Political prognosticators, including some conservative ones, declare that a candidate as radical in his views as Governor Rick Perry cannot defeat President Obama—even in the midst of a recession—because the swaggering Texan will alienate moderate swing voters. But history shows voters who have abandoned an incumbent are not easily won back simply by sowing fear of the opponent, however extreme that opponent’s ideology may be.
A good example came in 1980. Then, like now, the economy was in bad shape: instead of today’s Great Recession, it was 14 percent inflation at the beginning of the year followed by a sharp (though short) recession that summer. Then, like now, a seemingly endless confrontation in the Middle East was straining the public’s patience: instead of Afghanistan, it was the Iranian hostage crisis. President Jimmy Carter’s competence and leadership ability were questioned then just as President Obama’s are now.
Enter Ronald Reagan. With his name now adorning airports and government buildings (part of an official “naming project” of the Right, intended to weave the Gipper’s memory and ideology into our collective unconscious), it may be hard to remember what an extreme and polarizing figure he was considered when the 1980 presidential campaign began.
Admittedly, I was firmly ensconced in the East Coast liberal elite world, but it’s still worthy of note that the principal of my school—a sober, level-headed fellow—declared he would move to Canada if Reagan was elected. (I don’t think he followed through on his threat.)
Why the fear and loathing of Reagan? Well, he casually discussed the possibility of nuclear war, claimed air pollution came from fallen trees, and espoused a “blame the poor” social policy not heard from a serious political leader since the 19th Century.
And yet, the economy was in bad shape, America seemed trapped overseas and Jimmy Carter was unpopular. Reagan, the former actor and television pitchman, was able to reassure the nervous middle with some prime time commercials. And when Carter in a debate tried to stoke the fear again, Reagan permanently doused it with his now-famous line: “There you go again.”
The lesson is that Obama supporters should not assume an extreme Republican candidate like Perry can’t beat their man. When the nation is in turmoil as it is now, sometimes the only attribute the electorate is looking for in a challenger is that he not be the incumbent.
Some of the religious-minded saw a political message from God in the earthquake, hurricane and flood that hit Washington in quick succession this summer. Recent FEC filings, however, reveal it wasn’t the Almighty behind the string of meteorological disasters, but a force perhaps even stronger: a super PAC—specifically, the Get Our Dominance (GOD) Super PAC. (Thanks to recent Supreme Court rulings, and much to the consternation of campaign reformers, Super PAC’s can raise and spend unlimited amounts of political money with little or no oversight or disclosure.)
We sat down with the director of GOD Super PAC to find out more about the organization’s goals.
US: What does GOD Super PAC hope to accomplish?
GODSP: We want the American public to know how angry God is with the mess in Washington.
US: He told you so?
GODSP: No, that’s the one thing we can’t do as a Super PAC: coordinate with the candidate. But we have faith that we’re accurately representing His views.
US: Wait a minute: “candidate”? Is God running for something?
GODSP: Most observers agree there’s still plenty of room in a largely unsettled GOP presidential field. If there’s time for Chris Christy to get in the race, there’s time for God. Remember, He’d be starting with excellent name recognition and very high favorables.
US: How do the earthquake, hurricane and flood come in?
GODSP: We’re softening up the political class and media for the ultimate campaign launch. Of course, they’re mostly atheists, so we had to go all Old Testament to get their attention.
US: But how did GOD Super PAC cause all these natural disasters?
GODSP: I’m afraid that’s proprietary information we’re not required to disclose.
US: How much does an earthquake cost, anyway?
GODSP: I don’t have to tell you. But believe me, it ain’t cheap.
US: So where’d you get the money?
GODSP: Wouldn’t you like to know? But check the wording on the door you just came through: “Super PAC,” my friend. Don’t have to say.
US: Many might think it’s impossible for a PAC—even a Super PAC—to cause catastrophes on that scale with no Heavenly assistance.
GODSP: I didn’t say there was no assistance, I said there was no coordination. If we just happened to come up with the same idea as God and pursue it along parallel lines towards a common goal—well, that’s not against the rules, that’s just good luck.
US: But are you sure God’s running for president?
GODSP: God knows. But that’s what we’re praying for.
|Former governors Tim Pawlenty and Mitt Romney have both been thrown on the defensive in their bids for the 2012 Republican presidential nomination by progress they achieved in their home states: Pawlenty effectively tackled climate change in Minnesota, and Romney dramatically expanded health-care coverage in Massachusetts. But opposition research has turned up troubling success stories lurking the in the past of other GOP hopefuls.
Rick Santorum today sheepishly admitted to helping seal an historic arms control treaty with Russia while serving in the U.S. Senate. Under the terms of the breakthrough deal, the Russians disabled 2,000 long- and intermediate-range missiles aimed at the U.S. and Western Europe; in return, the Americans thanked them with unfeigned enthusiasm. Santorum pleaded “an inside-the-beltway culture of rationally-determined success” for drawing him into the “insidious process” of making the world a safer place.
Entrepreneur Herman Cain angrily denied over the weekend that he had once saved two teenage employees from frozen suffocation by freeing them from the walk-in freezer at one of his pizzerias. The story circulating in the blogosphere had Cain conducting an impromptu late-night inspection of his restaurant in suburban Cleveland when he heard muffled voices emanating from the time-locked compartment. Unable to disable the timing device, he pried the air-lock door open with his bare hands, then performed life-saving resuscitation on the nearly comatose employees. “This story implies that workers have some government-granted right not to freeze to death in restaurant meat lockers,” Cain told a supportive crowd at a local fundraiser. “That’s not the America I want to live in,” he concluded to thunderous applause.
A spokesperson for Congressman Ron Paul, in response to a controversy that seemed unlikely to abate, today acknowledged that his boss had at one time in his life ascribed the source of a problem to some force or entity besides the Federal Reserve System. “When Dr. Paul was a very young man, a friend complained of wet socks on rainy days,” the tight-lipped spokesperson read from a prepared statement to a jostling crowd of reporters. “Dr. Paul said, without thinking, quote, maybe you have a hole in your shoe, unquote. Now, of course, after a lifetime study of free-market economics, Dr. Paul realizes that wet socks are caused by the inflationary policies of central banks. We will not be taking questions.”
|Hoping to regain some of the spotlight stolen by Sarah Palin’s secret bus tour--she refuses to tell reporters exactly where she’s going on her “One Nation” tour of the Northeast this week--other GOP presidential hopefuls have commenced their own mysterious travels.
Former Minnesota governor Tim Pawlenty today launched a “One Transfer” public transportation tour of downtown Minneapolis, planning to hop from one city bus to another in a random pattern sure to leave even seasoned transit reporters scratching their heads.
Mitt Romney plans to rely on his personal wealth to criss-cross the country on a series of private jet rides, in the process buzzing beloved national sites like the Grand Canyon and the Alamo. He threatens to instruct his pilots to “engage and destroy” any media aircraft that fly too close in pursuit.
Herman Cain will be touring Godfather Pizza franchises all week. His campaign claims his goal is not to confuse the media as to his whereabouts, but no member of the working press could be found that knows the location of a Godfather’s Pizza.
Former ambassador to China Jon Huntsman will make history with an American political barnstorming tour conducted entirely on the territory of a foreign nation. Huntsman, who is fluent in Chinese, invited reporters to follow him through the teeming streets of China’s booming cities, but warned them he’d maintain a strenuous pace and frequently backtrack through alleys and private gardens.
Rick Santorum, the conservative former Pennyslvania senator, will continue his stumping through Iowa and New Hampshire, but said he’d be playing late-night hide-and-go-seek at his overnight motel accommodations. He challenged reporters to find him among the lightly-used exercise equipment in the fitness room or between the drink and candy machines just off the lobby.