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
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
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
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
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: firstname.lastname@example.org)