SHAPESHIFTING: The Final Debate
We watched the third and final Presidential debate this week and we made a mistake.
The frustrations of President Obama as he tried but failed to nail his opponent to his past statements and philosophies were immediately evident. Just as Romney declared a new position, new for him, that is, we saw Obama ready to leap in for the kill. But then he had to stop. Romney was agreeing with nearly everything the president said. How could Obama therefore be decisive, sharp, critical, expose his opponent as changing his views at the last minute in order to seem agreeable, less threatening, less of a right-wing Republican?
By the end of the evening, we had given honors to Governor Romney. He’s a phenomenal salesman. He kept the president off-guard, confusing him, making him retool in mid-sentence. Obama was uncomfortable and it showed.
Apparently, our eyes and ears heard the debate differently than others. In the three snap polls which followed the broadcast, voters of nearly every persuasion gave the debate to the president. We were astonished. Until we realized that once again we had under-estimated the general public who clearly had seen, listened, and glommed onto the shape-shifting going on before their very eyes. They didn’t like it, and they didn’t trust its proponent, Mr. Romney.
Now, to some, this is heartening. Mr. Obama has been sinking slowly in the national polls and Mr. Romney has been in the ascendant. Obama needed all the help he could get and, although we didn’t realize it at the time, that was exactly what he was getting. From Mr. Romney.
Even Romney’s bright eager boy’s interruptions of the moderator, Bob Schieffer of CBS, were fewer and better controlled than in the past. Romney was doing a makeover right in front of our eyes. Some viewers saw this for what it was: a desperate attempt to say or agree to anything as long as whatever he said helped him win the office in November.
And what about the hard right of the Republican party who all along had thought Romney wasn’t a real conservative, or conservative enough for them? They sat in the shadows, nodding happily, content to let their candidate say or do anything that would enthrone the Republican party in the White House for the foreseeable future. Party over personality, party over principles.
This was our own error. We once again were so taken with Romney’s direct but simplistic approach to the difficult problems of governance that what he said seemed, momentarily, to make sense. Until he denied everything for which he had stood for a year and a half, no, almost six years, of campaigning. And it was this constant denial that had Obama flummoxed.
The public got it. We did not. The spreads in the snap polls were enormous: CBS and CNN gave the evening to the president by nearly thirty points!
And the next morning, attitudes had only hardened. Obama came out of this third debate addled but triumphant. Who knew?
Here’s the problem. Should Romney actually make it to the White House, he would have done so in a way no other candidate has ever done: with the Big Lie. He and the Republicans have become the foremost practitioners of the Big Lie since dictators of yore who shall remain unnamed. Not for them fact-checkers, corrections, or apologies. Just hell for leather make-it-up-as-you-go-along and ignore truth.
And now we come to what we call
The Chicken Little Theory
The Sky is Falling!
Both Romney and his pal Paul Ryan are brilliantly adept at side-stepping the truth. After all, we are still waiting for Romney’s tax returns and it’s clear we’re not going to get them. Having discovered he can outlast and outsmart the press in this single regard, how easy it is for him to also find the press unable to make valid, consistent, meaningful criticism of his entire campaign. Especially if his campaign rests almost entirely on denial, on fiction, on sincere-sounding reversals of life-long policies. His campaign has been run on propaganda, on the Big Lie: Take what the president says, turn it against him, and claim that you, the candidate, are the one truth speaker.
If Romney should win, how will we know what and who we have in office until it’s too late? Denials can turn easily into “misunderstandings”; radical and rabble-rousing quotes can turn into “taken out of context” confusions; code-words that demean voters of color, or students, or veterans, or social security recipients can be denied as simply as Romney fell into agreement with Obama’s foreign policy views.
It hardly bears repeating that this is a man who has never been able to answer the single most important question of his race: why do you want to be president? This is an answer Romney will eventually come to but for many citizens around the country in need, sinking into poverty, out-of-work, the answer he gives will arise only over specific issues: proposed cuts to education, increased spending on defense, tax cuts for the very wealthy, abortion restrictions on all sides, self-deportation of immigrants.
And here’s the kicker, a big one. Should Romney win AND should the HOUSE and SENATE come to rest in Republican hands as well, the US of A will be changed dramatically at home and abroad.
We believe the Supreme Court knowingly mined American Democracy with its Citizens United decision, allowing corporations the power to “speak” in line with a badly misread First Amendment. This does not fall under the Law of Unintended Consequences. This single decision brought the entire court down to a level of crooked politicians where ward warfare was the battle of the day, and “the little guy” hardly ever had a chance at justice.
Now how can our allies be any more certain of what Romney will do than we are ourselves? If the office of the president is up to the highest bidder, qualifications be damned, do we think this builds confidence and cooperation, when our allies realize we have elected a non-existent pragmatist to the position most of them have to, and want to, work with?
WORSE, with the Republicans still pushing – although temporarily stymied by the courts in this desire – for voter restriction, aimed precisely at students, people of color, immigrants, old people, all of whom might very well want to vote Democratic but in time would find themselves disqualified, one simple small crisis on the international scene and the government will tell us that for our own good, for the good of the country and its economic progress, the US of A now needs compliance not confrontation, needs civility not opposition.
Guess where that leads? To George Orwell’s “1984” nearly thirty years past its sell-by date.
Which is to say, simply, that a Romney administration under fire could very well close down additional civil rights, or even the entire Bill of Rights, in order to cow the citizens of our country into obedience and politically correct behavior.
When, and if, you win using the Big Lie, you can’t ever stop using the Big Lie.