David Weigel, Liveblogging Tuesday's debate October 18
OKAY, I really just wanted to riff on Kornacki's title, not his analysis, and as for Weigel's latest exercise in excusing every Republican excess by seeming to poke it some--the man is Mitch Daniels with a sense of humor and slightly better hair--let's just get it over with:
9:26: An actual Bachmann quote: "He put us in Libya. He is now putting us in Africa." Remember that month when people took her candidacy semi-seriously? I'm really sorry about that.People? Semi-seriously? You wondered, Mr. Weigel, "how anyone could have underrated Michele Bachmann". Sure, in your defense, you were four months younger then. But you did so, sir--along with, yes, any number of the other cool kids "wowed" that her first debate performance included whole sentences and no outbreaks of glossolalia or spaz dancing--largely because to you the most important political story in this or any other season is "Stupid Liberals Think They're So Smart". It's not going to get you your lunch money back. You can go on excusing yourself with a comic burp and a readjustment of the rear-view mirror every time this happens, but you're thirty years old. At the present rate you'll be Jonah Goldberg in five years. With, perhaps, a byline at the Times of New York, or La Ciudad de Nuestra Señora la Reina de los Ángeles, if there still are such things. As cities, I mean, let alone newspapers. But it won't bring that lunch money back.
Youth is fleeting! Turning this shit around while simultaneously trying to cover a bald spot is practically impossible. Do it now, before you and Ezra Klein are sitting in a Green Room somewhere swapping colonoscopy stories.
This is not the best Journalism can do, nor does, praise the Lord, but I see no reason to ask whether Herman Cain, Mitt Romney, Tex Bumpkin, and Santoro-Bachmann is the best Republicans can do. Incompetent, disingenuous, hypocritical, wrapped in showoff nationalism, ill-informed--proudly ill-informed--pandering to Wealth and the Antebellum wetdreams of the base, and, ultimately, all Noise and no Result; what th' hell is more Republican than that?
We have already answered the question of whether Republicans can do any better this time around; the list of saviors, from "Bobby" Jindal to Chris Christie, might just as well all pile in Mitch Daniels' RV and go on one big No Sale book tour.
The desire for "better" Republican candidates is nothing if not understandable, but it resembles the sort of thought process which gave the Ancients tales of mythological beings composed of ten different animals, or, for that matter, which gives the modern Republican party its economic program. The ability to dream something up doesn't make it possible, except maybe to the native Hopi speaker. The idea of the suave, Reaganesque pitchman convincing America of the correctness of the wingnut agenda was a Republican fiction at the time; Republicans rode a wave of economic trouble (largely created by Vietnam, Vietnam-created shortages, speculation fueled by Vietnam-created shortages, and the two oil embargoes, the result of policies then and now championed by the Right, and blamed on Jimmy Carter) and resentment over cultural change (civil rights, women's rights, the refusal to support immoral wars, the invention of Sex) to a Lesser of Two Evils victory in 1980, and a subsequent fortuitously-timed economic upswing to a landslide in 1984. Reagan's popularity--I'm not denigrating it--was heavily PR-managed, and eagerly dispensed by a Librul Media anxious to shake that tag and gain its employers anti-trust exemptions in the nascent age of cable. Ronald Reagan did not convince Americans to become raging anti-fluoridationists. He cemented the trend, begun by his boy Barry Goldwater, of its wingnuts becoming more, and more desperately, nutty. Reagan's electoral successes gave hope to his party's ideologues. The ideology itself remains hopeless.
That pathetic class of "presidential" "contenders" now on display is the result, not of Reagan nor anyone else talking America into "conservatism"; if it were the last thirty years of results, or "results", would have convinced them back out again. They're the product, not the by-product, of that Reagan mythology being taken seriously. What produced that daisfull of political flotsam is enforced ideology--wouldn't Mitt Romney at least be an interesting curiosity if he hadn't blown with every rightward breeze since 2007?--and a comfortable belief that Money would always win in the end, collecting the predictable and uncomprehending votes of the Great Unwashed at no cost, so the looting could go on as before without the risk of alienating sane Americans. It was a fool's bet that kept on hitting. But these fools are going to play it forever.
The cool kids want a better Republican candidate so they don't have to fake admiration for a gibberish-spouting (and nouveau riche!) pizza deliveryman, or any of three certifiable religious nutcases. Why'd Weigel want a successful Bachmann campaign enough to convince himself he saw one? Because it would "prove" his cherished script about underestimated Teabaggers as a serious, and thoughtful, movement. He didn't want a Bachmann presidency, because that would have put those ideas to the test. And like all Republicans who imagine a willingness to rearrange their prejudices qualifies them as open-minded, he figured, on that June day so long ago, that a Bachmann success would be temporary, just until some real smart Republican stepped in to take the reins and prevent disaster. He just never figured that would turn out to be Herman Cain. Others wanted Daniels (or Barbour!) in the race, not because they'd taken a close look at the actual record, but because he offered the convenient cover of a man with a reputation for seriousness, deserved or no, to hide behind. The internets has made it a lot harder to ignore facts with impunity, so it's nice to have a candidate like Daniels, where everything that comes out of his mouth is unquestionably True.
Isn't the real question how the Republicans come to field, and serially enthuse over, such nobodies, and not why they can't do better? And not in the sense of "how'd he get here?" Cain, Perry, Bachmann, and Donald Fucking Trump have all led polls, and there's barely a qualification there in the conglomerate. Sarah Palin has been a national figure for more than three years. That's the question, although it's one the pundits don't want to ask for fear someone will point out they've ignored it for a lifetime. The Republican party took its intellectuals out and shot 'em fifty years ago. Now it's reduced to pretending Mitch Daniels is one. It may be a head-scratcher, but it's not exactly mysterious.