I don’t usually write in a serious way about politics, and this essay may prove an excellent example as to why. But these thoughts are banging around inside my head and I need to get them out before next Tuesday. If naughty language puts your knickers in a twist, please don’t read any further.
I began this election season thinking Obama had fucked up. Yes, he’d rescued the country from Great Depression 2.0. Yes, he’d managed to have Bin Laden located and killed – the only real job the Bush chickenhawks had after 9/11, yet they couldn’t even manage to do that. He rescued GM and Chrysler while wing nuts were screaming “socialist” at the tops of their lungs. He repealed Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell. He’d extracted us from Iraq and Afghanistan (eventually) without getting us into any new wars. He put a little distance between us and Israel (not enough in my opinion). And though the ongoing civil war in Syria is horrifying and the future of the Middle East is still very dicey, I think the Arab Spring is a good thing. I seriously doubt it would have happened with McCain (or God help us, Sarah Palin) in the White House.
But Obama did nothing to reverse Bush-era surveillance of citizens. He hasn’t closed Guantanamo. He poured all of his energy into Hillary’s agenda (health care reform) and came up with half a solution. Worse: He did nothing to pursue the Wall Street bastards who screwed us and got rich doing it. Financial reform? My ass.
The single greatest symbol of Obama’s failure to deliver Hope and Change was the Occupy Wall Street movement. Obama had lost the support of the young and the Left.
Obama mostly fucked up the way Clinton fucked up during his first term: by trying way too hard to make a deal with the people who wanted stab him in the throat and jump up and down on his corpse, politically at least (and in some cases more than politically). The reason the economic recovery has been so lackluster is the simple fact that the Republicans did everything in their power to make it fail, and the Democrats were too inept to overcome that. It’s an old story, one that predates even Clinton.
So I began this year thinking, ok, fine. If Obama had to lose, we could do worse than Mitt Romney. He seemed like a boring but sane plutocrat with a reasonably high IQ. I figured he must at least have some progressive political leanings in his gene pool, otherwise how could he become governor of Massachusetts? He was not, at any rate, the second coming of George W. Bush. And his hair was extremely presidential.
As long as Romney wasn’t forced to climb aboard the crazy train and ride it back in time to 1842 he might prove a tolerable alternative. But as the Republican primaries wore on, it was clear the wingnuts had taken control. The succession of Anyone But Romney frontrunners – Pizza Man, Scary Lady with the Gay Husband, Crazy Cowboy Who Can’t Count to Three – showed how desperately the crazies wanted one of their own to lead the way. So Romney became their guy. He climbed aboard the train and put on the engineer’s cap, then he picked Paul Ryan to shovel coal into the engine.
But even Romney’s skewed mathematics couldn’t turn the Tea Party minority into a majority. Despite what he might tell a room full of fatcat donors, Romney knows the US populous isn’t 53 percent crazy – at least, not yet. So starting with the debates, he systematically and cynically changed his positions on almost everything. He did everything in his power – up to and including a spray tan – to convince independents that he was just like Obama, only smarmier.
Then of course the crazies were outraged at the bait and switch. They started calling him Mitt “Hussein” Romney, the nominee of the Muslim Socialist Party. They doffed their tri-corner hats, hoisted their amusingly misspelled placards, and took to the streets, complaining that Romney’s candidacy was endangering the Constitution and threatening to rip apart the very fabric of this nation.
Actually they didn’t do any of that. They supported him throughout. Every flip, every flop – it was as if they never happened. With the exception of Chris Christie — who, let’s face it, was never really one of them and was up to his manboobs in floodwaters at the time — they stood behind Romney.
The fact that none of the crazies have complained about Romney’s sudden makeover can mean only one thing. He wasn’t really abandoning them. He was still their guy. He would win the election by any means necessary and then govern the way they told him to govern. Essentially he would hand the budget reins over to Ryan, the same way Bush handed foreign policy over to Cheney. (We all know how well that worked out.) He’d pick someone to the right of Scalia for the next Supreme Court opening (if only Hermann Goering were still alive). He’d bomb Iran, at Israel’s request. He’d gut the EPA and the SEC and Housing and Human Services. No billionaire would be left behind.
The things he wouldn’t do: Balance the budget, roll back the deficit, or make our tax system rational. None of which would matter to the Tea Partiers anymore, because they got what they really wanted: control.
This is why I call Romney the Manchurian Candidate. Flip over the right playing card and he will do your bidding, no matter what the job entails. That to me is the most frightening aspect of a Romney victory. It’s the notion that he has no principles besides an overwhelming desire to be president; that he’ll say whatever it takes to get there and be willing to do anything once he’s made it.
I’ll say it here, even though I’m superstitious and fear I might throw a jinx on all of this: I think Obama will win on Tuesday. I think he’ll get a very thin plurality of the popular vote – less than a million vote margin — and a more substantial portion of the Electoral College (300+). That’s a total gut prediction, no Nate Silvering involved. And I think the Republicans will scream bloody murder and vow (once again) to make the next four years even more hellish than the last four. They may very well succeed.
Is that a great outcome, bristling with Hope and Change? No. But it beats a zombie apocalypse. And it’s why anyone who’s thinking about voting for Romney in two days should think long and hard about who it is they’re really voting for, and what they’re likely to get.