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Those Endless GOP Primaries: Are We There Yet?

February 29, 2012

February 28, 8:22 p.m. I had a feeling I’d be called back to active duty today… the pull of a pivotal primary night has yanked me back to the blogosphere after a three-week respite from American politics.

It was a pleasant three weeks, I have to tell you. I went on a sunset hike with my son, helped him build a World War II bomber out of imitation Lego blocks made in Poland (and consoled him when it kept falling apart), started a perfect fireplace fire and actually made s’mores, visited with old friends, bought myself a new digital camera with a built-in 14x telephoto lens, saw “The Artist” on the big screen, and watched the 2012 Oscar ceremony until I nodded off just before they announced the biggest awards.

When it came time to start writing again, I felt like a man who had glimpsed heaven during a near-death experience. “But I’m so happy here… DO I HAVE TO GO BACK?”

Apparently I did. The political angels have whisked me back to earth, and here I stand, for better or worse — just as Mitt Romney and Rick Santorum are duking it out for electoral supremacy in Michigan and Arizona. 

Poor Romney (not that he needs our pity) must have been breaking a sweat for the first time in his charmed life. Here he was, the Favored One, strong of jaw and steely of eye, nearly as rich as Oprah, a political scion with an impressive track record of his own… and he still couldn’t seem to put away the boyish challenger from Pennsylvania… that dogged working-class religious zealot with no Ivy League connections… a guy who lost his last senatorial bid by 18 points, for gosh sakes!

To make matters worse, Romney was struggling to win Michigan, his own home state… the place where he addressed a mostly empty stadium and reassured his audience that his wife “drives a couple of Cadillacs.” C’mon… what does it take to impress these folks?

Maybe we all need to take Santorum a little more seriously, even if Romney sweeps both Michigan and Arizona tonight (and it appears that he will). Why does a man who rails against contraceptives have any relevance in 2012? What does he have that Romney doesn’t?

A clear set of values, for one. Americans like clarity in their politicians. The subtleties of a Jimmy Carter or even a Barack Obama tend to confound them and turn them off.

Santorum isn’t subtle. Just as important, he champions the vanishing virtues of old-time churchgoing America: plain, sincere, unvarnished religious certainty during an era of moral upheaval and perceived degeneracy. So what if he’s more Catholic than the Pope, or that his stance against birth control is both pigheaded and irresponsible as the world’s burgeoning human population threatens to gobble up what’s left of the planet’s resources? He dares to stand tough for the cause of Christianity when both the government and the cultural left seem intent on pushing it into a corner.

The secularists among us tend to forget that in the lands beyond the suburban commuter routes, Americans still worship what H. L. Mencken called “the powers and principalities of the air.” These hardy traditionalists tend to believe that heaven and hell are real places, that angels and devils exist in eternal combat, and that every word of the Bible is divinely inspired truth. Why wouldn’t they listen to an earnest, big-hearted spokesman for their embattled creed?

Part of me responds to Santorum’s eloquent populist call for a return to traditional values. Dismiss me as a fossil if you like, but I miss the kindly, sane, congenial middle-class America of my youth. It was a time when words like character, loyalty, honor and virtue weren’t yet lampooned and made ridiculous by our pop-culture snarkmeisters.

Where I differ from Santorum is that I would never presume to impose my values on everyone else. I recognize that not everyone would thrive in Beaver Cleaver’s world. And of course, not everyone subscribes to the Vatican’s hard-line position on birth control and abortion.

Well, CNN has just announced that Romney has won Michigan. It’s close but decisive… and it was a must-win for the Mittster, though the delegates will be split in this winner-doesn’t-take-all contest.  As for Arizona, Romney seems to have romped with help from a supporter named John McCain.

So are we there yet? Does Michigan effectively signal the end of this amusing but seemingly interminable GOP road trip? Can we talk about “Romnevitability” once again?

Not so fast. Despite his double victory tonight, Romney still hasn’t won the love of his fellow Republicans. Nobody knows where he really stands on the issues — only that he’ll say anything to capture votes. (Of course, it doesn’t help that every GOP candidate today has to bow and scrape to the whims of the Tea Party.) The man outspent Santorum six to one in his home state and still had to settle for a three-point margin of victory. He’s essentially a Republican John Kerry, a man so out of touch with Middle America that he makes Thurston Howell III look like a populist.

Romney’s recent rich-man gaffes could fill a Saturday Night Live comedy skit. Aside from the “couple of Cadillacs” remark, he ruffled feathers during the worst economic downturn since the Great Depression by publicly admitting that “I’m not concerned about the very poor” and “I like being able to fire people.” Or how about his $10,000 bet with former candidate Rick Perry… or his insistence that “Corporations are people, my friend”? It won’t be easy for an unabashed plutocrat to persuade downtrodden Americans that he’s on their side. FDR he’s not.

Is Santorum finished? Don’t bet on it. Despite some serious gaffes of his own (recalling that JFK’s speech on the separation of church and state made him want to “throw up,” or that Obama is “a snob” for endorsing college education), he nearly pulled off a game-changing upset in Michigan. He won, not surprisingly, among Michgan’s union members, those earning under $50,000, Catholics, white fundamentalist Christians, and those without a college degree.

Santorum is an extreme long-shot to win his party’s nomination, but he could stay in the race long enough to dog Romney and further weaken him for his prime-time campaign against President Obama. He’ll go on railing against the secularists, empathizing with ordinary working folk and making Romney look as inauthentic as possible. As far as the Democrats are concerned, that might be Santorum’s ultimate service to his country.

54 Comments leave one →
  1. February 29, 2012 8:01 am

    Great post!

  2. Ian CSE permalink
    February 29, 2012 9:04 am

    Heh, no love for the 2012 GOP eh? Me Neither!

    • February 29, 2012 12:16 pm

      Intrades odds on Obama’s re-election are now just above 60% and leveling off. They were at almost 45% recently. But there are serious electoral hurdles – many states he carried in 2008 – are uncertain in 2010 and a few are unlikely.

      Despite your accusations that I am some right wing loon, I do not want a Santorum presidency under any circumstances, and I do not want the republicans controlling the Executive and legislative branches if the president will be Romney, Gingrich or Santorum.

      As abysmal a president as Obama has been, gridlock is preferable to the mild statism of Romney or Gingrich or the social conservatism of Santorum.

      But I will warn you that once the Republican contest has been decided regardless of the nominee the game will change. Every republican candidate except Gingrich is still polling within 5% of Obama in a head to head contest.

      Obama might benefit from an improving but not exciting economy, at the same time it seems inevitable that the fiscal wars are going to dominate this fall. the debt limit will be reached again possibly as early as late November – much earlier than expected.

      Though both sides will have honed their arguments, the big loser will be Obama. He will be fighting on two fronts concurrently, and the rapid return of the problem will harm him and his arguments.

    • February 29, 2012 3:36 pm

      Ian: The Republicans are giving Obama a gift. If they had come up with a decent candidate, he might have been in trouble. But the procession of clowns and stiffs has been almost comical. There’s still an outside chance they could draft a dark horse at the convention. Can Palin return from the dead? (Palin as a zombie… now there’s a thought.)

      Dave: I actually agree with most of your assessment, and I understand why you wouldn’t want a President Santorum. (The state shouldn’t be legislating morality or religion.) I just quibble with your goal of a gridlocked government. Again, I understand why you (as a pure libertarian) want it, but I don’t think it would serve the majority of Americans. All that adversarial partisan squabbling gets pretty tiresome, too.

      • February 29, 2012 6:11 pm

        You do understand that you have just taken the libertarian position that the state should not legislate morality. On the previous post I was excoriated for arguing that.

        The squabbling and gridlock are intentional facets of our system. Whether you agree or not our founders deliberately constructed a system where super majorities are needed to wield the power of government.
        You can eliminate the squabbling – but at the cost of creating a neat pure democracy – with all its attendant evils.

        Gridlock is not a particularly libertarian value – libertarians would limit the power government has rather than giving it great power but making it hard to use. Gridlock is ugly, but the easy exercise of government power is more dangerous. The economic record of gridlocked government has been excellent while that when either power had total control has been poor.

  3. February 29, 2012 9:24 am

    Well, if 1956 or the Gilded Age ever come back, these Republicans will be right on top of things.

    As a telling side note, I was in an airport lounge yesterday, watching CNN while waiting for a flight. Wolf Blitzer welcomed to the set one Newton Leroy Gingrich, who up-shifted in a blink into full pontificatory mode. The groan in the room was audible…

    • February 29, 2012 12:18 pm

      The 50’s are also the gilded age of unions and low income inequality that Paul Krugman wishes to return to.

    • February 29, 2012 3:46 pm

      Paul: Ha… right you are… though at least the Gilded Age had Teddy Roosevelt and the ’50s had Ike. Too bad we can’t reanimate them. (Hey, I’d watch a TV series with TR and Ike as zombies.) As for Gingrich, we’d be in for a lot of groaning if he ever made it to the White House.

  4. February 29, 2012 11:57 am

    I sincerely hope that Santorum fails – and quickly. Santorum is the unequivocal epitome of social Conservative. He is the right wing Obama.

  5. Rob Anderson permalink
    February 29, 2012 1:01 pm

    If Romney only won by three points, it’s because Santorum raving radicalism turned off enough voters to cost him the victory he would otherwise have achieved. Lets face it – the Republican base is borderline fascist in its collective outlook, so Santorum is the more natural standard-bearer for those folks. He makes Romney seem like the second coming of Nelson Rockefeller.

    • February 29, 2012 3:49 pm

      Rob: I think a third party is the only logical solution. The way things stand, moderate Republicans have to do the Tea Party Shuffle if they want to win primaries. A third party would liberate them and make the world safe for moderates from both parties. The wingnuts can have the GOP.

      • March 1, 2012 12:59 am

        Look at “america elects.”

        The edges between different groups within the GOP are fuzzy, but the core issues of the Tea Party are fiscal and limited government. Santorum is a Social rather than fiscal conservative. All republican candidates are paying lip service to fiscal conservative values – though less because of the Tea party, than because of the electorate as a whole. Only Santorum is playing strongly to social conservatives. Republican Moderates are unlikely to leave the GOP. Libertarians are already highly independent, and the Tea Party has already made it clear in house and senate elections they will get their candidates or they will torpedo the GOP.

        The emergence of a truly moderate third party candidate is politically extremely dangerous. If they do not win – and that is unlikely the winner will be even more likely to be on the extreme right or left.
        Most nations with numerous parties require coalitions to form a government, which mitigates the effects of electing an extremists as they must almost always form a coalition toward the center.

        Third party candidates that draw primarily from one party or the other particularly from the extremes drive atleast one and possibly both parties toward the center. But candidates that draw from the middle push the parties to the extremes.

  6. Ian CSE permalink
    February 29, 2012 5:03 pm

    Rick, you may well be correct that Obama has been given a gift by the GOP process, the gift of a reprieve and even a head start. Its good for Obama but nothing for him to celebrate yet. There is a good 40% of America that would not vote for him if he grew wings and a halo. Its a long haul to Nov. and many events cn happen.

    How can this topic be tied to moderates? Well, there ARE moderate Republicans, lets hope they vote in the primaries. I do not subscribe to the theory that the Dems should rejoice if the GOP has bad candidates or visa versa. Extremists and unsuitable candidates winning party nominations means that some scoundrel, dimwit and/or nutjob along with their like-minded constituency would be one uncertain process away from the presidency. Romney is the least inappropriate Republican left standing, I fervently hope he gets the GOP nod.

    I hope that after the election Huntsman’s words about the GOP needing to reject being the party of anti-science ignoramuses will have proven to be prophetic. I would not bet on it though.

    Maybe its better if moderates don’t have a party, parties become rigid, like fanatical individuals, and its almost impossible to deflect them off their tradition once its established. Moderates (often confused with independents) need to become much prouder of being moderates and learn to work together, but a party might be the end of many of the good points that moderates bring.

    We need a common moderate culture, with our own books, heroes, and radio shows.

    • February 29, 2012 11:22 pm

      Then produce your own books, heroes and radio shows – if moderates really represent a significant slice of america – they will be popular.

    • March 5, 2012 12:45 am

      Amen, Ian! Dave: Unfortunately, extremist views attract more attention (and more followers) than nuanced views. Most people are uncomfortable with ambiguity and prefer black-and-white solutons. That’s just the way it is.

      One of the reasons I started this blog was to generate excitement for moderate ideas, and to prove that our ideas aren’t dull or timid. Don’t know if I’ve succeeded… my traffic has been inching up steadily, but I’m not exactly a household name. If I keeled over tomorrow, I don’t even know if I’d rate a featured obituary in my local newspaper. But I’m heartened to see some young centrists writing some feisty blogs, so there seems to be a moderate movement a-brewing. I’d love to see it culminate in the launching of a successful third party.

  7. Priscilla permalink
    February 29, 2012 11:41 pm

    Ian, you make an excellent point about a potential party of moderates (not sure what is happening here, we’ve be agreeing far too much lately). I’ll get back to that point.

    Brooks had a great column today about the current primary struggle in the GOP :
    “Republicans on the extreme ferociously attack their fellow party members. Those in the middle backpedal to avoid conflict. Republicans on the extreme are willing to lose elections in order to promote their principles. Those in the mainstream are quick to fudge their principles if it will help them get a short-term win.” It’s worth reading the whole thing.

    The populist appeal of someone like Santorum makes extremists feel good about themselves. Ironically, Santorum voted in opposition to his own principles many times and admits that he felt it important to be a “team player”….true enough, and he was a hardworking Senator, but certainly never showed (and still doesn’t in my opinion) any spark of leadership. But he talks about family and religion and Reagan and appeals to the anger of the heartland conservatives who feel attacked by Obama and ignored by Romney.

    Romney, who I still support, has shown a disturbing tendency to be embarrassed about who he is – a very rich man, who has succeeded in almost every way, but who has a rather wooden public persona – and continually says idiotic things as a result of trying to “connect” with regular people. And he is a moderate conservative, from the northeast, which to the aforementioned heartland conservatives, classifies him as hateful insincere, lying, sleazy and a RINO….”Obama-lite.”

    Anyway, to get back to the idea of a 3rd, moderate party….. I do think it would be a bit like herding cats, which I think is how Rick once described it. But, even if it were to succeed in getting off the ground, it would rapidly become factionalized and sclerotic, necessitating a 4th party for the True Moderates. And so on, and so on.

    • March 1, 2012 1:30 am

      The Brooks column is interesting, but I would note that the democrats have done the same to themselves. The most “moderate” democratic presidential candidate in eons was Clinton. Both parties depend on their fringes for funding and foot soldiers.
      Santorum does not represent the Tea Party, which almost certainly would have prefered Bachman, Perry, or Caine had they not self destructed.

      Romney’s rhetoric – like every Republican candidate is practically straight Tea Party. But the Tea Party is not a factor in the Presidential election – despite the Rhetoric no candidate is appealing to the Tea Party. Santorm has gotten the support of Social Conservatives – who are elated to be factoring after being replaced in importance by the Tea Party, as well as neo-cons. Romney is getting establishment republicans. The Tea Party is divided.

      Romney’s problem is that alot of Republicans actually care who you are rather than what you say. Though their problems are different, both Romney and Gingrich are finding that excellent speeches are insufficient. Romney-Care is not sufficiently distinct from Obama-Care, and then there is the dog incident. Gingrich’s AGW commercials with Pelosi, and the perception of him as more of an inside the beltway player than an actual conservative are his problem. Santorum is note a limited government fiscally conservative – and that is not the centerpeice of his campaign. He is strongly socially conservative – he is precisely what he says he is – like it or not.

      Intrade still has Romney as the Republican nominee with an 83% probability.

      • Priscilla permalink
        March 1, 2012 9:18 am

        I agree Dave, the Democrats have done much the same….the difference is that the left has been able to successfully dominate the party since Bush, similar to the way that the right is trying to use Obama-hate to dominate the GOP. Obama, for all of his posturing, is not a centrist as Clinton was, but a leftist. He has been remarkably successful in accomplishing many of the goals of the left, although he has had to do so largely through executive power, rather than through bipartisan legislation.

        I disagree that Santorum is not a TP candidate. The populist faction of the TP is backing him. Certainly one of the reasons is that, as you say, although Santorum is not really a fiscal conservative, he remains standing in the primaries as the last non-Romney, other than Paul. The other reason is that Santorum is willing to give voice to anger and frustration with big government, even though he’s essentially a big government guy himself. But the anger and frustration part is what populists want to hear.

        I think that, if you take away the social conservative faction of the TP, you pretty much have classic Reagan Republicanism. But Romney is not angry enough for the TP, which makes them distrust him. Plus, he has actually governed in a situation that required bi-partisan compromise, and he did make compromises. The whole Romneycare=Obamacare thing strikes me as overkill. Yes, they are similar, yes, Obama says that he used Romneycare as a template, yes, they both have a mandate. But there are, as you would say, myriads of differences as well, and I can’t see Obama saying to Romney in a debate “Hey, Obamacare really stinks because it’s your idea!” The best he can do is use it as a defense, as in “Why do you want to repeal it, I thought you liked it?”

        So, at any rate, I agree that the GOP right is unlikely to be as successful as the Democrat left has been in choosing a candidate. But as a moderate, I think that is a good thing.

      • March 2, 2012 9:22 am


        Mostly we agree, and regardless, neither of us control either the GOP or democratic party.

        Santorum is the current beneficiary of the ABR vote – anyone but Romney, but I have little doubt that if a male sentate page outed Santorum, that vote would still find a non-Romney candidate to get behind.

        Romney can not get angry enough or fiscally conservative enough. I have listened to him – like every current republican candidate he very effectively talks the Tea Party Talk. But it is not words and speeches that are driving Republican voters – which is also why negative adds work.

        RomneyCare is a symptom of Romneys problem not the cause.

        If Santorum is the Republican nominee we would be talking by far the most socially conservative presidential candidate possibly ever. Like it or not he could win the Republican nomination – and if he does he could get elected.

        The Tea Party itself is not socially conservative. Aside from immigration where they are at odds with libertarians, the remainder of formal tea party positions – to the extent the tea party has formal structure are primarily libertarian. There are certainly social conservatives in the Tea party – just as there are extremists within the democratic or any other party. Nor is the Tea Party exactly the same in each region. Further the press has fairly effectively suppressed many potential tea party participants by painting them as rascists etc. As opposed to their mostly positive portrayal of the truly marginal OWS movement.

        OWS will have no effect on this election. At the bare minimum every candidate – even Obama has adopted some Tea Party Rhetoric – all Republicans are repeating practically the same Tea Party creed, but it is a suit that fits them all poorly. Much of Santorum’s success is because fiscal conservatism is NOT the centerpiece of his campaign. For the most part he genuinely is what he says he is.

        Though the slowly strengthening economy is changing this – and will benefit Obama and democrats in November if that weak growth continues, the democratic party is incredibly fragile at the moment. Pres. Obama has gone from their miracle candidate to an anchor around democrats sufficient that even Santorum could beat them. Even a strengthening economy will not prevent this from being a difficult contest.

        One of the reasons for the tremendous dis-satisfaction that republicans have with the field of candidates is that a credible fiscal conservative – someone able to give voice to the “its morning in america” message, with minimal social conservative baggage would be elected in a Landslide.

  8. Anonymous permalink
    March 1, 2012 10:51 am

    Just one of those word distinction I like to fuss about Priscilla. Political terms cause endless misunderstanding and friction and remain perpetually vague and undefined. You can call the dems leftists if you wish, but for myself I avoid calling conservatives rightwingers unless they are bluntly hateful and/or racist, like many of the right-wing radio celebrities are. I would guess that 20-30% of GOP members cross my personal line between conservative and right wing.

    I was in an academic environment for far too long and I witnessed the true left, the communists, marxists, reflexive haters of the good old USA. They made me gag. They hate democrats as much or more than Republicans.

    Liberal is a perfectly good term for slightly to moderately left of center unless people have gone to the hateful extremes. Obama is at heart a liberal, as every Dem candidate must be. I see no sign that the true left has taken over the Dems, other than perhaps Al Franken on his worst days. Bernie Sanders is an Ind.

    • Rob Anderson permalink
      March 1, 2012 4:58 pm

      For the record, Bernie Sanders calls himself an “Independent” but he is a social democrat (as am I, when I’m not in a foul mood). If you want to know what the country would like if we were in charge, you need only look at Denmark or Norway.

    • Priscilla permalink
      March 1, 2012 8:59 pm

      I understand what you’re saying. But while you can certainly make the case that there are liberal Republicans, you would not be able to say that there are left-wing Republicans. Similarly, the term conservative Democrat is used quite frequently, to describe Dems who are fiscally more conservative and even lean right on certain social issues….but you wouldn’t call them right-wing Democrats.

      As we get farther from the center of the political spectrum, it makes more sense – to me, anyway – to use the terms Right and Left to identify the political agendas that make the parties different. A lot of people would argue that moderate Republicans and Democrats aren’t very different at all, and I somewhat agree with that. But, Bernie Sanders caucuses with the Democrats for a reason – he is ideologically closer to that party. And the Tea Party chose to work from within the GOP for the same reason.

      So, while I appreciate the distinction you are making, I could also say that 20-30% of Democrats cross the line from liberal/progressive to left-wing redistributionists and class warriors. And, I think that that is the faction of the party that currently controls it.

      I’m not sure if we are differing only on semantics, but I think that semantics is part of it, anyway.

    • March 2, 2012 9:30 am

      Mostly i would agree with you except:

      Liberal may not be the far left of the democratic party, but it is also not just left of center in american politics. Liberals are farther to the left of the US political center than the Tea Party is to the right.

      I disagree with large number of republicans, social conservatives, talk radio pundits. but despite media and democratic claims to the contrary very few are rascist.

      I get particularly upset at those who call political disagreement “hate”.

      Rush Limbaugh as an example has no more love or hate toward the political left then they have for him.

  9. Just asking permalink
    March 1, 2012 5:21 pm

    I got a question:

    Coming the Election Day, what would happen if nobody, but absolutely nobody will cast a vote for any candidate, be it Democrat, Republican or any minor party?

    • Priscilla permalink
      March 1, 2012 9:00 pm

      The world would end?

    • March 2, 2012 9:32 am

      I beleive we should require “none of the above” as a choice in every election for every position, and if a candidate can not get a majority (not plurality) of the vote the election must be reheld until a candidate does.

      • valdobiade permalink
        March 5, 2012 2:58 pm

        And what if the electorate goes again and again “none of the above”?

        I think Priscilla is right: The world will end!

  10. Ian CSE permalink
    March 2, 2012 11:55 am

    Priscilla, I can call this mostly agreement within the confines of our separate views on rightists and leftists Again, the solution is that we moderates must have enough of a sense of our own power and purpose to vote in primaries, not just general elections. If that one single change would occur, which requires no constitutional amendments or legislation, it would go a Long way to changing American politics.

    Poor Olympia, another moderate casualty.

    Unfortunately the most extreme and out of control members of every organization tend to give it a great deal of its flavor. I remember my time in the Nat Guard Infantry, the biggest boneheads set the tone, even though there were plenty of normal decent people involved.

    Taking the armed forces idea a bit further, how many years of effort, how much shed blood on every side, how much money and debt were paid and finally what will we be remembered for in Afghanistan? Idiots who take pictures of themselves desecrating whatever Muslim value is nearest, and other idiots who make all that public. How much damage can a few idiots do to any institution, party, or movement?

    • March 2, 2012 11:06 pm

      Despite our many and vocal disagreements we have more in common that differences.
      I have not been following the misbehavior of soldiers in Afghanistan – and I am not looking to defend it. Only note that it is extremely difficult to keep soldiers in danger in a strange foreign land for long periods of time and expect them all to behave impeccably – this does not excuse the misbehavior. We were entitled to invade Afghanistan and depose the Taliban as they aided and abetted and act of war against us. But we did not owe Afghanistan anything having done so. Our (and most every other) nations record at nation building has been abysmal. When we are justified in using our military, do so, and leave. Only the people of a nation can build a lasting stable government for themselves. If they do not chose to do so, no amount of military force or money can do it for them.

      I strongly suspect the political power and number of moderates as defined by TNM are both small. But exercising that power is an excellent idea regardless, and if you prove me wrong – so be it.

      I would be happy to see the power of political parties diminish – but that would make it harder to get anything done in government – but that I support that.

      Olympia Snowe was what her state chase – just as James Inhoffe, Rand Paul, and Orin Hatch are what their states chose

  11. Pat Riot permalink
    March 2, 2012 6:59 pm

    Yes, Yes: individual behaviors add up. Ugh, so many irresponsible boneheads (i.e. despicable criminals and other selfish knuckledraggers, etc.) get paraded in front of us via mass media businesses.

    I often think of all the unamed “regular” folks doing their small parts to hold society together (unfortunately often also providing a playground for the irresponsible boneheads).

  12. Pat Riot permalink
    March 2, 2012 11:41 pm

    Where are the charasmatic leaders we can REALLY believe in? Looks like many Americans will be voting for the “lesser of evils” again.

    Obama really seemed to have charisma 4 years ago. He gave impressive speeches. He has poise. Then we learned he was more of a speaker than a leader. He missed a lot of opportunities to pull the nation together, despite the gridlocked Congress. I believe the hidden leaders of our Plutarchy will be able to push their profit-kaking agendas wth Obama or Romney.

    Where are the charismatic leaders? Leading businesses and families, I suppose. The scrutiny of the media today makes it a meat grinder for politicians. Who’d want that scutiny? I’m glad some of my mistakes from the past weren’t broadcasted or caught on tape. Thank goodness I had some privacy as I was learning from my mistakes and building character.

    If character comes from overcomng adversity and learning from mistakes, then are we doomed to have posers and clever liars in this age of video cameras?

  13. Pat Riot permalink
    March 3, 2012 12:00 am

    By the way, I do believe Ron Paul is sincere, and also correct about much of what he preaches, but he’s “got gaps” (to quote Rocky in the first Rocky: she’s got gaps…I got gaps..”) and the American People just aren’t ready for him. Congressman Paul is like Michael J. Fox in Back to the Future when he’s on stage with the guitar. The audience was ready to hear Johnny Be Good, but they weren’t ready for the hard stuff yet. And the owners of the big media outlets, and Congressman Paul’s own personality, have done an effective enough job of keeping Ron Paul marginalized.

    I want an intellectual bad-ass for a President. Like a Clint Eastwood with two master’s degrees. (Not a Phd, haha). Someone who is sophisticated and brilliant, but isn’t going to take any shit and isn’t phony. Guess I want too much.

    • March 3, 2012 6:58 pm

      Let’s see you want Charisma, and an intellectual.

      Reagan had Charisma. Clinton had charisma. Obama is certainly charismatic.

      Charisma seems to be an asset in getting elected – but I am not sure it has much to do with being competent at the job.

      Obama is purportedly smart, but he has made as many gaffes as Bush who is purportedly dumb.

      Reagan was portrayed as dumb, Clinton was a Rhodes scholar. I think either could easily do better than Bush or Obama.

      I think actually being smart would be an asset for a president, but I am not so sure that degrees are the measure of that. In my experience the most rounded intellects capable of sharp and broad thinking are not the intellectuals.

      • Anonymous permalink
        March 5, 2012 10:03 am

        I was kind of shooting from the hip with my comments on charisma. I think what I was getting at is that I don’t think Romney, Santorum, or Ron Paul have charisma, even though Ron Paul is a hero to me for his outspokeness and courage to speak truths, and that Obama had a charisma but it has been eclipsed by the appearance of his puppet strings and his silence and his fed/oligarchy/anti-U.S. sovereignty/anti-freedom leaning, etc.

        You’re correct above that for a true leader we need more than just charisma and “intellectualism.” What really is the role of the POTUS these days? He (or she soon) is not really a shaper of policy, though their office can impede or aid our slow process of government. Nowadays is the POTUS more than just a figure head? Are they really much more than the hostess at the diner to greet the public?

        I think even though elites connected to the Industrial Military Complex are calling the really big shots around the globe, I still want a President who’s not embarrassing, a real person who would at least give us the real scoop enough so that we could prepare and adjust, and be involved. Each of us is terminal anyway. I wish we’d get a hero in there who would really take the lid of the schemes and be truly open with the American People. That would be damn interesting.

  14. Anonymous permalink
    March 3, 2012 12:22 am

    Say a master’s in Mechanical Engineering and a master’s in Fine Arts. A man or a woman who can design a steel bridge AND write a poem. C’mon, where are the well-rounded leaders we need?

    • Anonymous permalink
      March 5, 2012 10:29 am

      I meantersay above that taking the lid off our “non-transparent” “activites” would be dangerous, but none of us are getting out of here alive anyhow, so it’d be damn interesting for our government to “get real.”

      George W. Bush made me cringe many times when he was let out of his cage to speak to the public, but I did like how he ducked those shoes without losing his cool. That moment was so bad and so good for him at the same time IMHO.

      Does anyone know from where I pulled the “word” “meantersay”? Rick?

      • March 5, 2012 9:21 pm

        “Meantersay”? Don’t lookamee! No, I really have no idea where it came from.

      • Anonymous (the other one) permalink
        March 5, 2012 9:28 pm

        And ‘Which I meantersay is Pip’ —
        The voices hurry past —
        ‘Not to deceive you, sir’ — ‘Stand by!’
        ‘Awast, my lass, awast!’
        ‘Beware of widders, Samivel,’
        And shun strong drink, my friend;
        And, ‘not to put too fine a point
        Upon it,’ I must end.

      • Pat Riot permalink
        March 6, 2012 8:05 pm

        Yes, it’s Pip’s much older brother-in-law / father figure, Joe, in “Great Expectations” by Dickens. Rick, thanks, I’ve been reunited with Dickens since your previous feature post.

  15. AMAC permalink
    March 3, 2012 2:48 am

    I enjoyed the article. I agree with most. As the resident Christian, I would like to focus on the religous aspects discussed. I think that the belief that the bible is the actual word of God is not a requirement for someone to be considered a Christian. I find it is typically the older generation that shares this view (in my area of the world). There is so much proof of manipulation of what is and not allowed in the bible that you would have to be crazy to belive it all (in my opinion). The old testament is compiled from books known as the canon (if I spelled correctly) which means approved books. This illustrates immediatly that what was published was manipulated by men who may or may not have had our best interests in mind. Aside from that small point, I am concerned with the infusion of politics in religion (even more so than the reverse). I think most Americans would not allow our government to move much closer to a Theocracy. I don’t know how the Republicans were able to assimilate christianity so effeciently, but it worries me. Many believe you cannot be anything other than a republican if you are a christian.

    Secondly, I am honestly not that concerned with Romney as president. I have been disapointed with Obama. I expected a fight over greed and corruption. I was disapointed by his appointments to various cabinet posts and over many decisions he has made. I am trying to look at the two candidates as logically as I can, and I don’t see much difference in them. I know the positioning game of the primaries, but I think that these two men are closer than most think on the political spectrum. Romney cannot really connect with the middle and working classes, no more than I can with the homeless. I do try to help the homeless despite my lack of connection. If the democrats control one house of congress, and Romney wins the presidancy; I don’t expect much to be different. I am for government controlled healthcare, but I am not positive how I would want that to look. I think Romney would be much less likely to lead a repeal of Obama-Care than he lets on.

    • March 3, 2012 6:44 pm

      Anyone that wishes is free to call themselves Christian – except where I live, where most christians, treat the KJV Bible as the absolute word of god.

      Obama and Romey are unlikely to be significantly different as president – Romney is essentially Obama-lite. Romney may be able to accomplish more – as if he wins it is virtually certain that Republicans will control the congress and executive.
      I will likely vote against Romney because gridlock will be better for the country, and because republicans will likely abandon their focus on fiscal restraint with Pres. Romney. A Republican Presidential victory by any current candidate besides Paul which is highly unlikely would dis empower, libertarians, fiscal conservatives and the Tea Party. While Obama’s reelection particularly with a Republican congress would empower those groups.

      • Anonymous permalink
        March 5, 2012 2:21 pm

        Asmith, I agree witih your take on Obama and Romney, as far as Romney being Obama-lite, and as far as Romney probably being able to get more done. Then you have a relativley extreme viewpoint about “gridlock,” which you’ve meantioned before.

        It may be that you are defining or applying the word “gridlock” differently. I’m with you regarding the Founding Fathers’ design of government that they didn’t want change to be easy, didn’t want policies to be driven by whim, and encouraged debate, including tiresome, exhausting debate. But then there’s an imaginary line. The Founding Fathers didn’t want to desing an INEFFECTIVE government. They did want America to have a fluid, changeable, adaptable government that could be bent by the will of the people. “Gridlock” implies inertia and getting nothing done, which may still be what you want if you want government to fail. It’s one thing to say that government often fails. It’s another to want it to fail. Gridlock is also a waste of money. Perhaps you just want some federal policies to fail that limit freedom. Do you want a down-sized local government to function effectively at least?

    • March 5, 2012 12:28 am

      AMAC: Ah, if more Christians were as reasonable as you, the left probably wouldn’t be expressing such knee-jerk antipathy to religion. As for Romney, I think you’re right that he wouldn’t be much different from Obama. Both are elite establishment politicians; it hardly matters that one is a Democrat and the other is a Republican. Romney has to appeal to the conservative base to win his party’s nomination, which accounts for much of his flip-flopping. It’s really a crime that neither party has a place for moderates these days. The resignation of Olympia Snowe is more evidence that moderates are being squeezed out of existence in a black-and-white political landscape. Time for that third party? I’m starting to think it’s a must.

      • Priscilla permalink
        March 7, 2012 7:28 pm

        Maybe it is time for that 3rd party…..unfortunately, the damage that has been done to the Republic (that sounds do pretentious, but I couldn’t think of a better/less pretentious way to say it) may be more than can be repaired through electoral politics.

      • Priscilla permalink
        March 7, 2012 7:29 pm

        so*, not do

  16. AMAC permalink
    March 3, 2012 2:55 am

    By the way, I am concerned with the direction of the GOP. I am also concerned with the direction of Democratic Party. I see both parties moving in opposite directions, but further from center. I am concerned greatly with the power of money in politics, but see neither party doing much to change it. I saw a couple of GOP candidates I really liked. One is out and one was never really let in. I agree Romney makes some ridiculous comments, but that is because these candidates try so hard to say what we want to hear, as opposed to what we need to hear. I tend to judge the GOP candidate more harshly the others, but I am trying to look at this as rationally as I can!

    • March 3, 2012 6:34 pm

      i read this recently and it relates to the debate on money and politics.

      We all can check a box on our tax return to spend $3 of our taxes – at no addition cost of us on public financing elections – 90% of us do not. That is pretty damning. In the last election cycle Obama became the first presidential candidate to opt out of the publicly financed election system. It is likely that neither the republican not democratic candidate will take public funds in the general election. Congress has made several attempts to regulate political campaign financing. One aspect of those regulations must people miss is that the strongest limits are on for publicly financed elections. This is this way because a candidate can voluntarily cede constitutional rights in return for public money, but they can not be made to surrender them by force.

      The left is up in arms over Super PACs. But the fundamental change is not that there are more rich people funding politics – little has changed there. What is different is that they no longer have to go through the candidates or through the parties. Anyone who wants can say – and pay to have said whatever they wish with respect to candidates or issues in an election.

      Money is no more important in politics today that it was a few decades ago. Kellog’s paid more to buy Pringles than is likely to be spent by everyone on this entire election cycle. We spend more on Pringles in one year than both presidential candidates will spend.
      This presidential cycle will cost perhaps a Billion Dollars – in order to elect someone who will propose approx $16T in budgets over the next 4 years.
      In 2010 just over 25,000 people contributed more than $10,000 – 99.99% of all political contributions were less than 10,000. Those 99.99% accounted for 76% of the money.
      Donations of $200 or less represent about 1/2 of all dollars, and under 2000 represent 2/3.The average political contribution is about $250.

      Though the media spotlights the contributions of wealthy individuals to republicans, the largest political contributors favor democrats heavily over republicans.
      Rick Santorum got to this point in the election spending about 1/5 of what Ron Paul has 1/10th of Romney, and less than 5% of what Obama has. Clearly money is not nearly as important and TNM posters argue.

  17. Pat Riot permalink
    March 3, 2012 12:41 pm

    Rick, “Are We There Yet?” (!!) I think the image and feelings that that phrase conjurs is fitting to our current election process. The American Public is in the back seat wondering what it’s going to be like when we get there–are Mom and Dad taking us to the Amusement Park like they promised, or are they going to tell us we don’t have enough money and cancel the trip? We don’t have our hands on the steering wheel, we’re not fully in control. It seems all we can do is complain and bug them: “Are we there yet?” “This journey is so LONG!” “Mom, how come Dad wants to do things HIS way all the time??!!”

    Perhaps I’m reading into the phrase more than was intended, but that’s what good writing can prompt. Your writing keeps me coming back.

    • March 5, 2012 12:20 am

      Thanks, Pat. That’s exactly what I had in mind: a kid’s impatience with a seemingly endless road trip. This one seems to have been going on forever, because the Republicans have essentially been campaigning against Obama nonstop since the campaign of 2008, beginning with Sarah Palin in her heyday. She’s been followed by a succession of clownish frontrunners brought down by their own foot-in-mouth tendencies. Obama and the Democrats must be enjoying the spectacle.

  18. Ian CSE permalink
    March 3, 2012 3:16 pm

    I believed in John Glen, among other reasons because by the time he hit his political phase he was NOT charismatic. Of course he never got traction as a presidential candidates.

    One of our problems is that we are hardwired to like charisma.

    Ski pub gig tonight, when we do Johnny B. Goode I’ll think of your comment Pat, and when we hit the “hard stuff,” Outside woman blues, Funk49/Whole lotta Love, I’ll be glad I’m in the future. But I still would love to return to the 60s for the music.

    • March 3, 2012 7:06 pm

      Is there any other music ?

      You are the musician. I do not have to know whether you are any good to know you are far better than I – and it is a talent I wish I had, but I do not. I did the typical Guitar, Piano thing as a kid, and can’t even remember the strings, on the guitar. I might still be able to find middle C. I envy people who can sit down at an instrument and express how they feel through it. The best I can do is select the mp3 I want to listen to.

      I hope your gig goes well.

  19. Pat Riot permalink
    March 3, 2012 6:41 pm

    Ian, break a leg at your gig tonite. My son is a 20-year-old musician playing cafes and open mics, so I’m seeing a sort of 60’s revival out there, minus the hard drugs. Today’s new age hippies are more into the environment and natural holistic things than “mind expansion,” let’s say, to oversimplify.

    Anyway, interesting your thought that charisma is overrated and something we are unfortunately hardwired for. I’m thinking there’s good charisma that comes from being comfortable and in control because of a kind of natural ability (like true leaders have), and then there’s bad charisma that is undeserved and hyped up, like Hollywood stars that people fawn over who are really weak, incapable people. Anyway, just got back from a hike on the Appalachian trail with my son and I feel a nap coming on. Later…

    • AMAC permalink
      March 4, 2012 12:16 am

      Charisma is overrated, but also very useful in many capacities. In a leadership role, charisma can be a cery useful tool for persuasive and communication purposes. Being able to speak well, in itself, is not a very impressive asset. If your job required you to speak to the masses and communicate complex ideas and positions in an easily understandable way, that asset would prove to be very valuable. Being “likeable” is not all that impressive either, but can be very useful in a leadership capacity. A leader of men and women needs to be able to persuade, communicate, moderate, and position. In that sense, charisma can be important. I am down on the smooth talkers with little or no intelligence as much as anybody, but do recognize and acknowledge the talent. I don’t mean that the leader (as in the president, but not limited to) needs only to be able to impress and convey opinions to the masses, but also amongst congressmen and woman.

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