It took me a while to recover from the big one-two punch Romney delivered last week. It’s was one of those things I just couldn’t believe, until I researched it, thought about it and then had a time-out for a long period of sighing. I always knew 2012 was a goner, but now it looks like 2016 is in jeopardy as well.
It think it’s pretty clear when a Times columnist like Maureen Dowd calls for giving Romney a break (mostly because she didn’t want to go through the “Obama ate dog!” thing again) that we might as well put the fork in, he’s done. When people who definitely don’t like you start feeling sorry for you, the party’s over. After some thought it reminded me of the kind of thing the late Andy Kaufman would arrange. Kaufman was clear that his performances were not just limited to making people laugh, making people seethe with anger was just as good. In fact, sometimes that was even better. So when the President “evolves” his position on gay marriage and it comes out that our old pal Mitt was a gay basher, it was almost perfect Kaufman. Of course, no less like Andy than Romney’s “laugh it off as a prank” apology. That laid a big thick layer of “Who cares?” as icing on the cake. Now I’m thinking Mitt might just be channeling Andy.
It also made me wonder exactly what was going through Mitt’s and his campaign's collective mind during that time. I think we all began to realize that the Romney candidacy is not about electing another politician, another political insider. It’s much worse, it’s about electing a corporate insider. That’s because looking at it from a corporate viewpoint, it does kind of make sense.
After all, high up in a corporation you don’t have to deal with the public everyday and the people you do work with, either work for you (just wave because you forget their name), or you work for them (nod sagely at their every word). You don’t even have to deal with the stockholders more than once a year and even that’s in a very strict just look at the balance sheet format. In a corporation you tow the line, follow the corporate dogma, make money for the company or you get out. If someone challenges you on something you did in high school, or even last year, you apologize, make as light of it as you can, and move on to make more money.
The trouble with translating that attitude to political life, especially in this case, starts with the timing and lighting of the events. Just when there is a nationwide will to get serious about bullying in schools, our candidate turns out to be one. That’s really bad timing. We could all say “Oh well that’s just old high school stuff,” but in the public mind high school has importance. That’s where everyone began to really grow up and become the people they are today. Just about everyone has significant memories of that time. Good ones like first loves, first cars, finding something we really liked, or bad ones like fights, loosing games, or being knocked down by a gang of rich thugs for a "corrective" restyling. High school is hard, sometimes glorious and it does have a resonant meaning for most Americans.
Romney has worked very hard to get the support he has from a reluctant conservative base. In also reaffirming his stance on gay marriage last week, he’s following the dogma and towing the line of his base’s principles, but do they believe him? It’s quite possible, after this little beauty, he’s stuck between being a “Gay bashing bully” and “closet softy moderate” in their eyes. But there’s more to come and it will be very interesting to see how the “etch-a-sketch” candidate maneuvers though this in the coming months.
Late last week, amid the turmoil of the President’s “evolution,” a memo came out from the respected Republican pollster and strategist, Jan van Lohuizen. It recommend’s that the party’s elite orchestrate a considerable softening of the their stance on same sex marriage, or risk even further losses among voters. To top it off the staunchly conservative British prime minister, David Cameron, introduced legislation to legalize and formalize same sex marriage in Britain. He announced that it was time to recognize that the commitment of marriage was a core conservative belief and conservatives in the UK should be firmly behind the rights of all people to marry. He came off as very brave and insightful. Evolution is catching it seems.
Of course he’s yet to get that law passed, and now he’s under fire from members of his own party for presenting it. Still, US conservatives recognize the import and significance of same sex marriage to their ability to be elected in a nation where 2/3rds of the voters support it. Especially, when the population under 44 is overwhelmingly for it. The future matters in politics, it’s a long game.
If you’re a current voter, which bothers you more about the current Republican platform: The recent erosion of women’s health and reproductive options, or the stance against same sex marriage?