As a clear picture of Paul Ryan comes into focus so has a question – at least in my mind. Is it possible that bright and early last Saturday morning Mitt Romney threw the 2012 presidential election?
That he may have lost his chance when he announced Paul Ryan as his running mate is rapidly becoming conventional wisdom among everyone except those who pushed the hardest for his selection. Pollsters and pundits are looking at Ryan’s potential impact on the vote of women, minorities, Catholics, and seniors and generally calling it from neutral to extremely negative. Women in particularly are unlikely to be wooed back to the party once it is known that Ryan’s views on sex, birth control, and women’s health are at least as prehistoric as Rick Santorum’s while seniors are not comfortable with his pronouncements on Medicare.
At the same time, it is hard to see what Ryan brings to the ticket beyond the possibility of winning Wisconsin’s 10 electoral votes – a poor trade for the 29 in Florida he will probably cost it. Anybody-but-Obama already had the far right vote locked up and Ryan’s radical social conservatism does nothing to boost Romney’s appeal to moderate Republicans or independents.
So, did Romney appoint Ryan in order to lose? I know it sounds insane, especially as Mitt Romney, of all the people I have watched run for office, stands out for his willingness to do whatever it might take to get there. But that in a way makes my theory a little bit more credible. Love may have no fury like a woman scorned, but a close second goes to a shameless whore when the check bounces.
Suspend disbelief for a moment – after all Romney has been asking you to do so for months – and let me lay out the reasons I think Romney is, perhaps unconsciously, taking a dive. You might even like him a little better when I finish.
As we all know he has wanted to play in big boy politics for a long time; certainly since 1994 when he ran for Ted Kennedy’s seat, maybe even since 1968 when his father’s candidacy came to a quick end. He was raised a moderate Republican by moderate Republican parents – his mother even ran for office as an openly pro-choice candidate. Nothing in his history prior to 2004 when he attempted to sabotage gay marriage in Massachusetts, would herald the “severely conservative” candidate he has become.
Hypocrisy and lying are SOP for Republican politicians and Romney has practiced both with a rare ferocity that, aided by his own and his benefactors’ millions seemed to accelerate with each candidate he had to destroy. I wonder if a moral man behaving in such a manner could avoid being offended, embarrassed and even ashamed of his own behavior. I don’t doubt that Romney considers himself a moral man but I would also suggest he not call for a vote on that issue either.
Maybe he worries about what his church leadership thinks of his campaign. Maybe he wonders if Ann and the boys still look at him the same way they did in his big business days. It appears that his behavior was not much better then, but it was certainly not so public and probably a lot easier to justify in his own and their minds.
So what if he decided – and the timing indicates it might have been the debacle in Europe that did it – that he could not win the presidency? He had sold his soul and would get nothing in return. Might he not want a little revenge? He can’t blame Obama, but he can quite properly blame the far right wing of the party. In a traditional election it would indeed, as Ann Romney has said, been their turn. He had the pedigree, the money, the looks, and a prior run; all any Republican in recent memory has needed. And with the nomination in hand, it would probably have been easy for a wealthy Massachusetts moderate to depose an incumbent as vulnerable as Obama.
But the right wing was in charge and he had to fight through a succession of incredibly stupid and crazy candidates backed by millions of incredibly stupid and crazy voters. He never seemed stupid or crazy himself just mendacious and hollow as he pandered to the wing-nuts and allowed no other candidate to get to his right for long. Then when his last opponent had conceded he discovered that the crazy and stupid would not release him back to the real world he actually lived in; the one where elections were won. The right had bought a far-right candidate and they intended to enforce their warranty.
If they were to cost him the election, however, he could also make them pay. He could hand his opponent a mandate, ensure a rout down ticket and just maybe turn the Republican Party back into the one he had always expected to lead. He could so badly discredit the right that it would be generations before they controlled the party again. And Paul Ryan on the ticket could do it; the far-right poster boy with vacant eyes and a pledge to kill Medicare. Every Republican member of Congress would have to explain their vote on the Ryan budget; every Republican pursuing a seat would have to answer how they planned to vote while their potential constituents from both the right and the left parsed every word.
Romney probably did not do this with any conscious thought, but as I watch it all come undone – and it has does so in a very big way in only three days with more than 80 to go, I am increasingly sure Romney, sometime in the last week had a Donald Duck moment. Remember the old cartoons where the volatile fowl had an angel on one shoulder urging him to be a better duck and a devil on the other prodding him to bring down the bastards that had ruined his reputation and his chances. Maybe Romney found a way to listen to them both.
Image: My Fantastic Escape