Poll Positions

Comes a point when it is obvious that one’s sympathies lie in a particular direction, whether we want to admit to them or not.  Politically, I tend to try to find something worthwhile across the Left-Right spectrum.  I am, in some ways, a conservative guy.  I’ve never had much issue with a sensible fiscal conservatism, but it has grown increasingly difficult to find anything supportable in the Republican Party.  The kind of conservatism I found sympathetic at one time is such a minor part of the public face of conservative politics these days as to be almost gone.  It is not enough to say to me “Well, it’s still there, once they get in office that will come to fore.”  I don’t see it.  What is more, I don’t care.

Mitt Romney may yet be the GOP nominee and that wouldn’t be a completely horrible thing, but in order to get there he may find himself agreeing to push platform positions he might otherwise fine offensive.  In the meantime, look at the list of alternating absurdities who have been swapping places for the last few months.

Herman Cain.  I have always felt, honestly, that someone from the corporate world—think Ross Perot—would make a mediocre to terrible president.  The structure of the two environments is utterly different.  The priorities are significantly different, often in subtle ways, and the mindset that makes for a successful CEO I think would be like a fish out of water in the realm of federal politics.  But Cain demonstrated a lack of empathy and a lack of understanding about how taxes play out across varying economic lines.  His “999” proposal was absurd on its face, but a little calculation shows it was just one more gimme for the corporate sector at the expense of everyone else.

Michele Bachman is an embarrassment.  If it hadn’t been made clear before, at the debate where she criticized Cain’s tax plan by saying “if you flip 999 over you discover that the devil is in the details.”  Some people may have thought she was joking, but based on the rest of her “philosophy” she was quite serious.  It is very hard to explain how this woman has achieved her political position other than to accept that she is acceptable to people I certainly don’t see eye to eye with on almost any level.  The insulting way she told a high schooler that “gays have the same right to marry as anyone else in this country—as long as a man marries a woman” not only completely sidestepped the point the student was making but tried to sell a facile bit of social legerdemain as if it was a valid point.  She keeps harping on the bankrupt line that gays are somehow demanding a special privilege when that is flatly not true—they are demanding the same right all Americans assume is our birthright, to be who we are and have the laws of the land apply equally to us.  To the Bachman’s of the nation, “being who you are” is only acceptable if who you are meets a specific criterion.

She’s the prettier face of Rick Santorum, who is so obsessed over other people having sex that any kind of policy position he might have on any other topic gets totally drowned out by his raving about sex.  (We should by now realize that generally people who go on and on about how other people are obsessed with sex are themselves far and away more obsessed with it than the people they’re complaining about.  In Santorum’s case, his obsession borders on the macabre.)

Now we have Newt Gingrich, who has the virtue of being insulting to just about everyone in turn.  Poor kids have no habit of work?  Please.  Some of the laziest people I’ve ever met were young adults from moneyed families, usually freshly-minted out of a college they got through as an alumni student.  They are privileged, spoiled, arrogant, and utterly unable to conceive of what work actually is.  Now like all superlatives, this is clearly not true for all of them.  But if you acknowledge that, you have to acknowledge that anything that comes out of Gingrich’s mouth along these lines is almost always a superlative and therefore always false.  But this is more that that “the unemployed are that way because they choose to be and the rest of us shouldn’t be required to pay for them” bullshit the GOP has been pushing since Reagan.

Not content with slandering a whole class of people with whom he clearly has no experience, Gingrich then went on to trot out the old canard that Christianity is “under siege” by virtue of the nation being awash in paganism.  Firstly, he doesn’t have his facts right—the fastest growing segment in the country in terms of religion is the non-religion group, both people who have stopped self-identifying with any denomination and outright atheists.  I know it is common for people who don’t know any better to mischaracterize atheists as pagans, but Gingrich doesn’t have that excuse—he is a smart, educated guy.  So I can only assume that he’s playing to the paranoid proselytes, just like the others.

Who does that leave?  Poor John Huntsman, who doesn’t have a chance, but is the only one of the bunch who is avowedly pro-science and at least is reasonable about tax reform.

Here’s the problem with the current GOP line.  It is soaked in denial, it is retrograde, and it is mean.  This is possibly not all their fault—the party has been dominated for decades now by people who are steeped in social paranoia and resentment and the fear that all the things they think are important are losing meaning.  They don’t understand why so many people have no use for their values.  Many of them don’t like women in power.  A lot of them are homophobic.  And all of them are blinded by the false association between freedom and capitalism pushed by the last three Republican administrations into a state of assuming that anything—anything—that hints of socialism will doom the country.  But mainly they are driven by resentment and antagonism to anything that makes them feel ignorant and provincial and irrelevant, somehow not seeing that they manage to do that to themselves.

I would like to see a healthy Republican Party, one that would serve as a sensible counterweight to the progressivism that has characterized their opposite numbers—a progressivism that is all but gone from the public view because of a spineless attempt to mollify the increasingly vitriolic Right.  We don’t have that.  And I can’t in good conscience vote for any of them.  Every time they get someone reasonable, they either ignore them or drive them out of the Party.  The GOP has been doggedly destroying itself for thirty years.  This was the Party of Lincoln—progressives that ended slavery and advanced the cause of civil rights.

They wouldn’t even let Lincoln speak at the conventions these days.

Published by Mark Tiedemann