A Sideways Glare at Contemporary Society
Rumour has it that nothing concentrates the mind like getting shot at. I don’t have much firsthand experience, but I’ll take it on faith that dodging a bullet makes you think clearly. Let’s hope so, because a couple of weeks ago in South Carolina the Republican Party almost shot themselves in the foot. Yesterday, in Florida, they dodged that bullet and now, therefore, should be able to think straight again. I’ll do it to you once more without the metaphor. In the South Carolina primary, a couple of weeks ago, Republicans went (temporarily) insane and voted for Newt Gingrich. Yesterday, in the Florida primary they came to their senses and voted for Romney — overwhelmingly! This should settle things. If it doesn’t, there’s going to be an awful lot of time, energy and expense wasted trying to dodge the next Gingrich bullet — which could very well kill any hope of the GOP relocating Barack Obama’s residence in November.
The Republican Party needs to nominate Mitt Romney. They need to do it sooner, rather than later, or risk tearing their rightwing umbrella full of ideological holes. Offering Gingrich any modicum of hope for the nomination will just invigorate the political infighting and open the door to prolonged civil war. Not only that, but if Newt thinks he’s got some support, there’s no tellin’ what he’s capable of. He might (perish the thought) just go “Third Party” and FUBAR the election to maximum effect. No, Gingrich needs to be seriously ballot-boxed out of the equation, since it doesn’t look as if he’s willing to leave voluntarily.
I’m not going to go into the wherefores and the whys and all the political arguments for and against Newt Gingrich. At this point, it doesn’t matter: it’s too late. There are exactly nine months until the election. The Republicans need to concentrate every minute of every waking hour on November. Wasting energy on a primary fight is not in their best interest. Everybody needs to understand that the single most overwhelming argument in favour of Mitt Romney is this: Barack Obama is in the White House, and no amount of right wing wishful thinking is going to get him out. Bluntly, Newt can’t beat Barack; Mitt can.
We need to remember that, before all the hype, Obama was a dolt out of the blue, leading into 2008. He was all things to all people because nobody had a clue who or what he really was. Frankly, most folks didn’t care. He wasn’t George Bush; that’s all that mattered. It’s actually ironic that, in the end, he was the best dolt for the job, given what the Republicans mounted against him. But that was a one-off. Four years later, Obama isn’t surprising anybody anymore. In fact, he’s disappointing quite a few. Again, I’m not going to detail the misadventures of Barack Obama, but even a casual observer can see he’s vulnerable. Ever since the 2010 Congressional elections, he’s been taking just about as much flak from the left as he has from the right, and tons of disillusioned people in the centre are ready to abandon the brand. Politically speaking, a reasonable presidential alternative could turn into a real alternative — with luck and a lot of hard work piled on.
Regardless of whether you agree with Newt Gingrich’s politics or not, he is not a reasonable alternative. First of all, he’s carrying enough political baggage to sink the Titanic. He’ll have to spend most of the campaign defending that, because Obama’s not going to let the country forget it. Secondly, despite the bounce he got from John King in South Carolina, it’s going to be open season on his personal life. Under the guise of comic relief, the media will tear him a new navel over what will probably be called his personal life choices. The writers from Jon Stewart, Stephen Colbert and SNL are burning up laptops, even as we speak. They will make him look as ridiculous as possible. Finally, and most importantly, the guy’s stuck in an ideological straitjacket. Obama is already framing the campaign as “Them” vs “Us.” Without political flexibility, Gingrich will be trapped into defending “Them” on ideological grounds, losing his core message in the meantime. After that, all Obama has to do is point a finger and say, “See? I told you! He’s one of them.” The end result is, if Gingrich is the Republican nominee, he will spend most of the presidential campaign on the defensive. Obama won’t have to convince the country he’s the better candidate. All he’ll have to do is convince them he’s not Newt Gingrich.
Mitt Romney might be the Man from Bland, but that’s exactly what the Republicans need in 2012 – a reasonable alternative. If the American people have a realistic presidential option Barack Obama will have to stand and fight. And the only weapon he has is his record in the White House. If I were a Republican, I’d take that bet — today — rather than waste a lot of time and money taking potshots at one another and dodging bullets.