Did you hear what Mitt Romney said to his rich fundraisers the other day? He said that 47% of Americans don’t pay any taxes, and yet are dependent to government services. A lie, of course (only a tenth of Americans actually pay no federal taxes—most of them either retirees or living in poverty), but the truth in this case almost doesn’t even matter: it just sounds terrible.
The Republicans are in trouble. They’re divided, listless, angry (nothing new there), leaderless, and at least one of them manages to say something every news cycle that is wildly out of touch with reality (“legitimate rape” for one). Mitt Romney’s the worst. He just can’t help stepping in it, and his buddies on the right are scrambling, not sure whether to distance themselves from him, or defend him.
But make no mistake, this isn’t an accident, it isn’t bad luck, and it isn’t all Mitt Romney’s fault. It’s called Karma, and as we’ve established on this blog: she’s a big, big bitch.
See, Romney’s gaffs are the result of having to turn himself into something he’s not. He was a moderate—but the Republican Party is in the process of aborting (a choice word in this case) every moderate that ever worn an elephant on their sleeve—so he had to become a conservative to win the presidential nomination. A “severe conservative,” in his own words. Which would be fine if it meant anything real…but it doesn’t. Let’s face it, Republican politics for the last 12 years have meant one thing and one thing only: winning, and helping the people who helped you win—i.e. the wealthy and multinational corporations.
Now normally, there’s nothing wrong with winning, or trying to win. In most aspects of life, winning is good. The best companies compete to win business and thereby increase profits. The best lawyers win their cases and make more money. Winning forces coaches to come up with innovative strategies, and pushes athletes to test the limits of their strength and agility. Winning, and trying to win, is almost always a virtue.
In politics, however, it isn’t. Because for all our cynicism about politics, at its finest it’s about doing what’s right, about finding common ground, and about compromise. More than that, politics is an expression of a person’s core beliefs concerning humanity and morality, as well as how government can best serve its citizens; it’s why people get so heated and angry over political disagreements—this stuff really matters. But unfortunately, at the end of the day, sometimes doing the right thing isn’t popular at the time (ending slavery is a good example), and sometimes even a good compromise angers a lot of people (Obamacare). In other words, the best politicians do what they believe is in the best interests of their people and their country, whether it’s popular or not. Thus, good politics isn’t about winning. It’s about service.
The problem for Republicans is that they’ve been so concerned with winning in the last decade, they’ve completely lost their identity. Moreover, in order to leverage support, they’ve been willing to lie, misdirect, and twist the truth on an almost religious scale. Sure, it works if you stay on topic, but after so many years of tactical dishonesty, it’s awfully hard to remember what you’re supposed to say, how to spin it to different people, and what to do if you get caught. It’s even harder when you’ve cultivated a subset of nut-job tea party freaks that are willing to believe anything you say, no matter how awful or crazy.
It’s called integrity, and frankly, the Republican Party doesn’t have any. Sorry, but that’s the truth. And it’s why Karma is bitch slapping Mitt Romney up and down like a rag doll leading up to this election. It’s not that Mitt Romney’s a bad politician, or even a bad person. It’s because the Republican Orthodoxy has taken multiple stances on multiple issues, many of which are mutually exclusive (attacking schools and being anti-abortion is a good example). It’s because the Republican Party has decided that President Obama is basically Satan in a suit, and anything he does must just be horribly wrong, even if he saves the auto industry and kills Osama Bin Laden. It’s because Paul Ryan and a whole bunch of other leading Republicans decided that at the beginning of 2009, they’d commit treason and obstruct anything the President or Democrats tried to do to help the country, even if it was to get the economy going. It’s because conservatives won’t acknowledge the failure of their ideas on economics, science, education—anything, for that matter.
Worse, they’ve forgotten their duty to serve. They’ve failed to govern for the good of the people, or the country. What landmark legislation’s been passed by Republicans in the last decade that improved the lives of everyday Americans? The two wars we didn’t need to start, bleed, or pay for? The tax cuts during those wars that blew up the deficit? The complete lack of oversight of the financial and housing sectors that led to the second largest economic crash in this nation’s history? Paul Ryan’s budget (thankfully never passed in the Senate) that ends Medicare as we know it and cuts billions in aid for the poor?
No, really what we’ve seen when it comes to Republican action in office are attacks on constituencies that vote for Democrats, or conversely, aid to factions that support Republicans. Teacher unions and other public employees vote for Democrats and contribute to their campaigns? We’ll attack their right to collectively bargain. Black people and students vote for Democrats? Let’s find a way to prevent them from voting. Corporate spending not allowed in elections? Declare all local, state, and national laws limiting campaign spending unconstitutional (see Citizens United). President Obama wants to eliminate corporate subsidies and raise taxes on the rich to hire more teachers, firefighters, police, and construction workers? Block those efforts by using the filibuster. It all revolves around winning—service to the nation be damned.
Al Davis, the famous owner of the Raiders, was known for his saying, “just win, baby.” It worked for awhile, but toward the end of his life, when he refused to give up outdated ideas, becoming reclusive, crabby, and often irrational, it didn’t. The Raiders lost, and the coaching carousel and shenanigans that went along with it were the laughing stock of the NFL. The Republican Party’s act of 2012 looks eerily similar to Davis’ demise. Now, of course, they’ll lie their asses off all the way to election day, and they’ve got a lot of money to spread those lies, but the question remains: if the Republicans lose, as now looks very likely, will they actually change their ways and move toward policies of service, or will they double down on their malfeasance, as their pundits are suggesting, and turn their gaffs into political suicide?