SHORTCUTS

Posted in Election 2012 on August 22nd, 2011 by Ed

The Cape Coral News-Press has a piece on Craig Miller, an unheralded candidate for the Republican nomination in the Florida Senate race. I'd call it "interesting" if not for the fear of implying that Miller himself is worth thinking about for more than 30 seconds. What he represents, however, is telling.

1. Miller, owner of the Ruth's Chris Steakhouse chain, touts himself using one of the more moronic phrases in circulation in modern politics: "I am a business person. That will trump a career politician in 2012. I am the only one in this race who has run a business." This line, a favorite of the Mitt Romneys and Ron Johnsons of the world, has always puzzled me. What is this supposed to mean? How does this make a candidate more fit to hold office? So you've run a business, Craig. Great. So has the guy who dry cleans your clothes. Should he be in the Senate too? Unsurprisingly, the Venn diagram of people who use this phrase fully eclipses those who think "Government should be run like a business!" Equally unsurprisingly, they all quickly discover that it doesn't quite work that way. I could see the analogy for an executive – maybe – but for a Senator? Yes Craig, the skills involved in opening a chain of steak restaurants is nearly identical to those necessary in the Senate. In fact being a Senator has been described by most who have held the office as "Much like being the owner of a chain of steakhouses."

2. He also touts his outsider status, which is nothing new. Running against Washington is a tactic as old as Washington. But is someone like Miller an outsider or simply an opportunist? One of the most prominent consequences of the Teabagging movement has been to catapult an untold number of complete yahoos into political prominence – Sharron Angle, Christine O'Donnell, Mike Lee, and so many more – without having to go through that pesky process of paying dues, making a name for themselves, and building a base of political support. Instead of outsiders, we have a bunch of people who see a shortcut to the top, a brief window of opportunity for crackpots to ride a wave of anger, ignorance, and resentment into positions of power. These people are a healthy mix of genuine lunatics – the kind of person you would avoid on the bus or at a party – and rich, arrogant assholes who know a crowd of suckers when they see one.

Very few members of Congress arrived with noble intentions, but this latest gaggle of businessmen-turned-Congressmen and crusaders against water fluoridation are even more crass than usual. The calculus appears quite simple: throw as much red meat as possible to the party base, sweep into office on a wave of anger and apathy, and spend the next X years lining your pockets and those of your allies while laughing at how easy it was.

POSTSCRIPT: And the punchline? "Miller’s tenure as chief executive officer of Ruth’s Chris ended in 2008 when he was forced to resign amid falling profits and tumbling stock prices."