Wednesday, February 1, 2012

American Election Watch III

So, since my last election watch update, a great deal has happened. We have witnessed a major flameout in the Republican race, and the “rising without trace” of a new contender. On the Democrat side, Mr. Obama is still, ah, doing stuff.

First, the flameout. When last I wrote, Rick Perry had just announced his candidacy and leapt to the front of the pack. He’s tall, Texan, masculine, has a good record on job creation… plus he once shot a coyote. The right developed a serious mancrush; the left started raving about a rock Perry’s dad had painted over decades earlier. Meanwhile, Perry opened his mouth.

What a weird sensation that was, as I realized that the Democrats are even more of a useless fringe party in Texas than I had previously thought. Clearly Perry had never been seriously tested by any opponent. He couldn’t debate, he couldn’t attack: Mitt Romney was standing there with a healthcare-shaped target on his forehead and the coyote killer couldn’t (or wouldn’t) draw.

However, Perry’s most self-destructive comments were those defending in-state tuition rates for the children of illegal immigrants. The pro is that individuals who entered Texas illegally with their parents as babies and have grown up here can receive an education and not remain permanently marginalized. The con is that a US citizen non-resident in Texas will pay more for his education than somebody who is resident but illegal. Perry’s Republican rivals criticized this as unfair. Perry retorted that they were “heartless”.

Thus endeth the mancrush: bye, bye Perry.

Never mind, for the “Republico-poltico-erogenous zone” was soon stimulated by another attractive candidate, Herman Cain. Born into poverty, Cain studied mathematics and computer science, worked for the Navy, then ran several highly successful businesses before chairing the board of the Federal Reserve Bank of Kansas City and becoming a radio talk host. He knows how money is made, which is more than can be said for the president. He’s witty, combative, gives a rousing speech. He even sings. It’s mancrush time! Suddenly Cain was surging ahead of Perry and challenging Mitt Romney for the lead.

Unfortunately, Cain says weird things. First he said he wouldn’t have a Muslim in his cabinet, but that happened when nobody was paying much attention. However the vagueness and simplicity of his tax plan, a self-contradictory position on abortion, some bizarre statements about Guantanamo Bay, and a general cluelessness on foreign policy have since revealed that while Cain may understand business, he’s a neophyte when it comes to professional politics.

Thus endeth the mancrush: which leaves Mitt Romney still in front, tall, slick, rich, looking ever more like the John Kerry to Obama’s Bush. Nobody has a mancrush for him. But he’s so smooth…

It’s easy to mock, but the political mancrush is not an exclusively Republican phenomenon. Indeed, in 2008, Obama was the fortunate recipient of the biggest national man (and girl) crush since The Beatles. In spite of an exceedingly thin record in politics and no executive or business experience, he successfully blathered his way to the presidency. In this he was helped by an irresponsible, swooning media class and the national exhaustion that followed the Bush years, but his own skill as a smooth talker should never be downplayed. By keeping it nice n’vague yet noble, Obama transformed himself into a canvas upon which any number of soft millenarian fantasies could be projected. Then he went on to kill lots of people, and blow mountains of cash on very little that was useful- i.e. politics as usual, only more so, and with a thoroughly incoherent foreign policy for good measure.

Americans are idealists; they crave perfection; they suffer when disappointed. In this milieu, the absence of a record can be a boon, for ye shall not be stained by the exigencies of everyday problems, the messiness of running a state, the necessity of compromise. Perry was sunk by providing a solution to a complex issue which at the national level remains intractable. Obama was and Cain is unencumbered with a history of ever having had to make a serious political decision. However you must be much more cunning than Cain if you are to parlay that blessed inexperience into a seat at the center of the White House. For while the base may yearn for purity, you must also be able to do a passable impersonation of someone who knows what he is doing- hence, I suppose, Romney’s frontrunner status. 

Meanwhile in Democrat news, high profile supporters of Obama, who are usually opposed to executions and summary lynchings, are trying to give their man credit for the kid who shot Gaddafi in the head. Curiously they are not claiming credit for the sudden reinstitution of polygamy in Libya (curiously women have not been granted the parallel right to multiple husbands), and something tells me they will almost certainly be silent when the country descends into internecine tribal warfare or falls under Islamist tyranny. But hey, Libya’s far away so who cares? Let’s buff our tarnished idol that he might shine like he used to, if only for a few precious moments…