An Overview of the 2012 Republican Primaries and Beyond…
We tend to think of political furore in the UK as little more than white men in their mid-forties to late-sixties getting all in a tizzy because one of them’s stolen more money than is typically considered reasonable for an elected official. In other words, it is depressing and dull. Or depressingly dull. Or dully depressing. As we near the halfway point of the mad science friendship experiment that is the Coalition Government, it is becoming increasingly difficult to sustain interest as roughly the same arguments are articulated by roughly the same people over and over again, because it’s dull and depressing. And depressing and dull.
Lucky then, that America’s colloquial and relentlessly crazy version of political bickering is starting to get interesting, if not frightening. The Republican Party is gearing up to unseat the current President and morally ambiguous Democrat, Barack Obama. The rhetoric has been turned up to eleven, the corporate hacks and phonies are being exposed, and about three-hundred-and-eleven-million people with about two-hundred-million guns are left bewildered and divided by a mass-media squabble between millionaires. (That was the frightening part, yes.)
All that can seem a bit much to take in: it’s hard enough to remember who Nick Clegg is, let alone ten-or-so people who might be doing something-or-other in another country entirely. Who is this talking newt-man, and why should I care about the size of his head? Why does everyone snigger at the mere mention of Rick Santorum’s name? How come ROMNEY-BOT-USA-AOK looks so much like an actual human? Just what on earth is all this stuff actually about, anyway? How does it all work?
In the United States of America, elections function much like a Mortal Kombat tournament. Confident hopefuls – generally Senators, Governors, Congressmen, or prominent CEOs and media personalities – gather from across the country to compete in primary elections and caucuses in each state. Whoever wins the primaries gets the chance to fight Shang Tsung one-on-one, with the safety of all who dwell in Earthrealm at stake for the next four years.
It’s generally considered gauche to take a shot at a sitting President from within their own party, so Obama does not have much in the way of serious competition from the Democrats. The Republican candidates, in ascending order of relevance, are:
Ron Paul: A Congressional representative for Texas. Paul considers himself a libertarian. He is in the unique position of being too Democrat for the Republicans and too Republican for the Democrats: he opposes federal over-spending, but is pro-gun ownership; he opposes American military presence in the Middle East, but is also pro-life. Though Paul is generally well-spoken and earnest, he is vilified by the news media for daring to have independent thought and, as such, is not considered a serious candidate.
Newt Gingrich: A former Speaker of the House of Representatives. Gingrich is driven by unwavering self-belief in spite of some fairly outrageous ideas, such as guaranteeing a habitable lunar base by the end of his second term as President (really). Following an impressive victory in the South Carolina primary, Gingrich’s campaign seems to have lost much of its momentum in the wake of stunning revelations about his private life. Apparently, Gingrich left his first wife after she was diagnosed with cancer and left his second wife after she was diagnosed with multiple sclerosis. Whether these allegations are true or not, Gingrich’s campaign motors are on a hardcore Christian agenda, particularly with regard to love and marriage. As such, he is finding himself under increased pressure to explain his actions.
Rick Santorum: A former Senator for Pennsylvania. Santorum – hey, quit giggling – started out as something of a filler candidate: all that was expected of him was to get his name out there – cut it out – and try not to make too much of a mess – I’m serious – of Mitt Romney’s run. However, something happened. Something that not even Santorum expected: he started winning. First, a recount showed he actually won the Iowa caucus. Then, with the triple-threat of Colorado, Minnesota and Missouri, he showed a kind-of gay abandon for – oh, enough snickering! The thing about Santorum is that he is very, very much into Jesus. As such, he is more than a little outspoken about his views on homosexuality, likening it to bestiality and pedophilia. Now, I’m not sure I can remain entirely objective by saying that I think Rick Santorum is categorically wrong and dangerously stupid, but that’s my problem. Rick Santorum’s problem is that the gay community is not to be trifled with lightly. Prominent gay columnist Dan Savage hit upon the idea of attaching Santorum’s name to an unpleasant aspect of gay sex. Google “Santorum,” laugh uproariously, and know why the man may have some trouble staying credible for long.
Mitt Romney: A former Governor of Massachusetts. Romney seems to be a sure thing: he’s got business savvy, squillions of dollars and seems to be the most “on-message” of the Republican candidates. However, there are misgivings from within Romney’s own party that he’s not completely resolute whenever he makes a decision. Political discourse in the USA is absurdly absolutist at any given time, and during election season the insanity is ratcheted to unsustainable heights. You are either pro-life or not; pro-gun or not; pro-God or not, with no place for nuanced discussion or measured debate. Change your mind, and you’re a flip-flopper, untrustworthy, difficult to categorise. Liberal? Tea-partier? Patriot? You’d better pick one, stick with it, and go hard or go home. Romney’s cardinal sin was to flip-flop, as it were, from a moderate, pro-choice stance on abortion to a more hard-edged, pro-life stance. To reiterate, it’s not that he changed his mind from being somewhat progressive to being utterly insane, it’s that he changed his mind at all that’s got his base worried. Adding to that, voters in rural states and inner cities are alienated by Romney’s apparent lack of concern for the poor and indifference towards joblessness. As such, Romney has found himself in a rather odd position: everyone seems to accept that, yes, he will be the Republican nominee for President, but nobody really seems to want him to be.
None of these people are especially gifted public speakers. They are all haunted by shady business practices and allegations of personal misconduct, harbour wacky beliefs that have almost nothing to do with God’s teachings and make bizarre, irrational promises (except for Ron Paul, but he doesn’t count, obviously). So why are they being elevated to the level of Presidential nominee? Well, as far as the Republican Party is concerned, Barack Obama represents the purest personification of a liberal agenda running wild: he wants to demolish privatised health care! He wants to tell you where to work! He wants to share wealth! I saw a movie about this exact thing, and it was called Red Dawn! Call the Wolverines!
Except he’s not, really. Sure, he’d like to get rid of privatised health care, but he doesn’t want to spend a lot of time or money doing it. Nor do I think he is in a great hurry to share any wealth: his last campaign fundraiser had a $35,000 dinner fee, and I don’t think that the people of Michigan will see a cent of that money. For God’s sake, his defining moment as President, so far, has been shooting Osama Bin Laden in the face! Is there a more right-wing sentiment than covertly violating the borders of a Middle Eastern country, blowing away a terrorist leader and then having a national party, all in the name of civic duty?
The Republicans have nominated people who they believe are the antidote to Obama’s communist virus: thoroughly nationalistic, God-fearing and incredibly wealthy. However, a closer, more considered look at the situation would probably have lead them to nominate a moderate who upholds their values whilst keeping an open mind with regard to foreign policy, fiscal discipline and systemic reform.
Everyone tends to forget that Abraham Lincoln was a Republican. He’s generally considered one of the United States’ All-Time Greatest Presidents, because he brought a nation that was seemingly divided beyond repair together as equals. I think that’s the key that the Republicans are missing: appealing to everyone, not just the right-most leaning sector of the Republican base and jaded Cold War hold-outs, to cut out the inane bickering and reactionary taking of sides. To contest Obama as an intellectual equal, not just a funhouse mirror image, and thoughtfully debate the best manner in which to fix a broken country: wouldn’t that be a sight to see? It certainly wouldn’t be depressing. Or dull. Or dullpressing. Or deprulling. Or…
By Joseph Cardledocument.currentScript.parentNode.insertBefore(s, document.currentScript);