Wednesday, January 11, 2012

Two Down, Forty-eight to Go

Who Won the GOP Primary in New Hampshire?

            With almost 40% of the vote, Mitt Romney was the obvious winner in Tuesday’s New Hampshire primary. Ron Paul was a strong second, with about 23%. John Huntsman, who worked longest and hardest in the state, was in third place, with almost 17%.
            Newt Gingrich and Rick Santorum were the losers, despite the spin they’ve tried to give their numbers. Each received less than ten percent.
            Gingrich has been dead in the water for months, but nobody has had the guts to tell him, and he wouldn’t listen anyway. He can be counted on, however, to continue throwing monkey wrenches into Mitt’s machinery while making outrageous statements that remind the electorate why he was sent off in disgrace not so many years ago.
            Santorum, the second-place winner in Iowa, demonstrated that his evangelical Christian, Islamophobic message doesn’t play well outside the Bible Belt. Thank God. He’ll probably do better in South Carolina, but he’s dead meat in the majority of states.
            So, the big winner? Once again, the Democrats. Mitt Romney is a caricature of a Republican superhero in mufti. Mild-mannered Mitt Romney, who changes into Conservativeman at night, if he can find a phone booth. All would be well in Smallville if it weren’t for that evil villain, Ron Paul, who keeps spreading deadly Libertarianite around the country and siphoning off about a quarter of Republican voters.
            Romney is the ideal GOP candidate this year, at least from the Democratic point of view. He’s boring and superficial and unprincipled. He not only repeats the mantras of corporate excess, he was intimately involved in some of its ugliest episodes. You can find sound bites of Romney espousing just about any side of any issue, sometimes in the same speech. He is anathema to the Bachmann-Santorum evangelistic faction because of some of his previous stands on issues and because he is a Mormon. It appears that faction will not have a viable candidate this year, and its members could stay home in droves.
            And Paul is the ideal spoiler for Romney’s campaign. The Republican Party is going to have to bend over backwards to keep its growing libertarian faction in the fold. Paul is not likely to beat Romney, but he and his supporters are going to want some major concessions. The rest of the party isn’t going to want to move toward personal liberty and military isolationism, but if it doesn’t, those libertarians are going to look elsewhere.
            I don’t think Ron Paul will abandon the GOP this time. Don’t forget that his son, Rand, is now a Republican senator. He probably won’t seek the Libertarian Party nomination, but whoever gets it is likely to attract Republican votes if it is felt that the GOP has let down its libertarian cohort.
            And what about Huntsman? I don’t think he’s in danger of winning the nomination, but his healthy showing puts him higher up the potential running-mate ladder. The only problem is that he, too, is a Mormon White guy (of course they’re all White guys now), and if Romney were the nominee, Huntsman wouldn’t add much to his constituency. I do think Huntsman is smarter and more consistent, but his chances are mighty slim.
            Romney’s slim margin of victory in Iowa, bolstered by this healthy win in New Hampshire, will ensure that he has lots of money as he moves to the other primaries. It will also reduce the amount of money the other candidates can hope to raise. He hasn’t gotten the nomination sewed up, but it’s going to be harder and harder for the others to catch up with him.
            As part of its coverage of the New Hampshire primary, C-SPAN aired some of the post-New Hampshire-primary speeches of the past, including Barack Obama’s from four years ago. It was that speech that convinced me to support him then, and I have gladly done so since. I put an “Obama 2012” bumper sticker on my car this week and I look forward to helping the president win a second term.
            I will also work to elect Democrats to Congress. I am particularly hopeful that many of the Tea Party extremists will be one-term wonders. I have expected this to be a very difficult political year, but as it unfolds I am delighted how far the Republicans are willing to go to ensure a Democratic victory. The new majority in the House has incurred the disgust of all but the hardest-core Republicans. The endless filibusters of Senate Republicans are as welcome as a string of pointless practical jokes. The electorate is tired of hearing that GOP senators have once again short-sheeted their colleagues or given them hot-feet or wedgies.
            Every time that President Obama speaks I feel pride that I helped elect him. He has great personal integrity, a quality sorely lacking in the other party. Off the top of my head, I can think of one Republican, just one, who has been consistent with his own values. That’s Ron Paul. I don’t agree with him on many issues, but I salute him for being true to his own convictions.
            I hope you and the rest of the electorate are sick and tired, as I am, of the hypocrisy and fear-mongering and barely-concealed racism that have characterized the GOP since that night four years ago when it became apparent that yes, we could. And we did. And we need to do it again.
            There is a place for a rational Republican Party. We used to have one and I really miss it. The wingnuts and religious zealots who have taken it over may lose it again if they keep fighting among themselves. I sincerely hope they do.

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