Sunday, January 22, 2012

Some Thoughts About the Republican Primaries

Everyone who reads my blogs knows that I am a Democrat, so why am I watching the returns from South Carolina with such interest? There has been so much movement in this primary recently -- with Perry leaving the contest and throwing his support to Gingrich, and millions being sent into the race under Citizens United-driven Super Pacs, that leads have see-sawed all week. Also, in a surprise happening, Santorum was declared the Iowa winner in a recount, this time by over 30 votes. Billionaire casino mogul Sheldon Adelson donated five million dollars to the "Winning Our Future" Super Pac run by a former Gingrich aide.

Since the Supreme Court decision, two years ago this week, equating money with speech and granting corporations personhood, unlimited amounts of money can be contributed to these so-called independent expenditures. Transparency and full disclosure is not required of these entities, so the election process is further removed from the average voter. Additionally the Pac run by former Bain executives and supporting Mitt Romney savaged Gingrich in Iowa and elsewhere.

I have been personally dismayed about the tenor and tone of the recent debates. The recent debate posturing by Newt Gingrich toward the lowest common denominator was appalling to watch. Gingrich is not a classic debater, but rather fancies himself as a flame thrower and appears happy to flaunt traditional rules of order. When in a forum such as the recent broadcasts (and they are not true debates with real give and take or being held to responsible answers to questions), there has been a disregard for facts. Candidates are not called on their errors or misstatements. The partisan cheering -- usually discouraged in debates -- has been another disruptive force at these events. At times the events had the feel of an arena contest, rather than that of an exploration of positions or ideas.

Recently the Republicans have accused the Democrats of classism when pushing for a millionaires tax or when supporting aspects of the Occupy Wall Street groups. Where was the Party establishment when the former Speaker talked about putting poor children to work cleaning school bathrooms, or when he erroneously accused President Obama of being the Food Stamp President? Where were they when he used race baiting and made false statements repeatedly?

Gingrich used an opening question asking about his affair during his second marriage, as an opportunity to attack the questioner specifically and the "Liberal media" in general. (For those who might not have heard, Gingrich left his first wife when she was fighting breast cancer, had an affair during his second marriage and left his wife who has MS -- while he was working on the Clinton impeachment -- and is now married to his former mistress, Callista.) Apparently these issues were too much for some of the religious conservatives who met in Texas recently and endorsed Rick Santorum, referring to Gingrich as a serial adulterer. He also asked for and received an annulment of his 18 year second marriage under Catholic Church rules so he could marry Callista in the church. I cannot see how any woman could vote for a man with such abhorrent behavior.

Each of the four candidates made speeches after the polls closed. Gingrich won with about 40% of the vote, beating his closest rival, Mitt Romney, by 12 points. Rick Santorum followed with about 17%, trailed by Ron Paul with 13%. All four post-election speeches were unremarkable, mundane and played to their audiences. All except Romney were rambling and poorly focused. Romney used a teleprompter, so although he rambled less, he was uninspiring -- at least to my ears. Although heard by national audiences and used at times to bash President Obama, there was little dialogue to inspire or uplift those who listened.

Gingrich's comments were given before a raucous audience which interrupted him frequently. Where were the words of hope and change such as we heard in the last campaign? So now all campaigns move on to Florida, a much bigger and more economically and ethnically diverse state. After all of their bashing of Government programs, they are now moving to a state with large populations greatly involved with Medicare, Social Security and Medicaid. Reality may intrude on the candidates' rhetoric. I wonder where all of the overheated bashing of the Affordable Care Act (aka "Obamacare" in Republican-speak) will go when speaking to the Florida retirees who have seen their drug costs decrease in the disappearing Part D donut hole and who could get Medicare physical exam coverage? Will the anti-Dream Act discussion disappear when facing the Florida immigrant communities? And just which verbal pretzels will occur when any of these guys appear before parents whose children now qualify for health care coverage as young adults? Will we continue to get more divisive and demagogic speech, sparing the electorate any discussion of real issues?

So, will you, like me, follow the campaigns on to Florida? What are your expectations for the upcoming debates? Do you think the tone will improve or get worse? How will the President's "State of the Union" address on Tuesday evening influence the dialogues? What do you think the speech will have as it's main focus? I will have another blog after the SOTU -- and would love to hear from you.

1 comment:

  1. You really cover a broad range of issues here! Yes, we have the best government money can buy, and no, they're not debates in any sense. I try to imagine myself as an evangelical (or any other religious category) and cannot see how I could support Gingrich. Fox, of all organizations (I hope I'm remembering this correctly), published a poll showing Gingrich the most disliked political figure in the country. And today's Post A4 says the Tea Party's "anti-establishment fervor" might be responsible for Gingrich's win in South Carolina. Go figure, he's the most DC-establishment candidate in the race; how could anyone see him otherwise?

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