10 December 11
he Republican party is legendary for not taking my advice. (Okay, so self-immolation has some ethical and logistical difficulties, especially on the floor of the House, but, hey, this is America - we can overcome anything.) But I still believe in a place called hope, so here's my latest recommendation for the Party of Lincoln Who Is Presently Vomiting in the Beyond.
Get the hell out of Iowa.
Just pack up and leave. Tell it to the snake-handling hayshakers who make up your party's base in that otherwise lovely state: So long, and thanks for all the corn dogs. Sneak out in the dead of night. Sneak out in the dead of noon, with brass bands playing and fireworks bursting overhead. Just get yourselves out of Dodge. And Waterloo. And Keokuk. And Ames. If Michele Bachmann or Rick Santorum want to stay out there and chase Jesus through the dairy barns, let them. Get your party out of there before it loses what's left of its mind.
Just this morning, my man Chuck Todd had a panel on to discuss the state of play out there. He made the point that the "evangelicals" who make up a substantial portion of the people who will be voting in the "crucial" Iowa caucuses have their own networks within which they will make their decisions in three weeks, and that they are untouched even by the blandishments "of Fox News." In other words, the first serious event in the winnowing out of the Republican party's presidential field will be largely in the hands of people who consider Sean Hannity either too godless, or too intellectually challenging, or insufficiently conservative. The panel went on to discuss this judiciously, as a matter of political reality. But, really, that in itself is an indication of something, and it's not a healthy situation to find yourself in.
Look at the available evidence just this week. Having to appeal to this electorate first sent Jon Huntsman into a fan-dance over climate science. It resulted in Rick Perry's releasing a singularly idiotic television ad on the basic theme of "My God's Dong Is Bigger Than Your God's Dong."
(Really, Goodhair, if you've got that much money left, just send every registered Republican in Iowa 25 large. Sure, it's illegal, but it's whole lot less embarrassing.)
And it prompted Willard Romney to "come out swinging" - oh, Willard, you're so...rugged! - at Newt Gingrich, whom Iowa seems poised to make the frontrunner for the nomination. (And, dammit, isn't that fact alone enough for you to beat feet for the Illinois border?) Unfortunately, Willard chose to make the basis for his counterstrike the notion that Newt is not conservative enough, and that Newt's primary heresy is his insufficient devotion to the economic philosophy of the bold boy-genius Paul Ryan, particularly Gingrich's at one point calling Ryan's put-granny-on-the-ice-floe changes in Medicare "right-wing social engineering." So, if you're keeping score at home, Mitt Romney has managed to become simultaneously Dr. Mandrake Q. Mandate From The People's Republic Of Taxachusetts and the newest champion of a completely voucherized health-care plan that will explode the deficit, inflate prices, leave millions of people uninsured, and which has proven to poll approximately as well as the mange. Well-played, Willard!
But, seriously, what choice did he have? At the beginning, Willard seemed to have tumbled to the fact that a Republican caucus in Iowa has been the Island of Misfit Politics beginning when Pat Robertson finished second there in 1988 and continuing all the way through 2008, when Romney got stomped there by Mike Huckabee, who spent about 11 cents but whose commitment to Jesus Is My Precinct Captain was enough the beat Willard's expensive effort like a tin drum. So, it looked like Willard was going to put up a token effort this time, win New Hampshire from here to there, and then run out the clock while everybody else ran out of money and time.
Then, it became plain that a lot of Republicans all over the country were willing to vote for practically anyone except him, including the gay-crazy Michele Bachmann, the sub-verbal Goodhair, and, of course, Herman Cain, Sex Machine. As these fell away, all of that healthy Willard-loathing had to coalesce behind somebody, and there was Gingrich, sole ruler of his own intellectual universe and the Nolan Ryan of Republican poo-flinging. Suddenly, Iowa became important again. So everybody - especially Willard - went to their closets, found their propeller beanies and their really big shoes and their red rubber noses again, and climbed into the clown car to drive to the show.
Iowa does nothing for your party, folks, except make it look like the Mole People have taken over the process. The caucuses are cute. They are great TV. But Iowa is the place where the political dementia afflicting the Republican party most clearly has taken hold, and to give it a determinative role in producing your nominee is to surrender the process to isolated wingnuttery and religious know-nothingism. It makes your allegedly serious candidates look like jackasses and it makes your unserious candidates look even further off the trolley. Everybody moves less to "the Right" than they do towards the edge of the freaking planet. (Have you been paying attention to what Rick Santorum has been saying out there? For such a profound anti-Islamist, he appears to be running for Mullah.) They are forced to spend the crucial final days before the New Hampshire primary trying to walk back all the nonsense they had to peddle in Iowa. That does nothing but poison the process there.
Some day, maybe, the Iowa Republican party will pry itself free of the people who control so much of it now. It is a state where candidates should be forced to confront issues - food production, foreclosure, land use, etc. - that are quite relevant to the rest of the country. Instead, on the Republican side, we've had gay marriage, and "equal sex," and Who Can Kiss Paul Ryan's Ass the Loudest? This really isn't the way to elect a president.