Wednesday, February 22, 2012

Romney in '72

Sorry for the lack of updates - I've been distracted with buying a house, a subject I'm going to have lots to say on in the near future. Tonight's post is pure politics, though, so feel free to skip it if you want.

Fear and Loathing: On the Campaign Trail '72 by Hunter S. Thompson is one of the best books on politics I've ever read. Thompson follows George McGovern around during his presidential campaign, almost from start to finish, and charts the whole thing in his own inimitable style.

What's really interesting, though, is how often the stuff that happened in '72 in the Democratic primaries seems to apply to what's happening right now in the Republican primaries. The following quotes are all to do with Ed Muskie, the "only man who could beat Nixon". For fun, I've substituted Mitt Romney's name for Muskie's (along with a few other subs: Republican for Democrat, Obama for Nixon, that sort of thing). Take a gander and see if any of these strike a chord:

"Romney is already finished," he said then. "He has no base. Nobody's really for Romney. They're only for the Front-Runner, the man who says he's the only one who can beat Obama - but not even Romney himself believes that anymore; he couldn't even win a majority of the Republican vote in New Hampshire, on his own turf."

One of Romney's main problems, thus far, has been that not even his own hired staff people really like him. The older ones try to explain this problem away by saying, "Mitt's under a lot of pressure these days, but he's really a fine guy, underneath."

The younger staff members have apparently never had much contact with "the real Romney." With very few exceptions, they justify their strained allegiance to the man by saying, "I wouldn't be working for him except that he's the only Republican who can beat Obama."

As late as February 15th, Mitt Romney was generally conceded - even by his political opponents - to be within an eyelash or two of having the Republican nomination so skillfully locked up that the primaries wouldn't even be necessary. He had the public endorsements of almost every Big Name in the party, including some who said they were only backing him because he was so far ahead that nobody else had a chance... which was just as well, they said, because it is very important to get the Party machinery into high gear, early on, behind a consensus candidate. And Mitt Romney, they all agreed, was the only Republican who could beat Obama in November.

The word went out early, long before Christmas, and by January it had already filtered down to low-level fringe groups... who were suddenly faced with the choice of either "getting your people behind Romney" or "crippling the party with another one of those goddamn protest movements that'll end up like all the others and not accomplish anything except to guarantee Obama's re-election."

Only a lunatic would do this kind of work: twenty-three primaries in five months; stone drunk from dawn till dusk and huge speed-blisters all over my head. Where is the meaning? The light at the end of the tunnel?

That last one has nothing to do with Muskie or Romney, but I do sympathize with Thompson's despair.


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