The economy is in a mess, and – in spite of the Obama administration’s pathetic attempts to conjure a "recovery" out of thin air — looks like it is tanking. The European banks are on the verge of a meltdown, and the jobless rate in this country is much higher than anyone in officialdom is willing to acknowledge (although ordinary people know the truth). What’s more, America’s position abroad is none too good: after being driven out of Iraq, which is falling into the Iranian orbit, we’re well on our way to losing the war in Afghanistan, and the whole region is in turmoil. Israel is threatening to start World War III with an attack on Tehran, an act that would drive the world economy over a cliff. Would you want to be President when the price of oil is over $200 a barrel?
Which brings us to the question that has been hovering around the edge of my consciousness ever since the Republican primary battle commenced: is the GOP deliberately throwing the 2012 presidential election?
Yes, I know the Republicans hate Obama and all he stands for, and I certainly have heard them inveigh against the President in ways that would formerly have been considered off the reservation not too long ago. For example, trying to delegitimize a sitting President by questioning his US citizenship, and/or implying he’s a "secret Muslim" – I mean, really! Surely that’s over the top, to put it mildly. And yet …
And yet I am a firm believer in action over words: and if we look at what the Republicans are doing (or, rather, not doing), as opposed to what they are saying, it’s enough to arouse a certain suspicion that something just isn’t right.
On the one hand, the GOP is telling us Obama is leading us down the road to "socialism," that he’s "appeasing" our enemies and stiffing our friends, and that he’s basically destroying the country. On the other hand, they haven’t put forth a candidate who has a chance in heck of beating him. The leading candidate for the party’s nomination is a caricature of everything voters are sick and tired of: he’s a phony, a spoiled rich guy, an automaton whose words and actions convey, above all, an almost comical impression of inauthenticity.
Furthermore, aside from these personal failings, Mitt Romney’s campaign is uniquely suited to collapse before a well-financed and relentless assault from the President and his supporters. While the Republicans rail against Obamacare as a step toward "socialism," Romney is himself on record as having supported the very same "individual mandate" so abhorred by the GOP. As the former governor of a very liberal state, Romney wouldn’t have lasted long as a "severe conservative" – unless such "severity" now means issuing a proclamation of "Gay Youth Pride Day" and supporting tax-funded abortion on demand.
When it comes to foreign policy, what is striking are the similarities rather than the much-touted differences between the two: in spite of Romney’s rather unconvincing sallies at the President over Obama’s supposed "weakness," when it comes to specifics it’s hard to see where Romneyism ends and Obamaism begins.
Both want us to stay in Afghanistan as long as the military chieftains insist: both see the US as gate-keeper and guardian of "world order," and – on the pressing issue of the day — both continue to maintain Iran is developing nuclear weapons in spite of what our own intelligence is telling us. Going right on down the line, on specific foreign policy issues the ‘difference" between them is chiefly rhetorical. Romney and Obama have repeatedly voiced their unconditional support for Israel, in spite of the fact that the real interests of the US in the region are ill-served by such an unreasonable pledge. Even when Romney lashes out at Obama for his "weakness" before "our number one geopolitical foe" – hapless, declining Russia – it turns out his actual position is practically identical to the President’s: both want to use the threat of installing a missile shield over Eastern Europe to blackmail the Kremlin into joining the effort to isolate Iran and otherwise kowtowing to Washington.
In short, there isn’t a dime’s worth of difference between the two when it comes to the vitally important issue of America’s role in the world – which isn’t all that shocking, come to think of it. After all, "politics stops at the water’s edge," as a long-dead interventionist Senator (and badly-compromised turncoat) once put it, and that rule is strictly observed in Washington, where the bipartisan interventionist consensus brooks no dissent.
Romney isn’t so much a serious candidate for the presidency as he is a national joke: his record as a "flip-flopper," his inability to project anything remotely resembling sincerity, and his Richie Rich persona have all combined to turn him into a human piñata for both liberals and conservatives to pick apart. Which leads us back to the question I asked at the beginning: is the GOP deliberately throwing this election?
It makes sense if we take the economic critique proffered by anti-inflationists like Ron Paul and Gerald Celente seriously: would you want to be President if we’re on the brink of another Great Depression? As the American dollar is destroyed, and the buying power of the average American is about to become the equivalent of a consumer in, say, Zimbabwe, is it really in the GOP’s interest to take the White House this year?
In spite of Romney’s rhapsodizing over the joys of yet another "American century" on the way if he wins the White House, I suspect the judgment of the Republican Establishment deviates quite a bit from this rosy scenario. They know that, whatever the outcome of this election, the country faces what the Israelis call an "existential crisis," albeit not one embodied by the specter of non-existent Iranian nukes. And while the cause of the crisis is economic, the consequences will be felt in virtually every sphere, including the foreign policy realm. With a much-reduced ability to project military power overseas, the US will be caught in a conundrum: how to reconcile our image as a "great power" – indeed, the world’s last remaining "superpower" – with the gritty reality of a nation going into foreclosure.
Ron Paul isn’t the only one conjuring visions of America as Greece-times-ten, and it doesn’t take much imagination to see how the march to austerity will be met here in this country, where Americans’ sense of entitlement is almost as well-developed as their taste for vulgarity. What happens when the bread-and-circuses stop, and Americans are forced to confront the grim reality of being broke?
Back in the winter of 2008, when the economy was taking a major nose-dive and the too-big-to-fail crowd was threatening a financial version of the Samson Option, top US officials were quietly discussing the prospect of rationing food and fuel, and making plans to call out the military to keep order. Although President Bush was still officially in office, Obama was waiting in the wings, preparing to take the reins – and one imagines the defeated GOP didn’t envy him. Quite the contrary: and I doubt they ever want to be in the position Obama found himself in, which is why I believe it is quite possible that the Republican leadership – by which I mean the Republicans’ big money backers – have decided to throw the election this time around.
The strategic thinking behind this can be summed up in three words: After them – us! That was the slogan of Germany’s Communist party in the 1930s after the fateful election which brought the National Socialists to power. The Communists, having rejected an alliance with the German Social Democrats on orders from Moscow, were convinced they would be catapulted into power as a result of the backlash from Hitler’s victory at the polls – a strategic calculation that had "backfire" written all over it, as Trotsky pointed out at the time.
Before taking that historical note too far, however, I have to admit the idea of the Republican high mucka-mucks getting together and deciding it would be better for them to throw the election to Obama by putting up a loser like Romney does seem a bit far-fetched. Perhaps they’ve convinced themselves, on one level, that Romney can actually win, while – on quite another level – they don’t believe it for a minute. People usually have no trouble holding mutually exclusive beliefs in other areas, and politics is certainly no exception.
In your heart, you know he’s a loser – now there’s a campaign slogan tailor-made for the politics of Bizarro World. Which is all the more reason to believe there’s some truth to it.
If voters are in the mood to punish the Democrats somehow, and if they can’t in good conscience do it on the presidential level, then isn’t it more likely they’ll take it out on the rest of the ticket? If Republicans can retain control of the House, that may be enough to keep them from regretting their loss at the top of the ticket. Another wave of victories on the state and local level will perhaps be enough to satiate them, at least for the moment, until they get another crack at the White House. Then they can sit back and blame the President for everything, as the crisis unfolds, while cat-calling from the sidelines: a perfect set-up for career politicians who have no principles, no sense of duty to the country, and no compunctions about defrauding their supporters. With Congress in their hot little hands, they can obstruct the President’s domestic agenda and heckle him into getting more aggressive on the overseas front – a perfect vantage point from which to observe the rapidly accelerating decline of the American empire.