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Ronald Reagan – Green Dragon
Sep 262012

One of the many strikes against Mitt Romney’s candidacy has been a regular drumbeat of complaint by movement conservatives like Redstate’s Erick Erickson that Romney isn’t sufficiently ideologically conservative, that he’s wishy-washy on their issues, that his tenure as Governor of Massachusetts shows he’s too liberal, etc. During the primary season, each of the Non-Romneys du jour took a crack at undermining the Mittster based on this critique.

Sorry, right-wing nutcases, but I’ve got news for you: Mitt Romney is precisely what your party stands for.

In fact, he is a carbon-copy of what your party has nominated in each of the past four Presidential cycles: a privileged, spoiled, morally blank, mean-spirited person driven solely by desire for self-aggrandizement.

Why does it surprise you that Romney will tell you what you want to hear, gainsay it ten minutes later and then deny the contradiction? Republican Presidents have been doing that since Ronald Reagan. At least he had the excuse of dementia (which was denied, of course), but that hardly extends to his many handlers and flaks, who lied cheerfully and liberally, daring the worshiping press to contradict them. Romney is no more mendacious than Donald Rumsfeld, John Ashcroft, Alberto Gonzales, Dana Perino or Scott McClellan were on behalf of Dubya, or than John McCain is when throwing his supposedly stellar principles under the bus for political expediency (this week, it was Our Veteran Hero voting against the Veterans’ Job Act).

The current nominee’s only innovation in this regard is in having shortened the intervals between flip and flop, and not bothering to try some tortured rationalization for why the contradictions are somehow consistent.

This is what you get. This is the natural culmination of having steadily moved your end of the political spectrum away from facts and towards faith, away from thinking and towards ideology, away from public interest and towards self-interest, away from a pluralistic understanding that those who disagree must nonetheless work together to govern, and towards the idea of winning by any means necessary…and if you can’t, making sure the other guys lose.

Mitt Romney is the concentrated essence of what conservatism has become: a no-rules angler for his own interests, all other concerns secondary. A man who cares about nothing but himself.

He doesn’t care about your social issues. Neither did Reagan, or either Bush, or McCain. They mouthed the words and made occasional policy gestures while in office because they figured you were dumb enough for that to keep you on a string, and because they didn’t care about the people that got hurt in the process. There’s no commitment to values there: just Machiavellian pragmatism.

He doesn’t care about your economic philosophy. All he cares about is gaming the system to the greatest degree possible to personally benefit himself and his family. If that means raising taxes on the middle class so the wealthy pay even less, well, hell, let’s tee that right up. There’s no economic philosophy there: just greed.

He doesn’t care about integrity. If making appeals to racial prejudice, campaigning on obvious falsehoods cobbled from out-of-context edited quotes, and working to make it harder for some people to vote will raise his chances of success, he will of course pursue these strategies. There is no core sense of human decency there; Mitt Romney knows to his cold little core that he is The Only Person In The Universe.

There is a word for people like that. They’re called sociopaths. And your movement, your party, your articulated philosophies, your campaign tactics and, yes, your candidates all fit that label nicely.

Mitt hasn’t failed you. Mitt is the absolute essence of you. The mistake you make is in thinking he was supposed to stand for what YOU want, but you have missed the punchline of your own joke: he’s not there for you. He’s there for himself, and himself only.

Which is exactly the direction you have been trying to push the politics of the country for more than thirty years.

You were just too dumb to understand that you could be tossed out in the cold just like the blacks and the gays and the poor and the women and all the other people you don’t care about.

In a world run by sociopaths, you get betrayed just like everyone else. You’re not immune. You’re non-human non-factors whose feelings, interests and aspirations are non-relevant, too.

Welcome to Mitt’s world, suckers.

At publication, the Dragon was REFLECTIVE

Fighting the Last War

 Posted by at 2:46 pm  National Politics
Sep 032012

One of the recurring warnings/lessons/pitfalls in military history and strategic training is the propensity for armies to prepare and plan for the last war they fought, rather than the next.

This is natural in humans: we learn based on experience and plan our future actions based on what we learned. It’s our one big evolutionary advantage.

Well, and thumbs.

The problem, of course, is that conditions and technology continue to evolve between the last conflict and the next. Since the 19th century they have done so at a breakneck pace. Yet those in positions of authority—often convinced by their long experience that they have understanding of what is coming—continue to make plans based on what they learned in the last conflict, much of which may no longer be applicable.

And so you get horse cavalry riding into machine-gun fire in World War I. You get France pouring resources into the Maginot Line to prevent a recurrence of World War I…and Hitler just going right around it by invading Belgium. You get years of senseless slaughter of American troops fighting to “take the hill” in Vietnam, only to lose it the minute they go back to base, because the brass doesn’t understand that they are in a guerrilla war, not a front-line war. And today, you get insane amounts of American money going into maintaining military presences in places like Japan and Germany where they have long since been unnecessary.

This brings me to Republican Presidential campaign strategy in 2012.

Since Ronald Reagan’s campaign, GOP Presidential campaign strategy has boiled down to this:

  1. Publicly, paint a glowing, nostalgic fantasy of what you’ll make of the country, avoiding specifics and sticking to platitudes;
  2. Make private promises to social conservatives you feel no particular commitment to keeping;
  3. Make private promises to wealthy donors you absolutely intend to keep;
  4. Do everything you can to load the dice: make it difficult for minorities and the poor to vote, promote cynicism about voting, etc.

That strategy worked for a long time. The coalition of the wealthy and the socially conservative remained aligned, solidified and grew: so much so that by 2000, Karl Rove decided that it was big enough that he could ignore swing voters entirely, and win simply by galvanizing the base with a hard-right message. And with the help of some vote suppression, Ralph Nader and five members of the Supreme Court, it worked.

It continued to work in 2004, even as the shine was coming off the Republican brand. As the economy became increasingly untenable for any but the very rich, the Iraq War proved itself to be both unwarranted and not the slam-dunk that had been promised, we bogged down in Afghanistan and the last of Bush’s post-September-11 poll resurgence faded away, it was a narrow thing. But he won, promptly tanked again in popularity, and control of Congress was wrested away by Democrats in 2006.

It took decades, but the Shrub finally broke the spell of the Republican brand for many reasonable Americans, who had watched the GOP get crazier and more and more unwilling to listen or govern since 1980.

The problem with having a culture based on unquestioning faith in dubious principles is that by definition, you don’t learn. Instead, you just tell yourself you already know everything, and any who disagree must be wrong.

So Rove & Co. didn’t learn that things had changed. They just kept running the only plays they knew: tell a happy-making story, game the system as much as you can, and work the base into a foaming lather so they’ll turn out.  But it failed in 2008. The GOP base had shrunk, the party’s constituencies were at one another’s throats, and an unexpected surge of young voters upended the smugly assured “real numbers” of Bush’s Brain.

They’re running exactly the same playbook in 2012. And thus we get voter ID laws and voter roll purges and Citizens United and busting of public employee unions, and the Platform of Hammurabi.

Other than in his snipes at the President, Romney’s acceptance speech at the Republican National Convention was in all pertinent particulars Ronald Reagan’s in 1980 and 1984: an invocation of a mythical postwar suburban America where all was safe and good for white men, women knew their place, and minorities were silent and invisible except when they were cleaning your house, shining your shoes or carrying your golf clubs. “Morning Again In America” all over again, 32 years after the first time this sanitized lie was sold to the American voter.

Of course, this fantasy describes a world that never existed, but I’m not talking about the content. I’m talking about the applicability of that message to the problem at hand, which is winning the election. With an electorate composed of today’s proportion of women who believe they should be treated as equals, minority voters, plus younger voters who don’t even know what he is talking about when he invokes the days of vanilla malteds at the drive-in with Peggy Sue, Romney and his handlers have developed yet another retread of a campaign plan designed to fight the last war.

No candidate has tried harder than Mitt Romney to obscure, deny, and obfuscate what his party really stands for. He and campaign strategists in his party understand that they cannot sell their policies on the merits (even zealot Paul Ryan is now doing a cute little dance around his plans to gut social safety net programs). But they believe that the Reagan/Bush Just-Keep-Telling-The-Pretty-Story-to-The-Believers strategy will once again sweep them into office, as it did those past Presidents.

My read is that it can’t work, and will work less and less going forward. So long as Republican strategists feel locked into trying to sell a vision of America as a White Man’s Suburban Christian Paradise to an increasingly urbanized and diverse country, their percentage of the vote will shrink.

They’re fighting the last war. The country has changed. If we have Happy Days ahead of us, the malteds come in a rainbow of flavors, the burgers are served with salsa, and Peggy Sue is the CEO of the drive-in chain.

At publication, the Dragon was SANGUINE