It could be that in my doddering years, my mind demands the simplicity of a Pier Six brawl in order to maintain its interest in anything. With my White Sox tanking in the standings, I have lost all interest in watching baseball on TV - except when a good old fashioned bench clearing brouhaha erupts at which point I rouse myself from somnolence to cast a still jaundiced eye at the action.
Truth is, I’m bored. And if you’ve been following the race for the presidential nomination in both parties, I’ll bet you a dollar to navy beans that you’re bored too.
Has there ever been such a ponderously dry, stodgy, stuffy, tiresome group of candidates ever assembled? They don’t even make good stand up comedy material. How many jokes can you tell about John Edward’s hair? How many variations of Hillary the Harridan can be photoshopped? How many pictures of an empty suit can you show representing Obama?
The Republicans aren’t any better. Mitt Romney – the Stepford Candidate. The guy is so automatically smooth we should probably cut him open to see if he bleeds or blinks on and off.
And what about John McCain? I’ve seen trees with more animation. “Wooden” doesn’t begin to describe his personality much less his oratorical style.
Rudy is feistier but hardly what I’d call mesmerizing. The guy has been married three times for God’s sake. If his wives don’t find him very interesting, why should I?
And Fred? Thompson is like dark matter – we know he exists but we’re not quite sure what he’s made of. But those of you pining for a reincarnation of Ronald Reagan will almost surely be disappointed. Fred will make “stolid” a new Republican virtue, hopefully replacing “out of control avarice” as a the impression people have of the party.
Again, it’s probably just a product of my creeping senility that has me so down on all the candidates. Memories of exciting, vital campaigns from the past with roaring crowds and candidates speaking with passion on the significant issues of the day seem to overwhelm the ghostly images of today’s lackluster crew flitting across the TV screen participating in canned appearances before canned audiences. About the only excitement generated this entire campaign season so far has been to wonder if Hillary is going to get booed by the rabid base of her own party. Secret Service protection precludes pie throwing incidents so we will have to forgo the pleasure of seeing Hillary (or more likely some Republican) with Butterscotch Cream all over their carefully, cosmetically enhanced faces.
There have been few sparks generated in the debates – except the ones that lit Ron Paul on fire and sent his campaign up in smoke. Why should there be any fireworks? The two parties have become as orthodox and predictable as a Michael Moore fakeumentary. And the reason for that is the base of each party holds the whip hand in determining who will stand at the podium at the convention accepting the nomination. next summer.
The fact that those most committed to the party and to a particular candidate also tend to be on the fringes of American political thought, far removed from The Great Center, has all the candidates paying homage to one group’s agenda or another. And God forbid you end up offending one of the major interest groups in either party. Not passing one of a half dozen litmus tests will mean almost certain defeat in the primaries.
This situation is largely born of good intentions gone horribly bad. Back in the 1960’s, the Democrats began a series of reforms to bring “the people” into the nominating process. It was done to take the choice for President out of the hands of the party bosses and make the nominating process as open as possible. (The Republicans, God Bless ‘em, were always 4 years behind these reforms but felt they had little choice given the potent political weapon these reforms became when Democrats directed attacks against the GOP for having such a “closed” nominating process.)
The result of these reforms was entirely predictable. By 1972, the McGovern campaign had been well and truly hijacked by the far left. Viet Nam was the least of the candidate’s worries. He had radical feminists, Black Panthers, the Grey Panthers, the American Indian Movement (AIM), the nascent gay rights lobby, and a host of new left activists who had gone from campaign hangers on to maneuvering themselves into a position of influence in party circles. It was a disaster.
It took 20 years but activists were finally able to wrest control of the Republican party in 1992. The social conservatives had been an important cog in the GOP machine for two decades but it wasn’t until the “Buchanan Brigades” lost in the primaries but won the convention that the GOP careened as far to the right on many of their issues as the Democrats skewed to the left on theirs.
And here we are in 2008, reaping the whirlwind of reform, counter-reform, and an ever deepening sense of ennui on the part of the average voter who is sickened by the bickering, the sniping and carping that goes on between the two parties. Political combat is, by its nature, for keeps. The stakes are incredibly high and when both sides believe passionately, the rhetoric can get nasty – even personal. But unlike the past, there is a sickening sense of the debate getting beyond the point where compromise can be achieved – or even contemplated. I constantly get taken to task for partaking in this combat. I plead guilty.
But in the end, there are some on the left that I respect and can actually agree with on occasion. My bomb throwing is directed solely against the unreconstructed Stalinists, fantasists, conspiracists, and socialists whose policy prescriptions would make us less free, less wealthy, and place us under the heel of a nanny state government that would dictate every facet of our existence all in the name of acting in the best interests of “the people.”
Considering that many of these same knuckleheads gave us the “reforms” that have led us to our current political situation in nominating presidents, I don’t trust them as far as I can throw them.