I had assumed that the Star Wars bar of Republican wannabes would have winnowed down by now to exclude Newt. Instead, the cast of characters from the paleoreactionary wing of U.S. politics proves that you could walk into any bar in Brooklyn and find 7 drunks more qualified to run the country. I mean no disrespect to my favorite borough’s barflies.
Michele Bachmann is clearly a woman who, in my mom’s words, can’t find her ass with both hands. Perry is a mass murderer on Percocet — or whatever other back pain meds he’s on that renders his Bush Jr. retread routine dopier than the original. Mitt’s an unrepentant 1%er with the temerity to actually commission a $12 million tear-down on his La Jolla beach house while running for president in a depression. Santorum’s homophobia is so repellent to millions that his last name is best associated with sexual fecal matter. Ron Paul actually says out loud what the rest believe: we should all have the freedom to be homeless, uneducated and drop dead without health care. And Huntsman is a political dust mite on a flea’s ass.
Then there’s Newt. His abilities were best summarized by Princeton economist and New York Times columnist Paul Krugman in a definitive journalistic smackdown: Newt is “a stupid man’s idea of what a smart man sounds like.”
Nonetheless, the cultural Lilliputians and economic dingbats of our era have canvassed their ranks and offered up the crème de la crème of their ilk: Newt.
Lest we forget — and for those of you too young to know — Newt’s last foray into national politics in 1994, when he swept into Congress as the head of the “Republican revolution,” didn’t go so well. Here’s a snippet from an excellent piece by Alan Maass on “The rise and fall of Newt Gingrich”:
Gingrich claimed that the election results represented a “political sea change”–and a mandate for the Republican right. He vowed to pass the Contract with America–a 10-point program of right-wing proposals that included tax cuts for the rich, welfare “reform,” harsh restrictions on government spending and various other items that had been on the Republican wish list for years–within the first 100 days of their reign.
The mainstream media hung on every word from the Gingrichites and produced countless stories familiar to us today–about how the Republicans would be free to do whatever they wanted in Washington for years to come.
It didn’t turn out that way. Not a single bill from the Contract with America became law. The popularity of the Republicans steadily faded. And Newt Gingich, the leader of the “revolution,” became the most hated man in American politics.
Lately, coworkers and family ask me if there’s any chance Newt could trump Obama in the 2012 election. Just to be clear, I don’t believe we should vote for anyone or party that expands wars, including the one against the 99%, which both Democrats and Republicans have done with vigor. We should protest, petition, #occupy, mic check, picket, sit in and organize till our dying breath, but I do not believe that the 99% have a dog in this race.
That said, barring a politically cataclysmic development, I believe the odds of Newt (or any other Republican) winning are bad. Not because he’s a moron, that’s never disqualified anyone for public office in this country (See: Ronald Reagan, Bush Sr. and Jr.) And not because Obama will inspire anything like the movement feel of Election 2008, when tens of thousands took off work and school to actively campaign for a man they truly believed in.
No, Obama has squandered that option for 2012. People may trudge to the polls out of fear of the barbarians at the gates — though many will join me in abstaining, I suspect — but nobody is projecting anything like a repeat of 2008.
My belief is primarily based on the political and economic facts of our Not-So-Great Depression. As the economy worsens and Europe’s debt crisis reverberates back on the homefront, even steeper austerity measures will be called for by the 1%. What could possibly compel the ruling class in this nation to dump their financial and political support for an imperial and political leader who’s proven his worth to them?
Obama’s bailed out the banks, pushed through a health care plan that leaves private insurance intact, allowed industry to remain unregulated, expanded occupations and wars under the pretext of ending them (including the one on immigrants, with record deportations) — all while making it seem, at times, as if he is actually doing something for ordinary working-class people.
Add to that the explosion of the Occupy movement, which is now taking over foreclosed homes, shutting down ports and mobilizing workers, unemployed and students to fight cuts and it seems that the 1% need Obama today even more than they did in 2008, when Wall Street was among his biggest backers. They don’t even mind Obama’s few rhetorical snipes at the 1%, since it keeps the charade in play:
One top banking executive who raises money for Obama, discussing fundraising efforts on the condition of anonymity, said reports of disaffection with the president “are exaggerated and overblown.” He said a strong contingent of financiers in New York, Chicago and California remains supportive of Obama and his economic policies, even as some have turned on him.
But, this donor added, “it probably helps from a political perspective if he’s not seen as a Wall Street guy.”
It turns out that even the private-equity firm co-founded by Mitt Romney has donated more to Obama’s campaign than to their old boss’s. Bain Capital’s employees have so far given $34,000 to their old CEO, but as of September Obama’s taken in $76,600 of Bain’s beneficence, according to the Washington Post. Meanwhile, Obama’s fundraising appeals to the rich, which consume at least 12% of his time one year out from the election, are garnering him a fair amount of ready cash, as Tom Englehardt details in his report, “The 1% election.”
The sideshow taking place among Republicans is not at all where progressives’ attention should lie. No, we have real fights to wage and lessons from this extraordinary year to assimilate.
See you at the occupations, and bring a book, this may take a while.
Join me and other authors at our publisher’s 10th anniversary bash in Washington, D.C., this Saturday, Dec. 17, Busboys and Poets, 7:30PM. Haymarket Books — weapons for the 99%, details here.