his adversaries, remaining overly compromising and tentative with the congressional Republican Mongrels for much, much longer than is in any way defensible. He may no longer be the Great Liberal Hope, but he is the only thing between us and a fascist idiocracy, and that isn’t small potatoes at all.
I’m aware the electorate is famously polarized, and there are states that would vote for the Loch Ness Monster before voting for Obama (don’t rule out the Loch Ness Monster as a future Republican candidate by the way). But manifest incompetence, multitudinous position reversals at supersonic speed and undisguised extremity still will kill the deal. In the general, Romney can’t just walk back absolutist positions he has taken in his craven positioning to please the prehistoric base. His name already is synonymous with ideological opportunism if not in the Hall of Fame. So he’s stuck now with every cockamamie statement and crude position he generates during this continuing process, a process Santorum guarantees will continue at least for a little while, assuring more cockamamie statements and ever cruder positions. He’ll be a nominee more promiscuous with positions than a thousand dollar a night hooker.
Conservatism achieved its hegemony in policy and practice through sly stealth, masterful subterfuge and duplicitous energy. Seemingly unaware of this, current Republicans all but point at themselves and yell: “Look at me. I’m crazy!” Whichever candidate wins out in the crazython and faces Obama, he’ll carry a trove of past public statements and positions that are less the equivalent of a long rap sheet than a damnable literary doorstop. And in a country in the throes of a seismic demographic shift, respective nominees Romney, Gingrich and Santorum are bleach, paste and vanilla they’re so extra white. Any of these guys are going to bleed like hemophiliacs in a twelve-round heavyweight fight once Obama and Democrats start wailing at them.
One can’t predict with any certitude whatsoever what the economy will look like in November; or whether Europe will sink into the dust. But the indicators point to economic improvement, though the degree of that is of course up for grabs. Still, these preliminary rounds, for all the customary gravitas media attempt to bestow, as they must, it remains a silly season preliminary only to a Twilight of the Clods in autumn.
Mark my words (I can still delete the post later).