I am despondent. As an avid follower of political news and a self-identified solid progressive, I am experiencing strange feelings—or, more accurately, I am experiencing a strange lack of feelings. In prior election cycles, I would watch the Republican debates with energy, excitement and attention. I would be prepared to be aggrieved by their attacks on Democrats and their ever-increasing trend toward the extremes of the right wing. I would become fired up, knowing that whether it was Bush or McCain in 2000, or whether it was McCain, Romney or Huckabee in 2008, the Democratic candidate had to prevail, no matter what. Every debate would serve as a reminder and a motivator of that certain fact.
This cycle should be no different, especially now that the Republican pretenders to the throne are even more renegade than they ever have been in recent memory. In this current primary contest, the first three states have been won, respectively, by three distinct yet equally odious candidates: a former senator with a Google problem who believes that rape victims should make the best of a bad situation should they be unfortunate enough to conceive as a result of the crime; a vulture capitalist who likes to fire people and never met a policy position he didn’t like if he felt it could get him a better shot at an even higher office; and … Newt Gingrich. Yet even in spite of that, I cannot muster up the energy and enthusiasm to watch the continuing Republican immolation of just about everything that is fair and right in this country. While Gingrich’s proposal about lunar statehood provided a sliver of respite, it has not been enough to turn the tide or lighten the gravity of this situation.
To make matters worse, my interest was rising again after Gingrich won the South Carolina primary and appeared to be gaining a crescendo of support. But his newfound lunacy has now caused his base in Florida to crater. And as Gingrich’s support wanes, Mitt Romney’s now appears to be waxing at exactly the right time to win Florida, eliminating his final rival for the nomination that was long assumed to be his, and leaving the Republican Party in a relative sea of tranquility.
Lunar guffaws aside, the battle that will unforld once Mitt Romney wins the nomination will be a battle for the soul of America, but not in the way usually intended by Republican candidates. In his recent State of the Union Speech, President Obama laid out his vision for what America could and should be. Even if the speech was not a progressive’s dream from every policy standpoint, it focused very strongly on a few central themes with which we can all agree: reforming the tax code to end the rewarding of outsourcing, reinvesting in American manufacturing and the middle-class jobs that come with it, and investing in the education that will allow American workers to have the skills required to do the jobs of both the present and the future.
Mitt Romney has consistently presented a different vision. It’s an ideology that professes that if only plutocrats like him were less restrained by consumer protections, labor, and regulations, that they could produce all the jobs America needs through trickle-down economics, even as the stepladders to the middle class that government has already provided continue to be gutted in the name of personal responsibility. It is a vision born of a decades-long effort to rehabilitate the principles of Ayn Rand and transform them into a socially acceptable philosophy on governance while interweaving a theocratic social agenda thought unthinkable only a few years ago.
I was technically a teenager when 9/11 occurred, and just beginning to become interested in politics in a serious way. At that time, I was outraged by every single Republican attempt to erode our civil liberties while continuing to gut environmental protections and government services while enriching those who needed it the least. I was outraged precisely because I viewed it as an excess brought about by the temporary insanity that resulted from our national trauma, combined with the radicalism of the Bush administration. I expected that the election of Barack Obama would end the radical and imperial interregnum that was the Bush administration, marginalize the so called “dead-enders” and unify the country in a new era of sanity and political civility.
The truth was not as joyous, as history has shown. But I am no longer outraged, because it is far more difficult to be outraged at what is expected. Instead, as we prepare to face Mitt Romney in November, I am simply resolute: there’s a job that needs doing. Neither Romney nor the future nominees of his party can be given four years to unleash their plutocratic fancies against America’s middle class. Outrage won’t guarantee that outcome, but hard work will.