It isn’t that I don’t understand why Republicans or Tea Partiers might want a smaller government, lower taxes, more aggressive foreign policy, etc. I don’t agree with these ideologies, but I can sort of see where they come from.
No, my problem with this primary can be encapsulated in two mantras or principles that voters and their candidates keep falling back on. The first is the slogan, “anyone but Obama.” The other is the notion that the president needs to be “a regular guy” and not a “snob.”
“Anyone but Obama” (or “ABO”) is actually a pretty popular Tea Party slogan. It is shouted at rallies, painted on signs, posted on websites and invoked in interviews by thousands of people who so disapprove of President Obama that they believe that anyone else would do a better job in his place. Here is why I think this slogan is stupid:
1. If this slogan were literally true, then I feel like I could easily reach a compromise with the people who articulate it. President Hillary Rodham Clinton, anyone? A quick internet search will verify that she is not Barack Obama.
Perhaps this is a tad unfair. Clearly, this criterion does not apply to anyone like Obama, or to the left of him. So, “Anyone but Obama” should be understood, “Anyone but Obama, or anyone like him.”
2. What does Obama stand for, then? Is Obama really that bad? Could anyone actually do his job better than he does it?
Just a guess, but no one who backs up his or her distaste for Obama with reasons would commit to accepting just anyone other than the President. Could you do a better job? Take your time answering that. Even if you and the President are separated by deep ideological differences and you think you are right and he is wrong, it does not logically follow that you would be a better president.
Furthermore, it isn’t clear that these morons even disagree with Obama as much as they think they do. I am personally blown away by the misconceptions that dominate many criticisms of Obama. Forget the Tea Partiers.
The remaining mainstream Republican candidates have people believing Obama to be a Marxist, a socialist or even a Marxist and a socialist. Rick Santorum thinks Obama wants everyone to go to college.
The most damaging misconception about him of them all is the notion that he has raised taxes, tripled the yearly budget deficit since he took office and dramatically increased the national debt. He probably longs for the days when people just thought he was a Muslim or a Kenyan citizen.
The thing is, Obama is nothing like this at all. On the contrary, he is closer to being the perfect Republican candidate than he is to being a tax-raising, elitist, Marxist, socialist foreigner (necessarily so). You’d think the real Obama would pass the “Anyone but Obama” criterion.
That’s what has been really scary about this campaign. The truth hasn’t mattered at all. Republican voters, or at least the ones who are dictating the pace and direction of this primary, will sooner vote for someone who tells them what they want to hear than what they need to hear. And these voters trust candidates whose views on the economy and healthcare are reductive, if they are coherent or even extant. This election has shown that voters are drawn to plans that are simple, bold and easy to understand. Anyone could come up with most of them.
I think simplicity is a great reason to suspect a plan is going to fail. The candidates and policy-makers we choose are being chosen to deal with harder-than-average problems. Average people don’t know the first thing about the economy, health care or foreign policy. So, candidates and policymakers ought to be above average, right?
I think it’s safe to say that anyone who denies this lacks knowledge and respect for these issues. And to lack respect for the well-being of America’s economy, health care and foreign policy is to lack respect for this country and its inhabitants. And yet this Republican primary has been a contest to demonstrate proficiency in this for four months and counting.
It really doesn’t help that Super Tuesday falls during midterms week.