Yesterday, by a decisive majority, Americans made it clear that they don’t consider a super-rich, arrogant, aloof, secretive, radical-right-wing-pandering, lying Mormon hypocrite a suitable occupant of the White House. Nor did they want a rich, arrogant, secretive, radical-right-wing, lying Catholic hypocrite a heartbeat away from the presidency.
How each of those characteristics weighed separately in any voter’s estimation we’ll never know, but I share my fellow citizens’ reservations about Mitt Romney and Paul Ryan on all those grounds, and cast my vote accordingly. So I celebrate this outcome, and look forward to four more years of leadership by a Barack Obama who doesn’t have to keep his prospects for re-election in mind, aided and abetted by an equally unleashed Joe Biden.
Which isn’t to say that I’m a devotee of Obama. I see him as a mainstream Democrat, hardly a leftist. But also a pragmatist able to get things done in the face of the most unrelenting opposition any newly elected president has faced from across the aisle since . . . well, since Bill Clinton. In light of such virulent obstructionism, passage of the Affordable Health Care Act and the revocation of “Don’t ask, don’t tell” on the home front, along with the winding down of the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq and the killing of Osama Bin Laden, represent real triumphs. His decisive defeats of the best the Republic Party had to offer in two successive presidential elections demonstrates unquestionably that, viewed simply as a politician, he’s far superior to them.
Knowledgeable observers suggest that vice-presidential picks don’t have significant impact on elections. Nonetheless, this marks the second strong rejection by the electorate of a Republic Party slate with a Tea Party favorite in the second slot, and one very different from the first, Sarah Palin. Ryan is a Washington insider, policy wonk, and Ayn Rand-reading “intellectual,” in contrast to Palin’s commonsensical outsider know-nothing soccer-mom posturing. That winky-blinky thing didn’t work out too well for Palin, and Ryan’s wonky-blonky routine apparently went over like a lead budget report. The willingness of both to play fast and loose with the facts didn’t help them, either.
What they had most in common, aside from a penchant for unabashed mendacity, was a complete lack of foreign-policy experience and a fondness for sport-killing, with Palin’s ability to bring down and field-dress a moose matched by Ryan’s bow-hunting and catching catfish by sticking his arm down their throats, a technique called “noodling.” Dominated as it is by the NRA, the Republic Party appears to have vastly overestimated the popular appeal of slaughtering Bulmoose and Bambi on your vacation.
Clearly Ryan’s selection as Romney’s running mate served only to consolidate Romney’s credibility with his own party’s ideologues. The “buddy film” effect that the Romney camp had hoped for never materialized, though by dint of the duo awkwardly trading one-liners while peddling the same notorious untruths and evasions a certain “Dumb and Dumber” atmosphere did manifest itself between them, and among Republicans generally, from the dog days of August through Election Day, and will likely persist well into the post-mortem as they try desperately to pin the blame for their loss on anyone save themselves.
“47 Percent” to Romney: Drop Dead
Republican efforts to steal the election by requiring registered voters to provide picture IDs at the polls and/or shutting down polling booths in predominantly Democratic voting districts were ruled unconstitutional or otherwise blocked by courts in numerous states, including Arizona, Texas, Ohio, Pennsylvania, Wisconsin, South Carolina, and Florida. These blatant attempts at disenfranchising millions of voters — not to mention the taxpayer money and time squandered in generating these laws and regulations, pushing them through, then unsuccessfully defending them on appeal — did not sit well with the segments of the electorate under attack, who turned out in unexpected numbers to ensure the Republican defeat.
Particularly since the highest recorded instances of voter fraud in this election cycle turned up in falsified voter-registration forms submitted by Republican operatives in Florida and the destruction of voter registration forms by a Republican operative in Virginia. (See “Suspicious voter registration forms found in 10 Florida counties,” Los Angeles Times, September 28, 2012, “G.O.P. Operative Long Trailed by Allegations of Voter Fraud,” New York Times, October 4, 2012, and “Va. leaves investigation of voter registration form dumping to local authorities,” Washington Post, October 19, 2012. Golly gosh, what a surprise — rampant Republic Party voter fraud in Florida, the state where Republic Party voter fraud (aided and abetted by the Republic Party’s majority on the U.S. Supreme Court) gave the Y2K election to Dubya . . . who just happens to be the brother of Florida governor Jeb Bush, waiting on the runway for his turn to run for the White House.
Through such tactics the Republic Party did, however, affirm its roots in “an ideology . . . remote and unrecognizable to most Americans,” to borrow a phrase from Dinesh D’Souza. That political system was first espoused by a famous Greek homosexual heathen who, having no faith in the intelligence of the common citizen, advocated a political system whereby a nation would draw its rulers, called “philosopher-kings,” from a privileged elite. Rejecting democracy (the system from which the Democratic Party took its name), this non-Christian gay man envisioned an ideal state he called “the republic,” from which the Republic Party derives its name. It has as its core principle a fundamental opposition to the democratic principle of “one person, one vote.”
That’s why, in its 2012 platform, the Republic Party reconfirmed its support of the Electoral College, an institution unique to American political life and specifically designed to undermine the outcome of the general election for the presidency and vice-presidency of the nation. (From that platform: “We oppose the National Popular Vote Interstate Compact or any other scheme to abolish or distort the procedures of the Electoral College. We recognize that an unconstitutional effort to impose ‘national popular vote’ would be a mortal threat to our federal system and a guarantee of corruption as every ballot box in every state would become a chance to steal the presidency.”) Click here for an excellent tutorial, “Electoral College 101,” as explained to and critiqued by a class of third-graders.
Yet, while the Republic Party uses the Socratic concept for its name, it ignores the inconvenient truth that this same ancient Greek philosopher warned against the creation of an oligarchy — rule by a small band of rich people — which is what the Republic Party has in fact become: the Oligarch Party, shouting a “y’all come” welcome to anyone rich enough to pay their way into their “big tent.”
Despite the trouncing dealt out by the electorate to a self-styled “severely conservative” candidate, and the thorough discreditation of the Tea Party that this election outcome represents, the Republic Party shows no sign of moving back toward the mainstream of American political life. Indeed, political pundits and Vegas bookmakers alike predict that New Jersey governor Chris Christie, the front runner for the 2016 nomination (at least until he became Obama’s new BFF), will be this party’s next candidate. Democrats are delighted with that prospect, convinced, in the words of one anonymous spokesperson, that “anyone we nominate will defeat a grossly obese, belligerent, self-aggrandizing right-wing white male who talks like Tony Soprano. Bring him on.”
Mitt Romney, Meet Laurence J. Peter
You may recall Laurence J. Peter as the man who enunciated the Peter Principle: In an organizational hierarchy, every employee will rise or get promoted to his or her level of incompetence. Romney’s trouncing has a simple explanation: he rose to his level of incompetence.
Visual-image mismanagement played a major role in Romney’s ignominious loss, starting with the botching of the Republican National Convention, where a befuddled Clint Eastwood badgered an empty chair while an overwhelmingly white audience chortled. The Republic Party’s ineptitude with imagery continued with the National Review, American conservativism’s journal of record, appropriating (of all things!) both a Stalinist propaganda poster and a Nazi propaganda poster for the cover of its September 10, 2012 issue endorsing Romney-Ryan:
That was just for starters. Romney’s infamous “47 percent” speech, Ryan’s lame soup kitchen photo-op, racist Photoshopped images of Obama . . . the hits just kept on a-comin’.
To what extent the Republic Party’s ineptitude with imagery doomed the Romney-Ryan campaign — the degree to which they misjudged and/or mishandled visual communication in this election, or were otherwise undone by it — will prove difficult to gauge with any degree of precision. But its recurrence as a prominent issue suggests that it played a significant, perhaps substantial role in shaping the electorate’s perceptions of Romney and Ryan. Possibly more so than what they said in their speeches, interviews, and textual statements, since the images (still photographs, videos, live broadcasts, photocollages, graphics) had an often startling and memorable freshness and straightforwardness that their arguments sorely lacked.
Once they finish licking their wounds and slaughtering their scapegoats, the Republic Party should review its relationship to the “optics” of their strategies. There, as elsewhere, the Democratic Party taught them a painful lesson. If we’re fortunate, they’ll fail to learn it.
Oops! I appear to have sent this out a few days early. The results aren’t in yet, and you shouldn’t take them for granted. Don’t forget to vote on November 6.
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This post supported by a donation from the Estate of Lyle Bongé.