GOP strategy: Send in clowns

Published 9:35 am Friday, December 9, 2011

Not since the Republicans nominated Barry Goldwater in 1964 has the GOP flirted with candidates with less chance to win a general election.

In 1964 Republicans were aware that Goldwater was not popular with a majority of Americans and his political views were too far to the Right to win a national election. Yet they nominated him and headed face first into the election of ‘64, ultimately losing 44 states in an election that was never even close.

This year the Republican debates have been highly entertaining, not for their rich political content, but for their never-ending misstatements and inaccuracies, as well as for the rather questionable responses from the audiences.

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Not much needs to be said about Michele Bachmann, Herman Cain or Rick Santorum…their words have been more eloquent in justifying their dismissal as serious contenders than as qualifying them for the highest office in the land.

In contrast, Ron Paul has been clear and direct, though his views are far from mainstream America. Paul is unelectable, not because he is a clown, but because he sees through a very different prism the future of the country.

Mitt Romney has been virtually mistake free, but even that has allowed him to be seen as disengaged and uninvolved in his own candidacy. Until this week Romney has been all but invisible on political TV forums and talk radio.

And when Romney is speaking he seems unable to be convincing on any topic. Romney says he is a political outsider, yet he ran for the US Senate and lost, served as a Governor for four years, and ran for the presidency twice. An outsider? Hardly.

Romney cannot overcome the reality that his political positions have tapped the full spectrum of ideas, with no sense that any of those positions are part of his true foundation. He was for universal health care before he was against it; for abortion before he was against it; for TARP before against it; against privatizing Social Security before he was for it; and for gun control before he was against it.

Worst of all, Republicans seem not to like Romney, much like they did not like Goldwater in 1964.

The other leading contender (this week at least), Newt Gingrich, brings his own oversized baggage with him.

Newt’s spotty personal background includes three marriages, a congressional ethics rebuke, and a long list of personal enrichment selling his influence to those who needed an “I am not a lobbyist” historian.

Those commitments include earning about $1.6 million working for Freddie Mac.

But for Newt the most serious problem is that he is not a conservative, as noted this week in George Will’s column. Newt has been in favor of a health insurance mandate, even calling the Paul Ryan budget “right-wing social engineering.”

Newt has been in favor of Cap and Trade, recognized the human implications of global warming, advocated criminal court for terrorists, and acknowledged the need for some form of amnesty for illegal immigrants.

It appears the Tea Party influence in the Republican Party has kept some qualified candidates from considering a run, caused the proclaimed candidates to take radical positions that are politically indefensible in a general election, and alienated the core Republicans from their candidates.

All of this seems to indicate that the vulnerable president, Barack Obama, may find renewed opportunity from both the self-destroying republican primary campaigns and the potential to nominate another generations’ Barry Goldwater.

Stephen Sondheim once explained the phrase “send in the clowns” to mean “send in the fools”, meaning the characters were the fools, when events spun to the absurd.

It seems Republicans have already sent in the clowns.


Jim Crawford is retired educator and political enthusiast living here in the Tri-State.