The Republican brain drain
By Richard Cohen,
Published: September 24
In 1980 Ronald Reagan (You mean there is something special about a reformed yet former card-carrying member of the Communist Party who ratted out friends as being Commies during the days of the whitch hunts - something which made him even a good president? Except in memory? won the Republican nomination. He beat a future president, George H.W. Bush (another cipher, who couldn't even kick Saddam Hussein's butt and get re-elected;; two future Senate majority leaders, Howard Baker and Bob Dole (Bob Dole does Viagra commercials - pretty Presidential, I have to admit); and two lesser-known congressmen. This year Mitt Romney won the GOP nomination. He beat a radio host, a disgraced former House speaker, a defeated Senate candidate, a former appointee of the Obama administration, a tongue-tied Texas governor, a prevaricating religious zealot who happens to serve in the House of Representatives and a cranky libertarian doctor. Where did all the talent go?
Until the Republican Party can answer this question, it makes no sense to continue to carp about Mitt Romney and the startlingly incompetent presidential campaign he’s running. His faults as a politician are manifest. He is robotic, unknowable (his own wife asserted at the national convention that “he made me laugh” and then failed to cite a single humorous moment), ideologically incoherent and severely out of touch with the average American. He is his party’s nominee because, like the one-eyed man in the valley of the blind, he is just the best of the worst.
Since Republicans are so focused on the individual and not on the system that produced him, they miss the real problem. The system in this case is the series of incredibly damaging primaries and caucuses that, in the crucial early stages, produce a candidate who could sweep Bavaria (By the way, the same system that was good enough to produce, in 1980, the candidates Ronald Reagen, George H. W. Bush, Howard Baker, Bob Dole - so, yes, clearly it is the SYSTEM that in 1980 produced this alleged parathon of giants, the same system that in 2012 produced this clogged up arteries of midgets) . The Iowa caucuses alone take the GOP so far to the right that it all but dooms the winner (I really have to object here - there is NO reason in the whole world that the Iowa caucuses ought to take the GOP so far to the right, unless the only people attending the caucuses are already so far to the right, and this may well be the case - hell, my PEOPLE are from Iowa, and by and large, they are a rather charitable, community-minded, religious, hard-working, peoples whose newpapers are proud to print that they want their public school teachers and public employees to be paid the best money being paid to any public school teachers and public employees, because they want their public school teachers and public employees to BE THE BEST that money can buy! So, make sure you pay top dollar to get to value). Romney had to vow to stop thinking (cute, too clever by half, hyperbolic - to whom did Romney make such a vow - Cohen, you are making stuff up). He had to virtually declare himself anti-Hispanic (criticizing Texas for providing tuition discounts to the college-age children of illegal immigrants). While he has now moderated his approach, it is a bit late. Hispanic is not Spanish for Stupid.
Across the board, Romney pandered to the right. He did so on guns, abortion and even Iran. A GOP candidate has to oppose same-sex marriage, deny global warming and insist — against all evidence — that local control of education is the best. The only way around these positions is to skip the Iowa caucuses entirely. It is no place for a moderate (The Iowa Caucuses are NOT an "it;" they are a "them." Suddenly, Cohen appears to be conflating residents of the state of Iowa with participants in the Iowa Republican Caucuses - and it is only the truly motivated politically active folks who "do the caucuses - 'moderate' Republicans not enjoying the negativity that breed and feeds the fundamentalist Christian right just about everywhere). It is, really, no place for a thinking person. It’s just preposterous that Iowa — 30th in population among the states — gets to be the gatekeeper for the Republican Party and, in a sense, the entire nation (OH, there's nothing half way, about the Iowa way to treat you when we greet you which we may not do at all. THERE's an Iowa kind, a kind of chip on the shoulder attitude we've never been without as we recall).
The list of Republicans who looked at Iowa’s daunting demographics and did not run is more distinguished than those who did. At one time or another, Michele Bachmann and Herman Cain (who was forced to drop out) were front-runners. Can you think of any two people less qualified for the presidency (Yes, certainly: George W Bush and Dennis Hastert) ? How about Ron Paul, another front-runner, or Mad Newt Gingrich or Rick Perry, the cement-mouthed governor who would eliminate three Cabinet offices, if only he could remember them? How about Rick Santorum, a fun guy, who actually beat Romney in Iowa, or Jon Huntsman, a decent man with shallow political experience — and, it seemed, aptitude?
None of these candidates were remotely qualified for the highest office in the land. Arguably, Romney was the exception — and that’s the whole point. He won just by showing up. He beat a bunch of nobodies. This is how the GOP wound up with such a weak candidate, one who espouses extreme positions he does not for a moment believe (Now, Richard, exactly WHICH extreme positions that he does not for a moment believe is Romney espousing, and how do you know that he does not believe it?).
Open the window and listen (Horrifyingly bad metapho - should be more like - click on the remote control, turn to one the FAUX nudes or MSNBC political channels, and listen, OR, open your daily news disinformation rag and turn to its right-wing editorial page). You will hear the moans and groans of Republican officials and their trained pundits (What a startling admissions - Republican officials have trained pundits! Who coulda knowd?). But where were these people when their field of oddballs was being assembled? Why were they so silent when Hispanics and women were being told to shove it and the long-dead Darwin was being debated? More to the point, maybe, how come they put up with a primary and caucus system — Iowa first, New Hampshire second — that seemingly was designed by a sly Democrat (Jee-Zuz Lew-EASES just HOW long has this primary been the lead off primary?)? The answer is that they do not have the courage nor the intellectual integrity to stand up to the know-nothing (dominant) wing of the Republican Party. They have designed a system where, politically speaking, the lowest common denominator wins. We are all the poorer for it.
Contrast the candidates of yore with the collection that took the field this year. The Republican Party has had a brain drain so that now its highest intellectual achievement is — like an infant in the Terrible 2s— simply to say no to everything, especially taxes. To paraphrase Marx, rise up, GOP moderates. You have nothing to lose . . . but losing.