Archive for December 2011
There’s an old Rush song that says, “If you choose not to decide you still have made a choice.” Unfortunately, that’s not going to cut it for Republicans as we enter this, the winter of our discontent. It seems that we have finally reached the point where the battle lines have been drawn: Herman Cain is out, Rick Perry burned his sizzle even faster than his steak, and pretty much everyone else has settled to the bottom of the basket with the rest of the small fries–except for the two front runners, who are now preparing to duke it out for that most coveted prize, the GOP nomination for President of the United States.
Rocky Balboa and Apollo Creed? Ah, if only.
Whoda thought when all of this started that the contest would come down to Mitt Romney and Newt Gingrich? While the Romney part is no surprise (it seems like he’s been running for president since the Truman administration), I had sort of gotten used to the idea of Gingrich being the color commentator, keeping things interesting with his debate flair and historical acumen but not standing a chance at getting the actual nomination. Now, at this late hour, it seems as if the Newtster’s strategy of keeping his power dry (at least when it comes to attacking his fellow candidates) and going slow and steady has paid off with a serious surge, denting Romney’s inevitability and throwing the party establishment into a bit of a tizzy. I have to admit, for a party that has a history of nominating the next guy in line, this makes things pretty damn interesting; however, with all the polls saying this and the pundits saying that, and the endless debates over who has the best chance of beating Barry the Most Magnificent next year, we are left to ask ourselves the most basic question: Why?
There are actually a couple of reasons. First off, the GOP rank and file are simply not that enamored of Romney. It’s not that he’s a bad guy–Lord knows, he’d be hands-down better than Obama–but after running McCain in 2008, the poster child for moderates, Republicans are ready for someone who stirs the blood a little bit. Hence all the flirtation with Perry, Cain, Bachmann–flavors of the month to be sure, but again you have to ask yourself why voters so desperately sought them out. It isn’t just because they’re looking for something new. It’s because they want something to get excited about. Romney feels too much like an arranged marriage. Sure, he’s a solid guy and all that. It’s just a little tough to get all hot and bothered over him–and hot and bothered is what gets people to the polls.
Enter Newt. A flawed prospect, to be sure. That unfortunate first name. No such thing as an unexpressed thought. He may not even be that conservative. But passionate? That he is–and he inspires passion in others as well. Love him or hate him, he doesn’t leave you wanting. In fact, he leaves you wanting more. As so much of politics is show biz, that last part is critical–and it’s also why I think he’s not just the latest Johnny Come Lately.
There’s also another Newt X-Factor, related to the first, and that’s his willingness to engage in political combat. We’re all being warned in advance that this is going to be the low-down dirtiest, nastiest election this side of a Jersey Shore beauty pageant, and already the national GOP leadership has telegraphed its reluctance to go after Obama personally. Gingrich, meanwhile, tantalizes us with his direct challenge to the president to meet him on the battlefield for some Lincoln-Douglas style debate action–a prospect that no doubt terrifies Obama, given his record and aversion to all public speaking that doesn’t involve a TelePrompTer. Conversely, the very prospect has Republicans licking their chops in anticipation. Hell, I think most of them would pay real money to see something like that. Mitt Romney, however, just doesn’t conjure up the same image. He seems more like a retirement community production of West Side Story, with the Jets and the Sharks throwing down over who cut in front of whom in the buffet line at Ponderosa. The stuff of dreams it ain’t.
So who’s ultimately better against Barry? Who knows? If Hollywood could figure that out they’d never have a flop. Ultimately, though, I’ll always bet on passion over indifference. Win or lose, at least you come away thinking it was worth the fight.