Navigating The Election Path
Copyright © by Len Holman, 9/2/12
Did you ever get lost? Did you ever set out to get to your destination, get wrong directions or read the map incorrectly or take a wrong turn somewhere? If you did, then you drove in supreme and ignorant bliss for a while before you realized you had passed that same tree twice before. You pulled over, got out, looked around, scratched your head, and muttered, “How the hell do I get back on the right road?” Right now, that’s the Republican problem. Romney and Ryan want to talk about how it would have been better to let the car companies go under and save a few bucks, but they’re stuck talking about abortion rights. In fact, they are passing the same tree the primary candidates passed: social issues which make the electorate queasy.
The latest dustup concerns Rep. Akin, running for the Senate in Missouri, against the Democrat, Claire McCaskill. Akin did what many of his conservative contemporaries before him have done: put his foot and shoe in his mouth, liked the taste, and kept on inserting. He claimed that in a “legitimate rape” a woman’s body has “a way” of shutting down and preventing pregnancy. This is similar to saying that a soldier, shot in the chest, has a secret way of stopping the bleeding. He will, presumably, get up and go play video games afterward. Rep. Akin claims two things: there has to be a “legitimate” rape, and THEN the attacked woman’s body defends itself in some magical way to prevent pregnancy.
Now, Romney wants to talk about the economy, and Ryan wants to talk about the economy, and that would be a good thing to talk about, if the two could manage to get the conversation on track for it. Instead, we have the spectacle of the fringe of the Right extruding small, toxic tendrils of stupidity, ignorance and hate. We have the “legitimate rape” comment and that Lubbock County judge in Texas who predicts a “civil war” if Obama is re-elected, and we have Romney’s on-again, off-again position on abortion and we have Ryan’s harder, less tolerant stance which he is trying to meld somehow with Romney’s position (whatever THAT may be). We also have that SEAL video accusing Obama of taking too much credit for killing Bin Laden, and a book the Pentagon wants to sue the SEAL author over, and Romney’s “joke” about no one wanting to see HIS birth certificate (he really IS an awkward guy, isn’t he?). And we have Isaac, a tropical storm and hurricane wannabe, screwing with the Republican convention.
No discussion about the economy or jobs or the housing market or education. Instead, it’s the same old thing: the insistence by the very conservative Right that we should go back to Cotton Mather’s America (which wasn’t even America then). We should brand Obama as the new Hester Prynne and banish him to another continent (and we all know which continent that is). The fact that the Presidential race is so close is a testament to voter apathy and ignorance, and the rabid Right, which knows no bounds, despite pleas—both subtle and overt, both public and private—to cool it and pound on what the traditional Republican Party thinks is a winning message. The more experienced heads in the mainline conservative movement know that wandering off the highway of the economic message into the swamps of social engineering, hectoring for religious reasons, and loony conspiracy theories will only result in losing the White House. But no matter how much they try, the two front men can’t seem to keep on message.
Imagine a room packed corner to corner with mousetraps loaded with ping pong balls. Romney has a ping pong ball, labeled, “the economy” and he wants to throw it into the packed room, but all THOSE balls are labeled with social issues like abortion and religion and immigration and American greatness. How does he throw his ping pong ball into the room without exploding all those filled mousetraps and having HIS lost in the explosion of little white balls? Ron Paul’s supporters are outraged, Santorum is disgusted, Bachmann is getting visions, and every time Romney gets his message out (such as it is), some loony on the Far Right of Reality comes up with an off-the-wall comment. Romney wants to drive to the White House, keeps passing the same tree and complains to his wife, “Why can’t I just drive straight there?” He can’t because he is a Republican and there are few moderates left in the GOP and the non-moderates WILL be heard.
So Mitt is trying not to get lost and the amazing thing is that the election seems so close. If it were simply a matter of saying, “The economy is crap and I can fix it.” It might be no contest by this time. But every time Romney tries to drive his path, a voice from the Right wilderness is shouting about the infiltration of the Muslim Brotherhood or how there are different kinds of rape or how we should help Israel bomb Iran back to the Prophet’s time. It’s hard to navigate the election path when the damn thing twists and turns and goes off into dead ends and into marshy swamps. The GOP convention tried to make Romney into both Mother Teresa and Henry Ford fixing everything wrong. He is going to create 12 million jobs and put more Wal-Mart huggers to work. Will his drive be smoother now? Will all the money he now can spend get him to his destination? Not if the angry, foolish, unread and unconcerned with the Rest of Us have their say. Mitt, watch out! There are still plenty more trees out there.
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