An MSNBC UP show panel on Saturday gleefully recounted Mitt Romney’s tentative moves toward a third White House run. “What is he thinking?” is one way to summarize the discussion. “He is delusional” is another. Not one panelist could imagine a scenario under which Romney could win, but each was highly entertained by the idea.
Beware the Popcorn Syndrome. It seems to be spreading among left leaning social media and chattering classes. Right now it is centered on the 2012 Republican nominee and his refusal to go away, but is being expressed as well on a more endemic level.
Pundits, bloggers and tweeters figuratively (literally in Rachel Maddow’s case) are rubbing their hands together and declaring how much fun this election is going to be. They play and replay the 2012 debates with their clown car, $10,000 bets, 9-9-9 economic plans and oops moments. Debates out of which, we seem to forget, a candidate did emerge who won 48 percent of the vote while running a perfectly imperfect campaign.
It is time that the left started taking this election seriously, along with Romney and Jeb Bush and the rest, even those we view as stupid, misogynist, and out of touch wing nuts. It is also time to stop spreading those very words around like mustard on a bologna sandwich because these people have support, they have experience, and they have money. Lots and lots of money. In most cases, they also have the motivation and the means to win dishonestly if they can’t do it any other way. And more than anything else they are no laughing matter; they are extremely dangerous.
The 15 to 20 anticipated Republican candidates are already sorting themselves into three camps; 1) the severely conservative and crazy (a word I use despite my own advice) including Ben Carson, Ted Cruz, and a King (take your pick, Steve or Peter); the slightly less extreme with some credibility from previous elections (Rick Santorum, Mike Huckabee, Carly Fiorina and perhaps Rick Perry), and the moderate field of Chris Christie, Bush, and Romney. Another strong contender, Rand Paul, more or less evades categorization.
Unless party discipline fractures we already know the endless and open debates of the last cycle will shrink to 12, a third assigned to Fox. With so few debates, some candidates will never qualify to be on the platform and stronger contenders will dominate the mic time. That will limit exposure of the real fruitcakes but could protect others (i.e. Rick Perry) from themselves.
The sheer size of the early field plays to Romney’s chance of survival but as usually happens, discounting the serial front-runner debacle of 2012, the truly out there candidates will annihilate each other rather quickly. Christie will fade fast as his donors defect to Romney and Bush and his petulant demeanor wears thin. By South Carolina, maybe even earlier, the field will consist of the one or two really far and sorta far right candidates who have most successfully fed the egos of their personal pet millionaires, perhaps both Romney and Bush, and certainly Rand Paul. Were I to guess which moderate might be out by then it would be Bush; I wonder even now how much heart he has in the game.
Romney has the fire and is not a stupid man. He has probably spent hours watching videos of every 2012 debate, speech, and press conference and though he may be unable to change his wooden delivery don’t count on any 47 percent or “I don’t care about poor people” screw-ups this time around. Maybe the UP panel finds his candidacy amusing, but by then his chance for the nomination will be better than 50/50.
No matter who lands on the platform in Cleveland, if the Democrats haven’t long since put away the popcorn and gotten serious they are going to lose this election. In a lot of ways the wind is at the backs of the Republicans despite the harmful policies they pursue where they govern and the vast constituencies they constantly manage to trivialize and offend. We know Republicans own the free media and have the money to buy the rest but Democrats appear to think that counts a lot less in presidential election years. They have bought the theory that the Obama Coalition belongs to the party when in fact it belongs to Obama and counting on the emerging minority populations to vote Democratic is futile if those minorities don’t vote.
There are other Republican advantages Democrats ignore at their peril.
- They own the political machinery in much of the country, holding key offices in many swing states and those with the fastest growing young and minority populations. Voter suppression played a role in 2012 and those secretaries of state and Republican dominated legislatures who are so inclined, which is to say most of them, have two years to make it even worse.
- Each party is only fighting over only about 10 percent of the votes. Pollsters tell us these independent/undecided voters tend to be uninformed and easily swayed by ads and emotion, both of which make them more vulnerable to the media and the money that buys it.
- Republicans hate us more than we hate them. If a Republican doesn’t much want to vote for their own candidate they still love to vote against the Democratic one, a leap of which Democrats appear incapable. Republicans repeatedly elect indicted and convicted criminals while Democrats grouse about the two parties being the same and don’t vote at all.
- They have proved themselves willing, able, perhaps even obligated to cheat.
As amusing as the growing Republican field of candidates, their frailties and missteps might be, and even with the election nearly two years out Democrats must stop giggling and start tending to business. We appear willing to drift toward a non-competitive nomination but still must prepare for a very competitive election and, surprise, one with more than one office at stake. There are down ballot candidates to recruit, campaigns to be built and honed, and those much touted new voters to register and motivate. If we fail to do this it will be Democrats who bring about the “permanent Republican majority” Karl Rove predicted after the 2004 election.
The Republicans don’t care about the popcorn, they are preparing to steal our lunch.
When I moved from Boston to Georgia ten years ago they told me about grits and pork rinds, warned me about the bugs, and assured me there would be a lot less snow. They did not tell me that belonging to a church is required by statute and that I would be the only liberal between Atlanta and the Canary Islands.
There are, however, Yellow Dogs. These are Southerners who would vote for a Golden Retriever if it were running as a Democrat. That these people would be called Republicans if they lived in New England does not make me one bit less grateful that they exist.