Monday, June 4, 2012

Romney's Cynical, Dangerous and Successful Strategy

As if the news in general were not depressing enough, here is an article on Mitt Romney's cynical, dangerous, and successful approach.  Romney has a problem with the base.  They have major differences on the issues.  He wants a fiscal expansion.  They want austerity.  They hate universal healthcare with a passion.  He achieved it in Massachusetts.  But Romney has now discovered that the base doesn't really care where he stands on the issues.  They just want no-holds-barred hatred of Obama.

They also appear to have decided that McCain threw the campaign by refusing to stoop to personal attacks.  That is a distinct bit of revisionist history.  McCain made plenty of personal attacks.  He accused Obama of "pallin' around with terrorists," played up his relations to Bill Ayers, he ran the celebrity ad.  He even ran "The One" ad, at best an attack that Obama was full of himself, and at worst, a hint that he had a messiah complex and might be the anti-Christ.  Indeed, during one of the debates, McCain even said that ACORN "is now on the verge of maybe perpetrating one of the greatest frauds in voter history in this country, maybe destroying the fabric of democracy."  That sounds very much as though McCain was implying that if Obama won, it would be "one of the greatest frauds in voter history" and might "destroy the fabric of democracy."

But he had his limits.  Although he kept accusing Obama of "pallin' around with terrorists," he did not let followers take that to its logical conclusion, but kept reminding people that he meant Ayers, "a washed up old terrorist from the '60's."  When angry crowds shouted, "Arab!" "Terrorist!" and "Traitor!" McCain rebuked them.  He said that they had policy differences, but he had no doubt that Obama was a loyal American.  Conservative activists saw this as weakness.  The article does not discuss why they saw this as weakness.  Some of them no doubt genuinely believe that Obama was in league with Islamic terrorists to destroy America.  But I can only assume that a good many know perfectly well that this was not true, but thought that McCain should have encouraged false beliefs if it would fire up the base.  They also no doubt believe that if the base had been fired up enough, McCain would have won.  Given the overall situation -- a war-weary public and the worst economic crisis since the Great Depression -- it seems unlikely that the Republicans could have won no matter how much they fired up the base.

It seems likely that McCain knew that.  It also seems likely that he saw more at stake than the outcome of one election, like the health of our general democracy.  Simply put, I think McCain was an old-fashioned sort of guy who believed in the loyal opposition.  He thought that encouraging false beliefs, especially the false belief that the man likely to be the next President is a traitor in league with his country's enemies, poses a serious threat to the health of democracy, which requires participants to be good losers.  It may even have entered into his mind that the last time the losing party refused to accept the outcome of an election as legitimate, it was Democrats refusing to accept a Republican victory, and the year was 1860.

Romney, by contrast, has no such scruples.  He refuses to repudiate the birther, Donald Trump.  When a supporter called for Obama to be tried for treason (to loud applause of the crowd), Romney did not endorse the remark, but he took care not to question it.  

Given the state of the economy, I fully expect Romney to win.  Republicans will then take that as vindication of treating the Democrat (any Democrat) as a traitor and false American.  But suppose by some miracle the economy improves and Obama wins?  Large portions of the Republican base will believe their leadership had endorse their belief that President Obama is a Kenyan-born traitor.

This sort of attitude bodes very ill for the health of democracy.

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