Diatribes of Jay

This is a blog of essays on public policy. It shuns ideology and applies facts, logic and math to economic, social and political problems. It has a subject-matter index, a list of recent posts, and permalinks at the ends of posts. Comments are moderated and may take time to appear. Note: Profile updated 4/7/12

31 January 2012

Why Mitt Will Win and Lose

It’s easier to see now, just a few hours before the Florida primary ends. But it was always predictable. Mitt Romney will win the Republican nomination and lose the presidency.

The reasons are different but related. Both arise from a dearth of talent in the GOP, or at least talent willing to stick its neck out and run. Chris Christie is not the only one holding back and waiting for a more auspicious moment for a presidential run.

Mitt and Newt both have one thing in common. Their egos are much bigger than their brains. They both drive on where rational analysis says no Republican can tread.

But Mitt has one decisive advantage over Newt. He is not a monumental sleaze bag. He doesn’t personify the term “Southern trailer trash” like Newt.

What can you say about a man who treated his first two wives as Hitler treated Poland? Who took more money from Freddie than the average American earns in six years and now swears to the GOP Big Lie Du Jour—namely, that Freddie and Fannie caused the Crash of 2008? Whose latest idea of intelligent public policy is going after fertility clinics as baby destroyers? Who was the only Speaker in history to be formally censured for ethical violations?

Wretched character does not begin to describe Newt. Perjoratives fail. All you can say is that, were he ever to get real power in his grimy paws, the result would be down in Robert Mugabe territory.

The American people are not the world’s brightest when it comes to politics. But they can feel sleaze. So, slowly but surely, they will turn from Newt, who personifies it. Outside the South, where bossism and sleaze are endemic, they will turn toward Mitt for shelter from the shit storm. And lest we forget, the South is still a minority of us, and the most backward of all our regions.

Mitt has two traits that now make him stand out. He doesn’t lie too much more than the average politician. And his personal and family life, insofar as we know, are impeccable.

Mitt does have a few points of hypocrisy. He insists on disowning his “Obamacare for Massachusetts,” which is actually working quite well, right now, healing the sick and preserving the healthy. As a businessman who’s good with numbers, Mitt has to know that.

Mitt’s also trying to appease the large populist wing of his party by downplaying his wealth and the fact that the deals he did with Bain made him much richer. And, like Hillary Clinton before him, he’s trying to conceal the utter lack of military service in his entire family with a jingoistic foreign policy that no one needs or can afford.

But Mitt won’t lose the presidency for these substantive hypocrisies. Nor will he lose because, with only four years of actual governance under his belt, he would be the least experienced president in US history. (Obama had twelve years in politics on assuming the presidency.)

Mitt will lose because he is what passes for a moderate in the party of extremists.

Mitt may be good at profit and loss. But apparently he hasn’t run the political balance sheets of his party. The assets are depleted: fiscal prudence (which Dubya cast to the winds), non-intervention in foreign policy (ditto), and intelligent investment in infrastructure and environmental preservation (remember Nixon?).

The liabilities are many. First are the anti-abortion nuts. If we could just save all those poor little babies from the abortion knife (they believe, without really knowing how many), God would smile on us and all our troubles and enemies would magically disappear. Next are the immigrant bashers. If we could just kick out all our illegals and force what used to be our middle class to take their dirty, low-paid and back-breaking jobs, happy times would come flying back.

Then there are the American Taliban. If we could just make this country a truly Christian nation, with mandatory church attendance and public financing, God would smite our enemies, foreign and domestic, and our greatness would return like the sun after a storm.

These views’ utter illogic and stupidity are not the point. The fact that large factions of the party of extremists hold them is. No one who is moderate enough to appeal to the general electorate, including Mitt, will excite those factions. They will stay home on election day, en masse, and Obama will win.

It’s sad that Obama will have to win that way. It would be nice if our electorate recognized his greater intelligence, better character, more elegant moderation, and vastly superior political skill and experience.

But let’s count our blessings. Winston Churchill once accurately described us Yanks as always doing the right thing, but only after exhausting all the alternatives.

After tonight, Mitt will be the last alternative standing. We will exhaust him, like all the others, in another campaign of sound and fury, signifying nothing. Then we will get back to the dreary but vital business of governing a declining and deeply divided society. Only if we can wrest the House from the likes of Boehner can we expect to begin the much-needed process of national renewal.

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  • At Tue Jan 31, 01:40:00 PM EST, Anonymous Jason said…

    I hope you're right about Republican turnout in the fall. I'm worried too many of the far-rightwing freaks, however unexcited about Mitt Romney, will turn out to vote against Obama the Kenyan-born communist socialist fascist Saul Alinsky black Christian radical Muslim. That caricature of him is alive and well in the world of right-wing hearsay and chain emails and blog postings that feed off the most extreme innuendo of the Limbaughs and Hannitys and Savages.

    Simultaneously, I'm afraid Obama's turnout is going to be depressed, too. Plenty of young liberals and libertarians are disappointed at things like his failure to close Guantanimo, his killing al-Awlaki without a trial, his passing the NDAA, etc. I understand why those things either weren't really wrong or weren't Obama's fault, but a surprising number of young people look at those and many other slights and discard Obama with the fashionable, idiotic "all politicians are the same" mantra. A lot of these are voters Obama captured in 2008, when he was able to present himself (to the average, uninformed, superficial voter) as a blank slate of ambiguous hope and change. Now they know him better, and when they find that he doesn't personally agree with each one of them on everything, they lose interest.

    I think in the end you're probably right about the outcome. I just see a few reasons to worry. The most reassuring thing, to me, is the fact that Obama is the best campaigner in a generation, and Romney may well be the worst of any major party nominee I can remember. Regardless of all the economic numbers and social trends, I just can't see Obama losing an election to that goober.

  • At Wed Feb 01, 06:29:00 AM EST, Blogger cjcalgirl said…

    Jay, I needed a dose of 'sanity' today after the 24-hr DELUGE of Floridas' 'double suicide' show! Thanks for the 'boost'. I want to also commend you on your relatively new 'All About Me' info. I knew you were a TEACHER, (one of the greatest of professions, in my view), but now I understand your more thorough understanding of the law is rooted in something more substantial than just intellectual interest. Right away we MUST start telling the country ALL about the failings, and HOLLOW shell of Mr. Mitt. We must FULLY inoculate the public against the money and phony charm. We must imagine the sort of ads his Pacs will run, and BEAT HIM TO THE PUNCH, by blowing HOLES in his talking points BEFORE HE MAKES THEM. Talk about the 500 billion cut from Medicare (or is it 500 million, they can't seem to make up their pea-shell brains about this)., and EXPLAIN what those cuts actually represent. Same with the reasonable hesitation on the pipeline, including putting out the ACTUAL job figures, and how many are temporary, etc. etc. etc. I shall do my part with MY BIG MOUTH. You've produced an elegant, and LETHAL argument, and we must now pull the 'teeth', and leave them FLAPPING their GUMS! Yes?

  • At Thu Feb 02, 08:48:00 AM EST, Blogger jay said…

    Dear Jason,

    As usual, your comment is thoughtful and entertainingly written. I disagree with nothing in it.

    I would add only two observations. First, when the agonizing GOP primaries end, Mitt will find out—for the first time, really—how much private equity differs from politics. Then he will come up against well-financed opposition run by brilliant professionals who know how to think, not the rank amateurs and ideological hacks he’s contended with so far.

    One of the few points of congruence between politics and governing is that intelligence matters in both. I have little doubt that Obama and his advisors can think rings around the ideological dogma and simplistic propaganda that traps nearly all of Mitt’s advisers, if not the slippery Mitt himself. Fighting a verbal war from a rule book of tired dogma reduces one’s flexibility.

    As for progressive youth, I have the same worries you do. But they are not, after all, the same kind of narrow ideologues as the anti-abortion or anti-immigrant nuts or the American Taliban. They’re not even as narrow as Ron Paul libertarians, who seem to think that legalizing marijuana and downsizing our armed forces will solve all our problems.

    In the end, our future depends upon our youth, as every society’s does. If they insist on thinking in Twitter bites and other one-liners, our society will continue to decline. If they wise up, our national trajectory will begin to rise up.

    As an educator, I have hope and confidence, but more than a little doubt, too. It’s up to us who still can think and afford to contribute to help our youth realize Churchill’s apt characterization of our culture, exhaust all the alternatives, and do the right thing.

    After all, it’s their future at stake. If they won’t even show up on election day to protect it, they will suffer the most.



  • At Thu Feb 02, 08:56:00 AM EST, Blogger jay said…

    Dear Cjcalgirl,

    Yes, we’ve all got to help get the message out and show that the private-equity emperor has no clothes.

    Fortunately, we don’t have to do it alone. The President is a superbly skilled politician, and he has assembled the strongest, deepest team of true campaign professionals in American history. We can rely on that team to get the word out; all we need to do is help with our contributions and occasional message translation.

    Just one friendly suggestion on your writing: it would work much better without the capitals. Google “Westbrook Pegler” and you’ll see what I mean. I don’t think he’s someone you want to emulate, either in politics or writing.




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