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Tired Of The Debates Yet?

The Republican Presidential Candidates

Am I the only one who is increasingly tired of these endless republican primary debates? I am convinced I cannot be the only one—the reasons seem fairly obvious to a great many. It just seems like every few days there is another debate on TV pitting these 8 or 9 presidential contenders in some unfortunate American auditorium, and the same boring and predictable talking points are rehashed ad nauseam. Why do they continue to bring us these televised borefests? Your guess is as good as mine, but I am dangerously close to tuning them all out.

The problem, as I have come to discover it, is that despite the shrill calls for Obama’s removal from power, coming from conservative quarters, the GOP has simply not found the perfect (or reasonably close to perfect) candidate that would energize their base and pose a great challenge to Obama. The candidate that would embody all the lofty ideals of the Republican Party (including the Tea Party of course) has just not materialized, even if we agree that the series of economically depressing news have so conspired to make the current incumbent look far weaker than he ordinarily should.

But why is it proving very difficult to find a candidate that would handily command the zeal and hope of the right wing? Why has Obama continued to enjoy a much higher nation-wide poll rating than any of the current contenders even in the midst of sobering economic news? Why is there still a significant degree of hesitation to join the ranks of those who are now thoroughly disillusioned by Obama? – Or by his spectacular incapacity to make good on all the promises and hopes that catapulted him to the White House?

The fact is that despite what we have seen in recent times on the economic front, there is a palpable dissatisfaction with the seeming inability of these GOP campaigns to enunciate a plan that is significantly better than what is currently obtainable under Obama. Obama may not be the ideal president, and he may have gotten a few things wrong with his policies, but the people seeking to replace him have not credibly laid out serious plans that would get the country out of the economic backwoods. It is not enough for these candidates to shout campaign trail slogans and afterwards direct interested persons to some obscure website where the full details of their plan might have been spelled out.

It is in this regard that I must commend Herman Cain for at least attempting to present something for people to mull over (albeit that upon close examination, his plan falls to pieces). Perhaps, rather than bring us the same boring debates where all we hear is “Obama is bad, Obama is worse than bad. Elect me and I’ll fix everything. You just trust me because I sincerely believe in Reagan and his policies”, these candidates should start speaking more robustly about the ways they really hope to be better than Obama at fixing this ailing economy. The time for the talking points are now gone. In case they haven’t noticed, anyone that has listened to a few of these boring presidential debates will unfailing point out that at this stage they all sound hopelessly the same.

But if the problem of the Republicans was merely the lack of a coherent central message, or the inability to present a credible alternative, I daresay that would have perhaps been more forgivable. Sadly, with each passing day, the current cast of contenders (by their own unique actions or inactions) continues to mesmerize the traumatized public with their unique self-combustion. From questions about Newt Gingrich’s injudicious and perhaps unscrupulous spending of campaign funds to Michele Bachmann’s ill-advised anti-vaccine rants and her unique campaign staffing troubles, the people are treated to severely embarrassing and unflattering gaffes that ought to give anyone pause.

What shall we say then of all these women that are now boldly accusing Herman Cain of sexual harassment? What shall we say of his bumbling, unpersuasive, gaffe-ridden attempts at damage control? Little more need be said about his utter inability or unpreparedness to give some coherent answer on a foreign policy question concerning Libya. Or should one assume that he was so preoccupied with stopping the sexual allegation steam roller that he had devoted all his energies into presenting answers that were as plausible as they are non-contradictory—to the point that he forgot to prepare himself for questions of a different sort? Or what indeed can anyone say of Rick Perry’s unfortunate but complete memory meltdown in a debate? In fact, the more you looked at the speeches and debate performances of the Texas governor in recent times, the more you wondered why anyone thought he was capable of independently expressing a thoughtful answer to any pressing national questions. You got the impression, if I am not mistaken, that all he was good at is reciting the lines he had been coached by his staffers, hoping that he still had a bit of southern charm and charisma to command your vote.

These unfortunate campaign fiascos detract from the overall appeal of the GOP candidates. At once, it presents a tale of disorganization and indiscipline; it makes people hesitate and ponder on the wisdom of trading Obama for people who have so-far proven themselves incapable of managing a campaign. As a sidebar, you have to wonder loudly why Ron Paul continues to labor under the illusion that he’d ever be nominated the Party’s flag-bearer despite his glaring libertarian preachments. He may ideologically be more conservative than liberal, but his position on a number of issues are undoubtedly frightening to the GOP faithful. You have to imagine that the only way Ron Paul gets the nod is if the current cast of GOP contenders woke up tomorrow and all evolved positions and talking points that lie ideologically left of his position—a remote possibility indeed. Also, it doesn’t take much to see that Jon Huntsman and Rick Santorum simply do not have the name recognition, gravitas or the campaign size and funds to effectively compete and as such can only hope to be selected for the VP spot.

In the end, it may be that the only candidate that realistically stands the chance of being nominated, barring any future spontaneous act of self-destruction, is Mitt Romney. Yes, he may have that healthcare issue to explain over and over; yes he may be a Mormon (i.e. not an evangelical Christian); yes he may sound somewhat unconvincing when touting his conservative credentials (precisely because he doesn’t come across as Tea Party material); –  but his discipline and consistency may be his greatest asset. In the end, it just may be that despite the fact that Romney doesn’t overwhelmingly excite the Republican field, he is the only one with the consistency, discipline, debating skills, foreign policy mastery, and the sufficient chops on the economy to mount a convincing challenge to Obama—thus necessitating that the GOP faithful hold their noses as it were to nominate him. This is of course based on the presumption that the GOP hopes to beat Obama next year by any means necessary.  However, the 2012 November presidential election is still a long way from now; indeed anything can happen before then to alter the present configurations. In any case, we are sure that Sarah Palin and Donald Trump are never going to be part of any future reconfigurations.

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Another GOP Debate

I just finished watching the GOP presidential debate. And I can’t say that I’ve picked a front-runner yet. I am still watching this race closely to see how it may turn. Unless Palin enters the race (which I doubt she would), it looks as though this is going to be decided between Texas governor Rick Perry and former Massachusetts governor Mitt Romney. To me, they seemed like the front-runners.

Herman Caine, Newt Gingrich and Tim Pawlenty should fold their campaigns and go home.  There is little chance they’ll win. Yes that’s my opinion. Jon Huntsman should angle for a VP position for the eventual party nominee. Michelle Bachmann will surprise me if she somehow gets nominated. The same goes for Ron Paul.

One thing is sure though—they seem firmly united in their visceral opposition to Obama.  I see interesting times in 2012. Whoever the republican nominee happens to be, I expect a fierce contest for the Whitehouse. And that’s understandable because Obama has not really lived up to the hype. I want to be kind to him by not calling him a completely ineffective president, but things desperately need to change before November 2012. At this stage though, I don’t think any candidate currently has the wind behind the sails, or the grassroots mobilization needed to unseat the president next year.  All this may eventually change. We’ll see.

What sort of chances do these candidates have against Obama next year?

The Rise Of The Tea Party?

A Tea Party Rally

I have always wanted to make a little comment on the meteoric rise to prominence of the Tea Party movement. I just never got the chance to do so until now. If my memory serves me right, it was during the 2008 election that we began to notice a fundamental shift in Republican thinking and propaganda. The Republicans were traditionally opposed to the Democrats – that was a given, but in that dramatic and turbulent 2008 election period, the Democrats were mostly in control of the message of change and hope.

The Bush administration along with its many failures and compromises left many Republicans rueful about their prospects at the polls. There were a great number of Republicans who were frankly fed up with or displeased by the eccentricities and the sloppiness of the beltway republican establishment. And of course they were staunchly opposed to a Liberal or Progressive takeover of Washington. Thanks or no thanks to shrill republican media watchdogs, a lot of these dissatisfied Republicans and/or Independents began to fashion an identity of their own. Gradually, the Tea Party movement was born.

These scattered voices of rage and dissent against the Washington establishment found strength and support in right-wing radio and on some cable TV shows. They tried as much as they could, with their sometimes frighteningly exclusivist positions to win back broad-based support for McCain during the election period. But they failed to get McCain elected.  Ironically, the election of Obama was the best thing that happened to the Tea Party. In fact, it could be argued that the election of Obama as the 44th president of the United States kept conservative radio personalities like Rush Limbaugh gainfully employed. Glenn Beck, Sarah Palin, and other new actors on the national stage, sensing an opportunity, decided to throw their weight and support behind this new faction of the Republican Party—the Tea Party began to grow exponentially despite being cajoled and maligned by the mainstream media.

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