The current line-up of Republican presidential candidates is quite honestly the worst such line-up for either party in the modern era. Why? Let’s take each in their turn.
John Huntsman is the only rational choice out of the entire field, and he cannot get a hearing. The Republican Party rejects him because he isn’t a pure ideologue, and therefore occasionally reasonable. Republicans should be ashamed of this.
Michele Bachmann, to paraphrase one commentator, is so dumb she’s dangerous. I have always tried to differentiate between “ignorance” and “stupidity.” Ignorance means “uniformed,” and can be overcome in a rational mind (unless one is willfully ignorant, and virtually all conservatives are today). Stupidity is the result of defective neurons, synapses, or education. I cannot honestly say the source of Bachmann’s stupidity, but if I were a voter in her constituency I’d be ashamed of myself. For example, when questioned about the HPV vaccine, she replied: “I will tell you that I had a mother last night come up to me here in Tampa, Florida, after the debate. She told me that her little daughter took that vaccine, that injection, and she suffered from mental retardation thereafter.” (Fox News interview, Sept. 12, 2011). No rational, intelligent person would believe such a thing, let alone say it on television when running for the Presidency of the United States. She repeated this fairytale as second-hand information in the interview, and yet obviously took it seriously enough to mention it — all the while arguing against the HPV vaccine that could save women’s lives.
Not only does she take religion on faith, apparently, she takes what anyone says who supports her view as some form of evidence. This is the fault of many a blogger and Facebooker, and should not be part of a presidential campaign. Not only is she ignorant of science (and clearly very gullible), she is ignorant of history. Another example: “But we also know that the very founders that wrote those documents worked tirelessly until slavery was no more in the United States. … I think it is high time that we recognize the contribution of our forbearers who worked tirelessly — men like John Quincy Adams, who would not rest until slavery was extinguished in the country.” (Iowan’s for Tax Relief event in January 2011). The Founding Fathers did not end slavery, many owned slaves, and John Quincy Adams was not a Founding Father.
Let us not forget, Bachmann speaks out against government spending and welfare abuse and the like, and yet her husband’s abusive-to-gay-people clinic received $137,000 from medicare and her “farm” received federal government subsidies. She is an obvious hypocrite, and thus should not be president.
Of course, we already suffered through eight years of ignorant and gullible, and we don’t need that again. (George W. Bush managed to do what no other nation or people or organization ever accomplished before: to bring down the United States.)
Willard Mitt Romney served as governor of my home state from 2003-2007. He ran as a moderate Republican, supported abortion rights, signed the health-care law, and then flipped on most issues when he decided to run for president. He denies that he flipped on every issue (except when asked about abortion), and yet we have video proof of this. And he is one of the leading contenders for the nomination. I have a problem with this because it means he is (a) a liar; (b) mentally ill; or (c) from another dimension in which he didn’t change his position. Obviously, if he is from another dimension, he cannot be allowed to serve as president of our United States; who’s to say he didn’t destroy his? Let me restate: He lies, disseminates, or mischaracterizes when asked, even when there is indisputable proof that he is lying. If he does not believe that he is lying, then he is mentally ill and not qualified to serve as president.
All politicians lie. This is certain. However, when confronted, most will eventually concede the truth, in the face of indisputable evidence. Romney has not, and most likely will not. If he did, he’d have to leave the race. So he is a liar who will not even admit that in the face of evidence. He should not be president. And let’s face it: if Newt Gingrich calls you a liar, you have problems.
I do think he will ultimately win the nomination, and I believe this will trigger a split in the party. Evangelicals will not vote for him, as they think Mormonism is a cult; they will stay home, unable to make choose between two unacceptable nominees. The Tea Party may well nominate its own candidate to fill this void. This will ensure Obama’s victory (unless a leftist candidate makes a credible run, in which case the election will go to the House of Representatives.)
A note here, about lying on tape, so to speak: Eric Cantor hasn’t learned that lesson well.
A prominent Republican called Newt Gingrich “evil.” There is an actual monstrosity about Newt Gingrich. His arrogance is astonshing, considering he broke the country when he had power. He broke it. But while this level of incompetence is objectionable, his outright cruelty is astonishing. While cheating on his first wife with his second wife, Gingrich remarked, “She’s not young enough or pretty enough to be the wife of the President. And besides, she has cancer.” This statement was reported by L.H. Carter, his campaign treasurer, in 1994. He went on to cheat on his second wife with his third wife, for whom he wracked up a $500,000 debt at Tiffany’s. And yet he claims to value fiscal discipline. Such cruelty and incompetence clearly disqualify Gingrich for the presidency.
Ron Paul is the internet’s favorite “Libertarian” (who for some reason insists on staying inside a party that hates him). I personally agree with a very few of his positions, particularly about recalling our troops from around the world; I also agree that there are some government departments that should be eliminated or severely reduced, particularly the Pentagon. But his politics as a whole are somewhat extreme. Perhaps extreme isn’t precisely the correct term. They are so contrary to some basically accepted political principles that they are hard to accept in toto. Certainly some departments need to be trimmed, or even gutted, but not all of them. Entitlements and general government spending (outside military spending) are part of the modern social contract, greatly add to the quality of life of many Americans, and are a vital support for prosperity. I favor adoption over abortion, but recognize the need for abortion, both from a medical and a political standpoint. Perhaps most importantly, and what neither he nor any of his opponents recognize or admit, the current economic crisis in the United States was not caused by too much regulation, it was caused by the lack of new regulations, coupled I believe with a lack of regulatory oversight. To deny that the federal government can and must play a constructive role in managing our economy is to forget the lessons of 1929 and 2008. In a sense, his brand of “libertarianism” is pure neo-liberalism, economically speaking. He is for free trade, minimal or no government regulation, low taxes, and low government spending. This system has already failed twice: in 1929, and again in 2008, for the reasons caused by all of these policies. He, and all of the Republicans, are therefore insisting that a twice-failed economic system must be restored. This is fundamentally unreasonable. And yet ~50% of the country agree with them.
I do not support Paul’s destruction of federal power, even though I believe that on many issues he is correct — or at least more on target than many of his colleagues. I honestly believe that his brand of “libertarianism” would prove impossible to implement without a decade of preparation, or devastating to our social and political system. Coupled with the blatant racism of his newsletters from the 1990s, I therefore could not support him for president.
Rick Santorum‘s views are simply reprehensible (on any number of topics) and they will be seen as such to the wider electorate. No person who believes that states have the power to ban birth control will go far. He has said enough hateful things to ruin his chances in many states outside of the south. Of course, there is still the whole google thing. (I wonder how the lawsuit is going?)
Do I need to bother discussing Rick Perry? Former Reagan and GHW Bush aid Bruce Bartlett called Perry an “idiot.” Beyond that, what is there to say? I do find it ironic that the man who floated the idea of Texas secceeding from the Union (more than once, apparently) and threatened the chairman of the Federal Reserve Board wants to be President of the United States.
(I personally would be happy for Texas and all the southern states to secede; in fact, I started a petition in support of that notion. I’d also be very happy for New England to do so.)
On top of producing such a dangerous field of extremists, liars, and the mentally ill, the Republican Party — largely responsible for triggering the latest economic crises and for paralyzing the federal government in the middle of said crises — has spent the last two years doing enormous damage on the state level. It has made a concerted effort to prevent traditionally liberal groups of people from voting, or at least making it more difficult. This is a naked power-grab that every American must reject and force to end. How is this any different from the crimes of various banana republics? We used to invade countries that engaged in such behavior, or at least topple their government (if they were socialist or communist parties, that is). In Virginia, the party is requiring loyalty oaths to vote in their primary, as a way of skirting the open primary law. Such is directly contrary to our founding Enlightenment principles, and the party that claims to represent the true America makes use of such totalitarian tactics. This is transparent and shameful. And yet this party is tolerated; when every single American should shun it for its outrageous and frankly destructive behavior in the last decade. The Republican Party has certainly done more damage to this nation than the Communists managed.
I do not pretend that President Obama is perfect. Far from it. I will detail my problems with him in a later post. But he is a constitutional law specialist, and has scored significant foreign policy victories in his first three years. I think he proved to ready to cave to the Tea Partiers last summer, but I support most of his policies (as did Republicans, before he adopted them). The unprecedented level of bitter hatred and obscene racism thrown at him is both stunning and shameful. Every single American should be ashamed of the behavior of our increasingly bizarre right wing.
The following comparison is not about parties but rather about a frame of mind: I often feel these days that I can understand how progressives in Berlin in the early 1930s must have felt. One is so surprised that people are taking such tactics seriously that one is speechless, then defenseless, and then hopeless. It is the mark of a Republic in real crisis, and one that has never played out particularly well.
As for the economic policies of the Republicans, we turn to ThinkProgress and this handy graph: