Saturday, September 17, 2011

The Lesser of Two Evils, or What Life After Obama Might Be Like

The other day I had a very passionate and spirited conversation with a fellow progressive about the gang of eight currently engaging in an all out free-for-all for the Republican nomination.  He is of the mind that they are all the same and that it doesn’t matter who wins the nod, the country is screwed if Obama loses in 2012.

Then he said something that sent shivers down my spine.  Maybe that would be a good thing, he said.  Maybe then the country would finally wake up and realize just who and what the GOP is really all about.  Then we could dispense with them once and for all.  Strange as it may seem, he isn’t alone in this belief.  There are an awful lot of progressives out there who also don’t see any distinction between the Republican candidates, and who think it would serve America good if Obama lost next year.

To which I would reply, WTF?  Are you kidding me?  This is, again, the sort of drivel that makes me wonder if I’m living in a psyche ward, or something.  At the risk of being accused of crashing this party and throwing cold water on the attendees, allow me to make, what I hope, are some cogent and reasonable points.

First off, it should be painfully clear to anyone who has been to more than one of these freak-show rodeos that the number one objective of any candidate hoping to get the nomination of his or her party is to run as far as possible towards the base of said party.  For Democrats, that means running to the left; for Republicans, it means running to the right.  The fact that the GOP is so far over to the right that it’s almost completely off the page doesn’t change anything.  You want in, you drink the Koolaid, period.

With that in mind, anyone who doesn’t think that there is a profound difference between Rick Perry and Mitt Romney or Michele Bachman and Jon Huntsman simply isn’t paying attention.  What evidence are you waiting for?  Oh, I see, the old “They all stand for the same thing” logic.  I hate to break the news to you guys, but they’re Republicans; it’s a Republican primary; of course they all stand for the same thing.  If you’re waiting for a Republican to sound like a Democrat, don’t hold your breath.  There hasn’t been one of those since the days of Teddy Roosevelt, nor is there likely to be one anytime soon.

Right now Mitt Romney is doing the political dance of his life and managing to hold his own against the de facto Tea Party favorite, Rick Perry, much to the chagrin of the far Right, who see Romney as a fraud and Perry as the real deal.  Translation: Romney would betray their core values and principles, while Perry would give them everything they want and demand.  Now if the Tea Party clearly sees a difference between their candidates, why can’t some progressives? 

I think the reason for this is that progressives tend to see conservatives in much the same way conservatives tend to see progressives.  They all tend to look and sound alike.  To some extent, this is justifiable.  After all, when presented with a ten to one ratio of spending cuts to tax increases, all the GOP candidates were unanimous in their response. They would flatly reject such a proposal.  It’s pretty hard to see any difference in that crowd, I grant you.

Of course, what some Progressives aren’t seeing is that the “apparent” unified response does not necessarily reflect the genuine view of ALL the candidates on that stage, merely the typical pandering of politicians looking to score points with a particular demographic that, in this instance, happens to be controlling the whole of the GOP.  Anybody care to venture what would've happen if any of them had said, “Yeah, sure, I’d take that deal in a heartbeat?”  Just ask Jon Huntsman what happened to his poll numbers when he came out in support of global warming and evolution.  Committing political suicide to appear different not only isn’t a requirement of a candidate, it’s pretty damn stupid, if you ask me.  The real issue isn’t the differences in stances but rather the differences in temperament.  And right now, you could drive a fleet of Mack trucks down the middle of the gap between Romney and Perry. 

Secondly, with respect to believing that it might be a good thing if Perry or Bachmann won next year, this apparent death wish that some progressives have is profoundly disturbing to me.  To some extent, I think this is leftover resentment at how Obama has led the nation.  Many progressives still can’t get over the fact that they were expecting FDR and wuz robbed.  While I empathize with their angst, I cannot and will not throw the baby out with the bathwater.

If it turns out that Obama does in deed lose next year, and most polling shows him either tied with or trailing a generic Republican candidate, then there is such a thing as a lesser of two evils.  That doesn’t mean I would vote for Mitt Romney; it does mean that if I had my druthers, I’d prefer a Republican who at least has some experience governing in a blue state that forced him to reach across the aisle, then someone who thinks the word compromise is an anathema to all he or she believes in.  Believe it or not, a Romney Administration wouldn't be the worst thing to happen to the country; a Perry or Bachmann Administration, though, would be devastating.  Anyone who can't see that is hopelessly lost in their own private Fantasy Land. 

Differences are what you make of them, and not all of them are obvious.  Sometimes you have to squint a bit and look past your own preconceived notions.  Let’s not forget that it was Michael Moore who said he saw no difference between George Bush and Al Gore in 2000.  We all know how that turned out.  Look, the ideal scenario would be an Obama reelection.  Barring that, better someone who chased the ambulance then the one who drove it.

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