Friday, February 8, 2013

The Unbearable Awfulness of the 2012 Election Campaign

When the Republican race for the presidential candidacy started I thought it would be fun to write a series of columns tracking the 2012 election campaign race from its beginnings to its conclusion this November. I’d poke fun at fatuous press dribbling, the evasions and misrepresentations of the candidates, etc. That ended when I realized that the whole Republican race was a freak show beyond parody, consisting of nothing but gimps, lepers and glue-sniffers.

Well, it wasn’t that bad but you get my gist. There was Newt Gingrich, talking about Outer Space; Rick Perry, high as a kite on painkillers; Herman Cain, and his ladies; Rick Santorum, wanting to puke over JFK; Michele Bachman doing her low budget Sarah Palin schtick; a few other nonentities; and of course- Ron Paul. All Mitt Romney had to do was stand there, smile and do nothing to remind people he was a Mormon. He won easily. There was no point writing about it.

Romney is a preppy, upper-crust CEO type, lacking in people skills. As for Obama, the days when he would appear on TV instead of American Idol and ramble on about whatever he wanted to Chazez-style are gone, but he still has a high opinion of his charm and oratorical skills. The president was reportedly delighted with the GOP’s selection.

The tone was set early by the Democrats, as Obama surrogates started digging for filth on this well-groomed, caffeine-dodging executive. Ancient yarns about Romney the teenage school bully and Romney tying his pooch to the roof of a car were unearthed as evidence of his diabolical character. Hacks and media lapdogs ran with both tales, but neither really took off.

Next, the Democrats decided to reignite the “Culture Wars” by making it mandatory for the Catholic Church to provide free contraceptives to frisky young lassies in their institutions and also Sandra Fluke. Cue conservative outrage, and lots of media gibber-gabber about the Republican war on women, Republicans tying women to the roof of Mitt Romney’s car, the Republican Taliban etc. It worked for a bit, but then passed.

Then came attacks on Romney’s business record, as Obama surrogates portrayed the Wooden Mormon as a cackling, top-hat wearing capitalist of the sort Mayakovsky drew in Bolshevik propaganda posters in the 1920s. Apparently there was nothing Romney loved more than bathing in cash after asset-stripping a firm and firing all its employees. These attacks backfired because there are plenty of gazillionaire Democrat asset-stripping venture capitalists and a few politicians voiced their disapproval of all these attacks on capitalism, which is, after all, a big part of the American Way of Life. So the strategy then shifted to outright innuendo and lies – a whispering campaign that Romney hadn’t paid tax since the Mormons practiced polygamy in the 19th century, and oh yeah, that he kinda sorta killed some dude’s wife, while taking a bath in money. Kinda.

That last attack, which appeared in a Democrat ad and was swiftly revealed to contain no truth whatsoever, impressed me with its sheer chutzpah. The media duly talked about it for a few days while Romney just stood there, wooden, preppy, grinning nervously; eager to escape to the next board meeting where he could perhaps fire some people and take a bath in money. He dispatched an underling to make a weak response, and then a few days later accused Obama of running a campaign based on “division and anger and hate”, an assessment not entirely without merit- but then he let the attack slip away and soon we were back to talking about his dog, strapped eternally to the roof of his car, yipping for release. 

How times have changed! I enjoyed the election in 2008 because it made so little sense. Obama talked sweetly, conjuring a magical fluffy cloud out of words, inviting the people to come float away with him to a wondrous land where there was no hate or political division, and where the government did not keep foreigners locked up forever at Guantanamo Bay. This time around it’s all about personal attacks, innuendo, gibberish and appeals to special interest groups.

Still, 2008 and 2012 do have one crucial factor in common: in neither campaign has Obama run on his record. Four years ago it was because he didn’t have one, so it was all hope, change and millenarian blather; this time around he does have a record but it’s clearly not anything he wants to talk about, other than Yeah dude, I totally blew a hole in Bin Laden’s head.

The media is still pretty friendly to Obama, so they will happily run with stories about Romney’s dog or push unfounded accusations about his business record if they get an opportunity. Thus the election is about everything except what’s important, which is something that rhymes with economy. Instead we get a perpetual side show display of inanity, bumbling, distractions and general rottenness. I’d say wake me up when it’s over, but I’m about to leave the country for a few weeks so that may not be necessary. I’ll save my nap for when I get back.