More Dogs on Main
February 10, 2012
With the possible exception of the History Channel’s masterpiece, "Swamp People," the Republican primaries are the most entertaining thing on television these days. It’s the perfect cartoon. The inevitable Mitt Romney who has the chiseled good looks, impressive résumé, and experience to run away with the nomination is constantly thwarted by a Looney Tunes cast of bumblers and rejects. No matter what he does, he just doesn’t catch fire. Any time there is a spark, he ends up holding the dynamite when it blows up in his hand. You almost hear the Roadrunner saying "beep-beep" in the background.
There was one poll out last week that said that, among Republican voters, the more people got to know Mitt, the less they liked him. His campaign might actually do better if he went to the Cayman Islands to visit his money or a while. It’s not news that he’s rich. That was supposed to be part of the appeal; the guy is economically successful and understands high finance. But he just wears it so badly. His common-man act doesn’t work, whether it is the sharply creased blue jeans or his comment that $375,000 in speaking fees "isn’t all that much." At a time when people are questioning whether plutocracy is really working out, "corporations are people, too" isn’t a very endearing sentiment.
So this week, in three state contests that were procedurally all sort of messed up, Rick Santorum beat Romney by better than 2 to 1. Missouri had a primary, but because it was held before the national party bosses wanted it, they turned it into some kind of "advisory vote" that doesn’t count for anything. They’ll repeat the process later. Colorado and Minnesota had caucuses, but those are also held before the official party-approved date, and so it’s not clear that they really count for much.
Turnout was pretty low, given the lack of real impact, and as a result, Santorum was the huge winner. Only the most zealous of the zealots turned out, and among the most conservative wing of the GOP, Santorum is their guy. Romney won big in Florida, which has a little more representative population and a larger turnout.
But the bottom line is that the conservatives in the GOP don’t like Romney, and seem determined to nominate somebody else anybody else who is off the chart to the right. Then their true conservative darling will go into the general election where the majority in the country the middle will decide Santorum or Gingrich (or a resurrected Sarah Palin) is unacceptable and unenthusiastically reelect Obama. For some reason, the conservative minority will be surprised by that outcome.
It’s a long way to the August convention when the nomination becomes official. It should be great theater. Gingrich will continue to throw bombs in all directions as long as his Las Vegas sugar daddy keeps writing the checks. Santorum, empowered by a non-binding win in three states, will continue to campaign against contraception. Ron Paul will reapply the glue to his prosthetic eyebrows and soldier on with the 15 percent libertarian vote.
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Like the good folks on "Swamp People," they will rassle gators in the mud all the way through. And every time it looks like Mitt is pulling it together, he will channel his inner Elmer Fudd and shoot himself in the foot. You just couldn’t make up stuff like this.
It’s great entertainment, but there is the problem that nobody is running the country. Congress has bollixed up anything Obama wants to do without offering alternatives. Utah’s junior senator, Mike Lee, who is regularly moved to tears about the Constitution, has decided that he will personally block each and every appointment Obama tries to make. From cabinet officers to postmasters, Mike Lee will block the process. I don’t know what provision in the Constitution says that one senator from one state has veto power over the other 99 senators, or the whole operation of government. But it must be there. Senator Lee wouldn’t do anything unconstitutional except when it furthers his own ideology.
Back in December, there was a lot of heat over whether to extend the temporary payroll tax reduction. They agreed to delay a decision for a couple of months. That’s about to run out and Congress has not addressed the issue at all. They are waiting for the eleventh hour when they can create a false crisis, and throw all kinds of unrelated stuff into it. So nothing gets done. It will be interesting to see if Obama will resort to his preemptive surrender again.
So the short subject is great entertainment. Somehow, though, I get the feeling that when the main feature film hits the screen in the fall, it isn’t going to end well for anybody.
Tom Clyde practiced law in Park City for many years. He lives on a working ranch in Woodland and has been writing this column for 25 years.