Wednesday, January 16, 2008

Mittmentum And The End Of The Republican Party

So Willard Romney won the Michigan primary last night. By 9 points. The race is, as I heard on NPR this morning, wide open. I have been saying this for a while. I think it is hilarious, because unlike the Democratic primary campaign, in which most voters feel very enthusiastic and are happy with the wealth of choices, the Republicans are unhappy, and recognize the dearth of serious choices. We move forward, inching closer to (what may be) the decisive Super Tuesday on February 5. Or not. I foresee the potential for enough different wins - the states cover the country pretty well geographically, socially, etc. - to keep both races wide open. On the Democratic side, I will not discount either ego or the casual dislike of the other candidates keeping the rest of the field in play. On the Republican side, I just see, as I have said repeatedly, a train wreck, although I think the speed of this particular multi-car mess is increasing. With consummate liar and fraud Mitt Romney finally winning a primary, he can "keep hope alive" (to borrow one of Jesse Jackson's phrases) long enough to just about screw the entire party in to the ground.

Why do I think this? The policy commitments of the Republican Party, whether it's tax cuts forever, military Keynianism, or corporate profit over workers and the environment simply have no traction with the majority of the American people (I think it an arguable point if any of them ever had such traction; yet they certainly have enough cachet with enough to keep the Republicans in the "W" column for a generation). Exhausted of any ideas - I heard Newt Gingrich this morning, pimping his book Real Change, saying we need more supply side economics even though it has already been revealed that supply-side was always a strategy for ending the Great Society rather than a serious economic theory - and saddled with the most unpopular incumbent President since Herbert Hoover (I don't count Nixon, because he left office before having to face the serious wrath of the American voter; maybe that's why he left, to save the Republican Party), the candidates for the Republican nomination include one of the oldest to seek the nomination; a two-term governor from liberal-leaning Massachusetts who has somehow miraculously transformed himself in to a right-wing nut job; and a real right-wing nut job who refuses to deny that he is anything but. And, of course, now-irrelevant sociopath Rudy Giuliani, and racist libertarian Ron Paul.

In an ideal world, Romney would run on his record in Massachusetts, and be a respectable, formidable opponent to the Democratic nominee, leaving the competition in the dust early on. Yet, because of the nature of the Republican Party (or perhaps a perception of the Republican primary voters?), Romney felt he had to become far more conservative, and spent close to a year becoming a hunter, anti-gay rights, anti-choice candidate, all of which were simply not who Mitt Romney was.

I still foresee the possibility of a brokered Republican convention (anything, at this point, is possible), and an anointed nominee - this is where Newt Gingrich comes in; I think he new book is the same kind of campaign document we see from candidates every election cycle - which only makes things worse. The Republican Party is dismembering itself before our eyes, which, in many ways is sad, because it had a worthy pedigree at one time, and represents currents in American history that are not wholly bad. Captured by elements of the far right, it has morphed in to something unrecognizable to those who called themselves a Republican even within my lifetime, but it has run out of steam, and I think the George Bush Presidency was the last gasp of the Republican Party for a while.

Virtual Tin Cup

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