• A Response to McReynolds: ‘Romney’s Decline and Fall’

    by  • 13 Aug ’12 • the nation • 0 Comments

    David McReynolds threw out his two cents on Mitt Romney’s selection of Paul Ryan as running mate. I respond below, followed below by his original post:

    I think John Nichols called it. Romney knows he will lose, and does not want the GOP hard right to blame his “centrism” for the defeat. So he picks Ryan so that the GOP can have a grand old debate on whose fault the loss of ’12 was.

    Here’s the fact that those of us who view things with a long haul lens, should not forget: demographic shifts (i.e. immigration) will produce a Texas that leans blue in 2016 and is solid blue by 2020.

    Texas is a game-changer. With all its electoral votes, it changes the presidential strategy for a generation…or more. Ohio, Wisconsin, Florida – all are irrelevant. The Democrats can carry the majority vote in national elections with an ease that has been unknown since the days of Johnson. It will be a disappointingly conservative Democratic majority to be sure. But as McReynolds has often noted, the Left does well in times when we can be the loyal opposition to a moderate-liberal Democratic majority.

    Romney, meanwhile, is remembering the lessons his dad learned in the aftermath of Goldwater’s spectacular defeat. For several election cycles, until Reagan finally captured the party flag in ’80, the centrists of the GOP could credibly warn the rank-and-file “pick us or go down in flames with an extremist like Goldwater.”

    That is the debate that Romney wants to have in 2015-16. “If only you had let me run the business conservative, socially moderate campaign I know we would have won, the GOP wouldn’t be in No Man’s Land right now.”

    Of course, his erstwhile scapegoat, Paul Ryan, will be countering Mitt’s narrative with a little “If only you hadn’t saddled me with this empty-corporate-husk-of-a-weirdo-dog-abusing-robot at the top of the ticket I could have ‘taken America back’ from ‘them.'”

    Romney’s Decline and Fall

    One of the curious omissions by all the commentators I’ve heard
    thus far, is that Mitt Romney, by choosing Paul Ryan as the VP
    candidate, has insured that following Romney’s defeat in the
    general election, Ryan will become the leader of the GOP and
    the almost certain GOP Presidential candidate in 2016.

    In mid-July I had the odd feeling I was watching the disintegration
    of the Romney campaign. First, Romney was unable to deal with
    Obama’s master stroke of lifting the threat of deportation from a
    large number of illegal immigrants. Obama had, with that action,
    secured a clear advantage with the Hispanic vote.

    Second, Romney’s inability to deal with the income taxes, and his
    confusing efforts to deal with his time at Bain (IE., he had ended
    his ties with Bain “retroactively”!!!), left a sense among political
    observers that Romney was in free fall. It wasn’t, if folks remember,
    simply that the Democrats had made an issue of the income taxes,
    but that key Republicans and conservatives had joined in the chorus
    demanding he release more than two years of returns.

    Third, most of us (including me) had not seen the media attacks
    Romney had made on his opponents in the primary, because those
    attacks were not made in the national media, but at the local and
    state levels. Some of those candidates self-destructed (the
    case with Rick Perry), or had known they had no chance of winning
    the nomination (as was true of Ron Paul), but Romney had waged a
    ruthless campaign against Gingrich, Cain, and Santorum. He had
    poured in money, dug up dirt, and essentially “bought” the primaries
    with his war chest. Primaries are always lessons in how blunt objects
    will be used to knock out opponents. In this case, the net result was
    that Romney had left behind a trail of genuine bitterness and hard
    feeling among the conservative candidates. It is true the “Tea
    Party” (and the “establishment GOP”) hate Obama so much, they
    will support whoever is running against him, but in this case what we
    saw was the victory of the candidate no one really loved, and many
    profoundly detested. Contributing to this was the perception that
    Romney would take any side of any issue if it would help him to
    win.

    The election had been Romney’s to lose. With 8% unemployment,
    (and I am referring to long term unemployment), Obama, on the
    face of it, had no chance of winning. “It is the economy, stupid”, to
    quote the slogan from Bill Clinton’s campaign. Romney had done
    his best to make that the central issue of his campaign.

    Thus I found it difficult to believe, in mid-July, that the Romney
    campaign was coming apart at the seams. But this was confirmed by
    his overseas trip, where he managed to irritate the conservative
    Prime Minister of England. It was therefore no surprise when, starting
    in the first week of August, key elements in the Republican Party
    (the Wall Street Journal and National Review) began to push for the
    selection of Paul Ryan as the VP choice. The selection of Paul Ryan
    was almost a concession that Romney had lost the election but at
    least would be able to pull the base together.

    In politics it is extremely risky to state any outcome as a sure thing
    three months in advance. Much may happen, from some tragedy
    involving the candidates themselves, to events in Europe, which could
    sink the US financial ship, to a possible Israeli attack on Iran. But as
    it stands now, Romney has lost. The polls of early August confirmed
    this – they were unanimous in showing a shift away from Romney
    and toward Obama, beyond the margin of error, and, most important,
    in the key states Romney had to win.

    Romney’s plight helps explain why the GOP has launched such a
    strong national attack on the right to vote – special credit goes to
    Rachel Maddow, perhaps the brightest star in the MSNBC galaxy, who
    has documented both the national efforts to restrict the right to vote,
    and the specific and outrageous effort in the key state of Ohio to
    make it much harder for voters in Democratic districts to have their
    votes counted. (Ohio is a scandal – in the Bush vs. Gore race the
    combination of the voter fraud in Florida and in Ohio gave the race
    to Bush. Voter fraud goes both ways – the Democrats have done much
    the same thing. But this is the first time I can remember, since the Civil
    Rights Act was passed, that we have seen a systematic effort to deny
    categories of voters easy access to the polls – this means African
    Americans, Hispanics, the elderly, and students).

    If I’m right and the GOP is doomed to defeat in this election, the fault
    rests in large measure with the Tea Party which has locked Romney
    into positions which alienated key sectors of the voting public. Leaving
    aside gay voters, most of whom will go to Obama, the assault on
    women’s rights (well covered by Maddow) has meant that
    even normally Republican voters have been alienated. The Black vote
    will, again, go overwhelmingly to Obama. The immigration issue has
    locked an overwhelming majority of Hispanic voters into support of
    Obama. Romney’s visit to Israel did not split the Jewish vote, which
    will still go by a heavy margin to Obama.

    What Romney does have is a clear majority of the white working
    class male voters, plus a majority of the middle class voters. (The
    number of upper class voters is too small to be decisive, but in any
    event will split). In the old days this might easily have been enough
    to win an election. But older white voters who depend on Medicare
    and Social Security will be turned off by the choice of Paul Ryan.
    (The addition of Ryan to the ticket may well have guaranteed that
    Florida will go to Obama).

    With each passing year the electorate is “less white”. One reason
    for the Tea Party is the sense of alienation felt by older white voters
    who are baffled by a world in which there are gays and lesbians
    getting married and anchoring TV news shows, and a black is in
    the White House. The Tea Party is hardly a “reasoned response”, and
    this was confirmed by those who sought its blessing, from Bachmann
    to Santorum.

    What is disturbing about the GOP campaign this year was the range
    of possible candidates. We didn’t have a choice of serious folks,
    but people like Herman Cain, Michele Bachmann, Newt Gingrich, and
    Rick Perry. Jon Huntsman was one of the few candidates who could
    be considered qualified, and he was quickly eliminated. If this had been
    an “off year” when the GOP stood no chance of winning, one might
    understand why someone such as Michele Bachmann was taken
    seriously. But as it stands, the range of candidates suggests the GOP has
    few heavy hitters. (An exception is Paul Ryan who, despite
    my sharp disagreements with his “Ayn Rand” economic approach, is
    a thoughtful man).

    One personal note on Romney. It is rare that truly wealthy men or
    women enter politics – it is easier for them to hire a candidate. (As,
    if you check the record, you will find Richard Nixon was hired, long
    ago, by a group of businessmen in his Congressional district). There
    are exceptions such as Rockefeller or Bloomberg. Generally, however,
    the very rich do their best to avoid publicity. It is considered in bad
    taste to make a display of wealth. The very rich are virtually invisible.
    They do not ride the subways or buses, they do not fly economy class.
    Their children go to private schools. They lived in gated communities
    or in well guarded condominiums. They often have body guards.

    It is not merely, as Scott Fitzgerald wrote, that “the rich are different”
    from the rest of us – they are, for the most part, invisible, and prefer
    it that way. Romney is in this category of the super-rich but he lacks
    something that usually goes with this category – a sense of noblesse
    oblige.

    That ability to leave “lesser mortals” at ease marked FDR, John F.
    Kennedy, and George Bush (the senior – not the Jr.). But it is something
    George Romney lacks. His laugh is nervous, his smile too quick,
    his responses too robotic. This is in part because his background
    in the Morman Church already put him at a distance from most of us.
    Remember, as a Morman, Romney can’t have a beer, or a bourbon
    and branch water. Unlike JFK or Bush Sr., who saw military service
    and had to deal with people from a range of classes, Romney didn’t
    share that experience.

    It is my private guess that this accounted for his extraordinary fumble
    on the matter of taxes. I doubt there is anything illegal in the returns,
    rather I think Romney felt “we” simply didn’t have the right to
    demand more than the two years he will give us. His wife, who shares
    his background, made the comment when pressed about the taxes
    that “you people have all you need”. That “you people” was so
    revealing – it wasn’t said in anger, but from that sense of distance
    that great wealth has given the Romney’s.

    What is missing in the debate about the deficit, and the Paul Ryan
    budget (which, let it be noted, was attacked by the Catholic Bishops)
    is not some display of anger about exempting the wealthy – the
    Democrats are good at that. What is missing is any discussion of the
    one area where massive cuts can safely be made – the military budget.
    Hundreds of overseas bases will remain off limits to discussion. And on
    this, Obama, just as much as Paul Ryan, will be silent. (Though there
    have been some subtle hints that Obama may mention this in the course
    of the campaign). Jesus once said to his disciples “the poor you have
    always with you”, something Paul Ryan is happy to accept. If Jesus
    were around today he might say “the military you have always with
    you”.

    In any event we will know very soon if I have badly misread the
    political scene. For myself, I will vote for the Socialist Party ticket,
    Stewart Alexander – and if the SP can’t make the New York State
    ballot, I’ll vote for whatever minor party does make it.

    (David McReynolds was the Socialist Party candidate for President in 1980 and 2000, worked on the staff of War Resisters League for nearly forty years, and is retired and living with his two cats on Manhattan’s Lower East Side. He can be reached at: davidmcreynolds7@gmail.com)

    Leave a Reply