The Seinfeld Candidate

An article in Politico today, ostensibly about Romney’s conspicuous lack of the “vision thing,” inadvertently revealed the Republican playbook dating back at least to Nixon.  Reagan flack Ken Khachigian put it pretty bluntly as he dismissed the whinings of dreamy idealists like Ken Blackwell and Mark McKinnon, who both thought Romney ought to try to, well, be something, other than just the anti-Obama (white) guy. (emphases mine):

“At the end of the day, this is a political campaign and you conduct it in such a way as to win the election and get in office so you can govern.” “There are a lot of things you can do in a political campaign that don’t help you at all, that are countervailing to your desire to get elected. Why would you do them?”

Well, why would you, indeed?  Especially if everything you plan to do is not only wildly unpopular, but repeatedly proven to be harmful to the vast majority of Americans, and only a relentless and extravagant propaganda campaign can hope to sell it to a bare majority of voters every two years, increasingly aided by voter supression.

All politicians prefer to campaign on gauzy themes rather than concrete proposals; “Restoring Our Future” is no more or less meaningless in content or intent that “Hope and Change,” but it also is the exact opposite of the truth, and Romney knows it. The actual platform of the Republican Party, which amounts to something more like “Fuck The Future,” is softened by the cleverly deceptive use of the word, “our.”  Somebody’s future is going to be restored, alright, but chances are that somebody also has a car elevator, and wasn’t in any impending danger to begin with.

It’s helpful that an old warhorse like Khachigian just went full Alan Simpson on the Politico reporter and said, basically, “We’re Republicans.  We lie.  Duh.”  But it is a little insulting that they don’t even think they have to try anymore, when all they want is to loot the treasury, trash the planet, start more wars, and demolish the vestigial remains of our once-proud social democracy.  This might be the most toxic effect of Citizens (!) United: as though our bumbling would-be overlords weren’t insufferably overconfident before, now they feel that they don’t even have to dream up any plausible programs at all; like it or lump it.  They paid for it and it’s theirs.

Ironically or not such open authoritarianism, though seldom aired to the broader public, is a feature, not a bug, to the right-wing base.  They want their leaders to deceive and win by any means possible; this was no more clear than during the Bush years, when pre-war refrains of, “they know more than we do” were quickly replaced by “yeah, but would you rather Saddam still be in there?”  If Romney were, heaven forbid, elected, the fact that he’s “the opposite,” as he put it, of Obama will be enough for them, even as their Social Security is gutted, their taxes raised, and their sons sent off to another oily quagmire.

Although any or all of those things might happen even if Romney loses, to my considerable chagrin, I know this because Obama’s campaigns have borne some relation to the truth, even when it’s unpleasant.  Liberals like myself had to swallow some bitter pills in 2008, like telecom immunity and “looking forward,” but once in office, the Obama administration has performed not too differently than advertised. After all, unlike Republicans, they must get votes from people who accept reality rather than shun it; thus a perceived record of failure is much more damaging.

Obama can try to run a campaign about nothing, and it may or may not work.  Romney can only run a campaign about nothing, and it just might work, too.





  1. Running a campaign based on nothing is the only thing that the current GOP base can do. If we add up the benefits that their platform provides to the average American citizen it always comes to a total of “Nothing.”

  2. dirigo says:

    And all of a sudden (like after thirty years of inexplicable party groveling toward someone WHO’S NEVER BEEN ELECTED TO ANYTHING – not even as a Massachusetts county sheriff or town witch hunter), Simpson is calling out some of his fellow travelers to confront anti-tax zealot Grover Norquist (Grover was born in the Bay State [Correction: raised] ). There is simply no there there, no matter where you look.

    Vote for a Greek (if you can find one).

  3. cocktailhag says:

    Funny, that. When Reagan took office, California had the best education system in the world. Now, not so much. But to bewigged Will, that’s the liberal’s fault. Hey, WaPoo, ya think you’re failing because of Y2K and el nino? Try unloading Will and using the money to hire a few dozen people who will actually work, and not make asses of themselves on a daily basis.

  4. Teddy says:

    Nixon chose Agnew as impeachment & assassination insurance.

    I’m sure Mitt could include Trump on the ticket for just those reasons.