Saturday, September 22, 2012

“Some Days we’re up. Some days we’re down.”

“Everything that is wrong-headed, cynical, and vicious in me today traces back to that evil hour...when I decided to get heavily involved in the political process...”
- Hunter S. Thompson, Fear and Loathing on the Campaign Trail ’72

This past week will be remembered as the one Mitt Romney unofficially lost the 2012 Presidential election. Of course the Republican's polls have been nosedive the moment this whole sordid ship took-off into the stratosphere in the primaries. Yet again, the Republicans have only been successful at spending enormous amounts of campaign funds while totally unsuccessful at communicating any clear and/or reasonable argument for why Americans should vote the incumbent out. They have only managed to communicate a message of divisiveness and isolationism, good show. 

One of the few things Republicans have been great at is providing the daily news cycle with an array of ignorant, offensive gaffes for the late night comedians to salivate and laugh over. For this, we’ll miss them. Of course, in politics, nothing is absolute, there’s still a little over 40 days until November 6th. Accordingly, it would be arrogant and unwise to assert the election is in the bag for Obama. 

But it is hard not to celebrate; especially when the weekly polls -even in the most unpredictable of swing states- have been showing President Obama with a comfortable 10 point lead for weeks. On the New York Times Five Thirty Eight Blog, the President has a 77% chance of winning re-election. Ouch! This weekend, Mitt Romney will appear on 60 Minutes to tell the viewing audience that his campaign “Doesn’t need a turn-around.” Romney will admit that not everything he says is “elegant,” but that he “wants to make very clear [he's here] to help 100 percent of the American people.” 

Yes, Romney continues to believe. (Even when many of his Republican colleagues don't.) As I’ve said throughout this campaign, the choice to “Believe in America” as the Romney campaign slogan suggests, is most apt; after all, to believe in anything means to also willingly ignore whatever happens in reality to disprove and/or challenge one’s ideology. Speaking on the Daily Show former President Bill Clinton said something great: “The problem with ideology is that it has the answer before it has any evidence.” Indeed. And yes, the reality is, Romney’s ideology has no evidence, only belief. Accordingly, he does not speak for, represent, nor, arguably, even care about the American people.      

The stilted speeches and soaring rhetoric from the heavily fortified conventions in Tampa and then Charlotte, are now so very far away. Yet, it was only a few weeks ago that Romney and Obama accepted their nominations. At the RNC, Romney’s speech was interrupted twice by protestors. Of course, it has been a tough election from the start for the presumptive candidate. Even back in the Iowa straw poll, Romney was heckled by a man in the crowd about his remark, “Corporations are people my friend.” The only time Romney has appeared comfortable in front of an audience is in the now famous leaked tape of Romney speaking at a closed-door fundraiser, which (as we now all well know) was a speech full of damning, politically suicidal, sound bites. 

Comments like this show Mitt Romney and President Barack Obama share completely different idealogical visions for our nation (something Mitt Romney himself has been correct in admitting). This election is between two dramatically alternative outcomes. Sure, both men have entered the same vicious and vile political game; nevertheless, the way they play it is in total contrast. As sports writer Grantland Rice once wrote, “When the Great Scorer comes to write against your name -he marks- not that you won or lost -but how you played the game.” How Romney and Obama play the game is totally different. 

What would a Romney administration look like? Romney would likely do everything in his power (including choosing more Supreme Court justices) to prevent women from their right to choose (something he, of course, used to say he’d protect; however, now finds politically convenient to oppose...). Romney would seek to outsource American jobs to the lowest bidders (as he has in places like “Bain-port” . Companies that have been grasped up and consumed by private equity firms like Bain Capital. Which is -as Matt Taibbi succinctly argues here- the economic model a Romney administration would promote. 

Taibbi writes, “Making money justifies any behavior, no matter how venal. The [new] owners of American industry are polar opposites of the Milton Hersheys and Andrew Carnegies who built this country.”) Romney’s foreign policy seems to be informed by the most ardent neoconservative hacks (see Romney’s treasonous response to the attack on the U.S. embassy in Benghazi). On immigration, Romney would make it so difficult for undocumented immigrants in the U.S. that they would “self-deport” themselves (compare this with Obama’s “dreamers” and support for passing the “dream act”). Gay marriage? Forget about it. Romney's vision for America is contradictory to liberty and the pursuit of happiness.

Pundits on all sides have been suggesting that Mitt's problem is that he has never been able to relate to "average" American voters. He’s awkward and mechanical. Romney’s forced staccato laughter further plays to the depiction of him as a disingenuous, elite, plutocrat. At times, I’ve tried to imagine what it would be like to sit and have a conversation with Mitt? After all, I never liked President Bush’s policies and decisions; but, nevertheless, I did feel like he would be the type of guy you would want to invite to a barbecue or sit beside at a baseball game. Bush had that folksy charm that is completely absent from the Romney campaign. Romney is not charismatic. The only thing Romney has going for him is an enormous amount of wealth and a large family.

Romney will lose. But no one should feel bad when he does; after all, Mitt will still be unconscionably wealthy and totally comfortable in any of his luxurious homes. But make no mistake, he will never be President of these United States. And with any hope, there will be some moment when Romney (and Super PACers, Karl Rove and Sheldon Adelson) will need to face the cold hard truth - you're not entitled to the office of the President. Money cannot buy votes.  

Politics is a stupid and tawdry game, but it is also, as Hunter S. Thompson once said, “The art of controlling your environment.” A vibrant democracy is based on discussion, debate, and decisions. American voters have a choice this November and despite how cynical and critical we can get, it is important to remember that despite the limitations of our current political system, freedom is a struggle that never ends.

“If you turn away now - if you buy into the cynicism that the change we fought for isn’t possible - well, then change won’t happen.” - President Obama

Get out the vote!


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