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.