THE RANK SLUDGE OF DEMOCRACY

As one of many people who followed the 2008 election with great interest, one of my clearest memories is of the intense feeling of fatigue that I felt during the last month of the general election period. By October of that year the outcome was a foregone conclusion and we all stared at the calendar like middle school kids stare at clocks, willing it to go faster. There was a point at which I couldn't stomach another analysis of some hypothetical Electoral College scenario, ridiculous campaign commercial, cringe-inducing McCain event, or lingering worry that Sarah Palin would ever be put in charge of something more important than a tank of goldfish. The ebb and flow of the election was interesting for a while but then I just wanted to get the goddamn thing over with.
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Enough.

This year is going to be different. It promises to be far worse. I want the election over already and it's not even March. I want it over yesterday. Rather than simply chalking this up to Ed being a grumpy old asshole, I have two specific reasons that this is going to be an unbearable form of torture.

First, the GOP's four year long effort to tank the economy hasn't worked well enough to fit their preferred election year narrative that the country is on the brink of complete collapse (see Mitch Daniels' apocalyptic State of the Union response) and only doubling down on Republican economic policies can save it. While the economic situation is not a cause for great celebration, by any metric it is improving (albeit painfully slowly).
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Most importantly, perceptions of the economy are improving. With the "OMG we're ruined! Ruined!" narrative unworkable and the GOP's savior in 2010, the Teabaggers, nowhere to be found, the party is going to turn 2012 into an endless parade of 1980s-style Culture Wars bullshit. They've spent the past two weeks crusading against birth control. Some nitwit labeled the Girl Scouts a radical group on Monday. We'll get a healthy dose of anti-gay marriage stuff before long, and the GOP House will undoubtedly hatch some dead-on-arrival legislation related to abortion over the summer. Who knows what other Falwell-esque gems they might dust off. School prayer? Creationism? Heliocentrism? Only time will tell. But the Planned Parenthood/contraception fiasco is but a preview. We have nine solid months of these pointless, dead-end spectacles ahead of us. None of it will accomplish anything except to be excruciating to sit through.

2. Back when the decision was handed down, I wrote that we would all live to regret Citizens United for reasons that have nothing to do with questions of fairness or buying elections. We will regret it because it will turn our elections into tsunami of slime that will put previous notions of "mudslinging" to shame. Massive, wealthy organizations beyond the control of any candidate or campaign will be spending billions on advertising and other forms of advocacy, and every cent of it is going to pay for toxic sludge. It will spread misinformation and engage in character assassination on a level that will make the Swift Boaters look amateurish and kindly. Thanks to the Supreme Court, anyone can spend any amount of money trying to influence the election…and they can say whatever they want. It doesn't have to be remotely true or relevant or grounded in reality. It just has to be paid for.

Taking these two factors collectively, today I feel like the candidates are just beginning a swim through a ten mile long trench filled with liquefied human waste, broken glass, and salt. Anyone with enough money to buy a special ticket gets to douse the swimmers with buckets of bloody vomit every ten feet for the duration. Occasionally the media will jump on their backs and dunk their heads beneath the surface to keep the audience on edge. There is no comfort to be taken from the fact that only Obama and (insert GOP nominee here) actually have to swim through it. Watching the spectacle unfold will be its own unique kind of torture.

THE STAND-IN

Over the last few weeks I've heard several people bring up the following analogy in conversation, and Forbes made a headline out of it after the Florida primary: Mitt Romney is the John Kerry of The GOP. We will continue to hear this analogy throughout the election, which makes sense because 2012 is shaping up to be similar to 2004 in many respects. But how similar are they?

Although imperfect, the comparison works on levels beyond the superficial. The main characteristics they share in common are, in no particular order: great personal wealth that they're willing to blow against an incumbent, the generic "Looks like a president" physical characteristics (tall, white, full head of graying hair), the perception of aloofness stemming from their fortunes, and complete malleability on issues and ideological positions. They are the kind of classic, people-pleaser politicians who follow the general direction of the wind. They both fit stereotypes that their parties try to avoid – the Massachusetts Liberal and the Plutocrat.

They are both also the kind of person you nominate when the party doesn't have any good candidates. They both pass the "You'll Do, I Guess" test with flying colors. As long as the field is full of scrubs – the 2004/2012 analogy works well here – everyone gravitates to the tall rich guy who doesn't sound completely insane or have lots of baggage. Nobody wants to nominate someone like Kerry or Romney, but you have to nominate someone and Boring > Crazy in the hierarchy of default nominees.

That said, there are some key differences. Nobody in the Democratic Party had the kind of hostility toward Kerry that vast segments of the GOP appear to have toward Mittens. Most people found Kerry drab and, if anything, more liberal than the median Democrat. Romney, on the other hand, is treated as an impostor – "not a real conservative." Romney's religion also introduces an element into the campaign that was absent in 2004. Issue-wise, Kerry may have been "flexible" but he looks as dogmatic as the Pope compared to Romney. And despite the fact that they share great wealth, their means of acquiring it was different and, for Kerry, less controversial.

I think the overarching premise is valid, though more because of similarities between the elections than the candidates. We have an incumbent hovering at or slightly below 50% approval and subject to fanatical hatred from opposing partisans. The incumbent is vulnerable, if only the challengers could rustle up a decent candidate. Unfortunately they can't, so they go with the best of a poor field and hope that being Not Bush or Not Obama is good enough to motivate people to support their weak nominee. It isn't, and the relatively unpopular incumbent squeaks out a win in a low turnout election in which no one gets excited about anyone or anything.

Romney = Kerry isn't a bad analogy, but the key difference is Romney's lack of acceptance among key elements of the GOP base. I just didn't see that with Kerry. Democrats were severely ambivalent toward him as a candidate, yes. There was not the sense that he was a Fake Democrat, though, nor wings of the party talking about 3rd Party or independent candidacies to wage ideological war. It was a rare example of the disorganized Democratic Party uniting, and now with Romney, and to a lesser extent McCain, we see the usually lock-step GOP splintering into factions that can't agree about anything except Obama Bad.

CIRCULAR FIRING SQUAD, READY YOUR WEAPONS!

I usually struggle to give two of my least valuable craps about pundit commentary during election season. Most of it is for entertainment purposes only, and not even very successful to that end. What we have seen so far during the GOP primaries is neither surprising nor in need of extensive explanation. The most religiously conservative candidate did well in Iowa (as Mike Huckabee did, winning the state in 2008), the most moderate and libertarian-leaning candidates mopped up in New Hampshire (Romney wins, followed by Paul), and the most garishly unreconstructed racist won South Carolina. Oh, how exciting.

While these events don't lend themselves to deep analysis, two pieces of commentary regarding where the primaries go from here stood out. Common wisdom dictates that Gingrich and Santorum have had their 30 seconds in the limelight and now the upper hand will return to the candidate with the most money and people on the ground (Mittens). Joe Scarborough, who in fairness has rarely seen a hole in the ground that he could correctly distinguish from his own ass, disagrees. He believes that Romney is in real trouble:

"There’s no doubt about it," Scarborough agreed (ed: with Chuck Todd of Meet the Press). "The party base is revolting, but they are revolting against the Washington Republican establishment anointing Mitt Romney. Just like Herman Cain was not about Herman Cain. It was a rejection of Mitt Romney. Rick Perry, a rejection of Mitt Romney. Michele Bachmann, a rejection of Mitt Romney. Newt Gingrich wave one, a rejection of Mitt Romney. Now we have Newt Gingrich wave two, a rejection of Mitt Romney."

Hmm. Well the GOP base certainly is revolting, Joe! Oh, wait. You meant that as a verb. Fair enough. I'm not sure I buy his premise – after all, this is the kind of OMG THIS IS HUGE SO IMPORTANT!!! analysis that the networks trot out in the wake of every raindrop during election season. For a moment, let's suppose he's right. Why would that lead anyone to Newt Gingrich? Former House Republican Scarborough:

Mitt Romney could attack Newt for not being a conservative because Newt is not a conservative. Google it! We [Republicans] ran him out of Congress in 1998 because he sold us out on taxes, he sold us out on spending, he went to the floor and he sided with Democrats on his last speech, calling us the perfectionists caucus. He called us jihadists. He’s not a conservative, he’s an opportunist. But here is the problem: So is Mitt Romney.

Hmm. So it's the smarmy, polished opportunist versus the corpulent, hissing bridge troll opportunist. That seems like a pretty easy choice, right? I mean, you pick the one who can get elected, provided we can all agree that Ron Paul and Rick Santorum fail to reach the threshold of viable, Serious candidates.

Steve Schmidt (a relatively sane strategist responsible for the McCain campaign and now counted alongside Frum and Andy Sullivan as a heretic) reads from the Book of Revelations regarding Gingrich:

Look, I think, not only are we not moving towards a coalescing of support by the Republican establishment for Newt Gingrich, we're probably moving toward the declaration of war on Newt Gingrich by the Republican establishment. And if Newt Gingrich is able to win the Florida primary, you will see a panic and a meltdown of the Republican establishment that is beyond my ability to articulate in the English language.

People will go crazy and you will have this five week period until the Super Tuesday states which is going to be as unpredictable, tumultuous as any period in modern American politics. It will be a remarkable thing to watch should that happen in Florida.

HOLY SHIT THAT SOUNDS AWESOME! I am suddenly very excited for Team Gingrich to win the Florida primary.

As entertaining as this idea might be, it doesn't make a ton of sense. If Gingrich and Romney are both rank opportunists, what difference does it make to the GOP establishment? They're certainly not up in arms over Gingrich's "subtle racist appeals." That's part of the lingua franca of today's GOP. No, the issue boils down to a simple but important difference in personalities.

Newt Gingrich has high name recognition and staggeringly high negatives – sort of like Hillary Clinton in 2008, but much more despised. He is so repugnant as a person that he could actually accomplish the unlikely feat of dragging the entire party down with him in the general election. This is a guy who was run out of town on a rail in 1998 by his own party, and who in the interim seems to have devoted himself to getting meaner and eating pie thrice daily. The Establishment realizes that its field is crap this year and the chances of beating even a weakened Obama are 50-50 at their absolute best. Their odds of holding on to the House and taking the Senate, however, are good. Provided some venom-spewing Rancor beast doesn't come along and alienate every half-witted voter to the left of Joe McCarthy. The empty vessel with the polished smile and lots of money is a much better face to put forward in an election such as this one. It's plausible that Romney could win. It's plausible that if he falls short, he won't leave a smoldering pile of wreckage that was the Republican Party in his wake. Gingrich, on the other hand, would not only make his own kamikaze run at the White House but also bring the rest of the party with him against his will.

I'd be thrilled to see Schmidt's scenario play out – a Gingrich win in Florida followed by GOP: Beyond Thunderdome – if part of me wasn't terrified that enough of the American public is dumb enough to vote for Gingrich in the general election. Given his level of charisma, I think I'm willing to risk that.

THE MORE THINGS CHANGE

The worst part about living through 2010 was not the outcome of the election but the preferred media narrative of the Tea Party ushering in some kind of sea change in the GOP. In reality, their overwhelming losses in 2006 and 2008 gave the Republicans a good opportunity to re-brand their party, perhaps even to come up with a new idea or two. Instead they chose simply to double down on the same selective interpretation of Reaganism that they've pounded like a drum for the past thirty years. The Tea Party was tangential, just a bunch of inchoate anger and nonsensical demands that happened to benefit the GOP at the polls. Business as usual meets populist freakshow. The result is that the GOP of 2012, despite the major domestic crises of the past four years, is not different in any meaningful way from George W. Bush's Republican Party. Look no further that the Iowa Caucus results (and impending Romney blowout in New Hampshire) for proof: the prize in these primaries goes not to the daring, but to the one who does the best job of reciting the Commandments of the faith. The party can theoretically choose anyone, and in Iowa they chose two candidates who, although different, are essentially carbon copies of the most recent GOP president.

Rick Santorum, who is likely to disappear shortly after his 15 minutes of being Not Mitt Romney, takes Bush's unwavering social conservatism and combines it with a total lack of intellectual curiosity on domestic issues – where his policy position is essentially "Steer it as far to the right as possible, then go a little further" on any given issue – and hard neocon foreign policy (Israel! Israel! Israel! Also fuck Iran!) Like Bush, Santorum has the ability to hold totally insane, occasionally terrifying policy positions but look to primary voters and TV viewers to be a nice, sane fellow. Seriously, watch Rick Santorum on a talk show. He seems nice. He sounds normal. He isn't. Contrast him, for example, with the visibly deranged Michele Bachmann to see how important this quality is in the modern GOP. Be crazy, but look sane. Don't scare everyone.

Romney, on the other hand, is like Bush in that underneath the marketing (Remember "compassionate conservatism"?) he is nothing but the classic "pro-business" corporate shill brand of Republican. He appears to care about nothing much politically, hence his numerous flip-flops on social and foreign policy issues, except cutting taxes, starving the government, and making America safe again for the ludicrously rich. Other Republicans hate him not because of this political stance; indeed, he is in perfect concert with most of them on economic issues. They hate him because he is a Mormon, and an insincere glad-hander, and an opportunist, and a pretty boy, and generally an all-around sissy. He's not a Man's Man, not a Real Christian Jesus-fearing red-blooded American. Or, more accurately, not one who can or cares to fake it. GW Bush's ridiculous cowboy act was semi-believable, at least enough to fool the rubes. Romney looks like the white bread, prep school asswipe he is.

And these are the two candidates the process appears to have chosen to duke it out. If they could somehow combine Romney's staggering wealth, fundamentally elitist economic ideas, and non-threatening self presentation with Santorum's militant social conservatism and Real Guy authenticity, they'd have the perfect candidate. That is, they'd have George W. Bush again. They rejected the glib Perot-like straight talk of Cain, Bachmann's American jihad, Perry's frat boy insincerity, the reanimated corpse of 1994 in Gingrich, and the old school liberal New England Republicanism of Huntsman. Ron Paul, as ever, is just an old coot with a devoted but insufficiently large cult of true believers. They chose Santorum (who is fundamentally unelectable, being insane) and Romney (who no one actually likes and most actively loathe).

Hey, you know who's stupid? Tim Pawlenty. He dropped out on account of a meaningless straw poll won by Michele Bachmann almost a year ago.
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Were he running, he would be killing it right now. The primary voters are desperate for anyone who isn't Romney, but all of their existing alternatives are obviously flawed.
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T-Paw is as bland as they come, an empty vessel with the requisite devotion to Reaganomics. He wouldn't be much of a general election candidate, but I bet he'd be neck-and-neck with Romney right now.

So, the GOP staggered out of 2008 with an opportunity to take the party in a new direction. Instead they punted. Refusing to come up with a single new idea, they chose the path of least resistance, the sweet spot in their comfort zone. They chose the two candidates who reminded them the most of Dubya, who was the candidate who reminded them the most of Reagan, who was the candidate who reminded them the most of Barry Goldwater. It would be bad enough if they were nominating second rate Reagan clones, but this year this appears to be a competition between two pale imitations of George W. Bush. Rather than write anything new, they're covering a cover song. With the GOP so adamant in its refusal to change and the balless, corporate Democratic Party offering only the illusion of opposition, it is no mystery why everyone can see that our ship is heading straight for the rocks but we seem to be unable to change its course.

THE TOUGH QUESTIONS

We can always count on the mainstream media to ask the tough questions, like: "What's behind Gingrich's jump in the polls?"

Read the paragraphs of pseudo-analysis offered by a laundry list of hangers-on and campaign hacks if you want, or stick around here while we wallow in the bleedingly obvious. Gingrich is "on the rise" (based on a single poll) because the desperate search for anyone who is not Mitt Romney continues among the GOP inner circle and voting base. With Iowa six weeks away, the odds of a new Savior joining the field are essentially nil. The Bachmann carnival freakshow had its 15 minutes over the summer. Perry rode over the hill on a white stallion and leaves as a laughingstock. Things got so desperate that, at least for a short while, the GOP appeared to consider the black guy.

What alternatives remain? It's basically down to Gingrich, Ron Paul, Jon Huntsman, or Rick Santorum. Gingrich is basically a bridge troll with name recognition. Paul is way too far out there for the GOP insiders and has less charisma and fewer camera skills than any politician since Barry Goldwater. Huntsman is an apostate. It's continually surprising to be reminded that Santorum is still in the race. It makes all the sense in the world that Republicans being polled would choose the one name they know as something other than an abject failure (which, coincidentally enough, Gingrich is in every sense of the word) from the list if they're desperate to avoid Mittens.

Of course, the fact that Romney's eventual nomination seems all but inevitable is bad news for the networks, who very much want the appearance of a nail biter of a race. Let's face it: somebody needs to be the Romney alternative, and Gingrich stands as good of a chance as any of going the next six weeks without dousing himself with gasoline and lighting a match. Then again, that turned out to be too much to ask of Bachmann, Perry, and Cain.

So while Gingrich's "surge" seems like the kind of thing that would have a shelf life measured in hours, the reality is that he is probably going to stick around for lack of a viable alternative Romney alternative.

TENSION

In my presidency course I have a lecture that begins with a nuts-and-bolts description of the daily life of the president. While it is a powerful and often glamorous position, it entails living a life that not many of us would want to have: the 16 hour workdays, the grueling travel schedule, the death threats (and oppressive level of security necessary around your family), everybody constantly bitching and moaning about how terrible you are, and most of all the incredible amount of stress that accompany all of the responsibility.

For these reasons and more, it's important that we have a psychologically strong president. Even if we have to accept a president with a terrible set of beliefs and issue positions, he or she should at least have a grip on sanity. That basic ability to perceive reality correctly and respond to one's surroundings in a lucid manner is a bare minimum qualification for the office.

The mental health of presidents is definitely challenged by the job. It must be hard to deal with all of that pressure without cracking. Perhaps some of them do crack – Nixon, Buchanan, Wilson – and the consequences are felt around the world. Fortunately we have a campaign process, one that is grueling and mentally draining in its own right, to weed out some of the wannabes who are all too ready to crack under the strain of the spotlight.

Like this guy.

If you have yet to see, hear, and experience Rick Perry's speech to the Cornerstone Church in New Hampshire, you must treat yourself. Much of the speculation since the speech has centered around whether Perry is drunk, high, or possibly both during this lamentable shitshow of a performance. To me it is more likely that he has simply cracked under the strain of high expectations and a heretofore underwhelming showing.

As much of a field day as the media had in 2004 with Howard Dean's "yee-haw" moment – incontrovertible evidence of his lack of psychological fitness for the presidency, we were repeatedly told – it will be interesting to hear the mighty Beltway sages' take on Perry's rambling, incoherent, and labile performance. We were flatly reminded that no one with Mr. Dean's red-faced temper could be trusted with his finger on The Button. While I suspect that most observers already recognize that Perry's campaign is dead in the water – it's more like watching someone commit suicide than an actual campaign, anyway – I can't wait to see whether they will make excuses for this bizarre public spectacle or call him out for the unstable lightweight he appears to be.

BREAKTHROUGH

After a PJ Media link Monday and the (latest in a seemingly endless parade of) GOP debate(s) on Tuesday evening, I am overloaded with stupid. The gears in my brain are so gummed up with nonsense right now; it looks like someone fed a deep dish pizza into a paper shredder. To pick out one example of the lunacy and elevate it above the others would itself be lunacy, but I will run that risk to highlight the otherworldly stupidity of Michele Bachmann's "Double Fence" idea.
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A few days ago she became the first candidate to sign a formal pledge to build a fence on the Mexican border. Little did voters suspect she was actually promising them two fences. That's great value!

The inherent flaw in the "border fence" idea – the latest in a series of Election 2012 proposals that are actually reheated ideas from the early 1990s – is that Mexico already possesses advanced fence-defeating technologies:

But if there's a double fence…that could be a game changer. It will take Mexican scientists decades to catch up even in the most optimistic scenarios.

A HERO IN A LONG LINE OF HEROES…

(Bonus points for identifying the song and artist from the title without resorting to Google. Amazingly, she once put out a good album. It was a long time ago.)

After the first two Knights in Shining Armor charged over the hill but somehow failed to save the day – their knightly skills having been somewhat overrated in the telling – the Republican Party found itself in need of yet another savior. The search for someone young, hip, and exciting led them, naturally, to first-term New Jersey Governor Chris Christie. His main qualifications appear to be speaking like an extra in The Sopranos and having that unusually aggressive personality type usually found among people who kill animals for fun. Alas, Gov. Christie has definitively – or at least apparently definitively – excluded himself from the field.

In realityland, Christie would have been hard pressed to declare at this point. The first primaries and caucuses are in about 90 days. Due to the condensed, front-loaded primary calendar, he would have needed to put a complete campaign team on the ground in about 30 different states in just a few weeks. That's just not possible, even assuming (irrationally) an unlimited amount of money. Additionally, there's no way that his statements about extremism and stupidity among Teabaggers – he is the governor of a liberal northern state, after all – would have had most of the party base whining about him in short order. Like so many Wesley Clarks and Fred Thompsons from the past, the idea of Christie running has more appeal than Christie actually running.

The problem, of course, is that the appeal of his candidacy was driven by dissatisfaction with the current field. So the GOP now finds itself in need of a new Savior – and fast. As much as I like to think of myself as being abreast of electoral politics, I cannot fathom who that might be. Paul Ryan has already been the Savior, albeit briefly, before declining to run. Rick Scott is as popular as dick cancer. Scott Walker wishes he had dick cancer's popularity.
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Mitch Daniels is out. Every candidate with an ounce of name recognition from past elections – Gingrich, Santorum, etc. – is already running. Recruiting any GOP Senator to run given the current popularity of Congress (and Congressional Republicans in particular) at the moment seems beyond futile. There does not appear to be anyone left, at least among people who would even remotely consider running.

In the next few weeks I am betting that we will see some truly bizarre Draft So-and-So campaigns on the internet and in the media. David Petraeus. Dick Cheney. George Bush the Elder. Jeb (again). Sarah Palin (again). Rudy Giuliani. Katherine Harris. Mike Gravel. Ross Perot. John Anderson. Oliver North. Ted Nugent. Baltimore Orioles OF Luke Scott. Sideshow Bob. Gennifer Flowers. WWE superstar John Cena. This inanimate carbon rod.

Desperation does terrible things to one's judgment. But no matter how many names are floated in the upcoming weeks it is becoming increasingly likely that the Republicans are stuck, for better or worse, with the current field.

God have mercy on us all.

A TEST OF ENDURANCE

So the Federal government is once again on the verge of shutting down – at least partially – if a House-Senate deal on funding disaster relief cannot be reached by Thursday.

I have to be honest: that sentence took me about 10 minutes to write. I lost interest in it so many times I could hardly focus long enough to finish it. The reason you have not heard much about the latest and impending "shutdown crisis" may be no more complex than simple fatigue. No one cares. The media lost interest after the debt ceiling three ring circus. People who follow politics have seen this show before and we already know the ending. Just cave in to the Tea Party and get it the hell over with.

On a personal level I've been dealing with this problem for the past year, a problem getting myself to pay attention to current political events as they get increasingly ridiculous. I'm supposed to be all earnest and deeply interested and devoting my mental energy to understanding this pseudo-gamesmanship as fully as possible. But I just don't care, because the outcomes do not vary. Cynicism always feels lazy in the realm of politics, yet I think we've reached the point at which it is warranted.
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This is all academic, though. I can do my job and even keep up a reasonably interesting blog about politics without getting emotionally invested in congressional dick-waving and the antics of overgrown children in the world's most expensive sandbox. One thing I can't punt on is the election. And holy crap, people, am I going to have a hard time making myself take a detailed interest in this magnificent shitshow. Somehow I get the feeling that I am not alone.

The GOP, seeing Fred Thompson 2012 (aka Rick Perry) begin the crash-and-burn phase of his campaign, are furiously looking for yet another savior. The fact that they are begging Chris Christie to run is less a ringing endorsement of the New Jersey Governor than a tacit admission that their current crop of candidates is an embarrassment of historic proportions. Whoever the party ends up nominating, the majority of Republicans and potential Republican voters are going to be seriously unhappy and faced with the prospect of supporting a candidate they don't like.

Democrats already have their candidate, the guy who has spent three years giving the finger to all those people who went crazy for him back in 2008 (and in many cases devoted dozens or hundreds of hours to his election). His quest to win over moderates and independents by being all compromise-y and bipartisan-y has been a spectacular failure, meaning that he will need those core supporters from 2008 in order to survive the election with his 40% approval rating. Of course, they won't believe his happy horseshit and endless, empty speeches a second time. Most of them will sit this one out, and some portion of them will look at the nutbag nominated by the GOP and dejectedly agree to campaign for Obama one more time….
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This is going to be little more than an endurance test, an obstacle course of empty promises, hollow rhetoric, inane commercials, manufactured controversies, and constant pleas for your time, money, and support from candidates who will produce indistinguishable outcomes if elected by catering to nearly identical special interests. Republicans are supposed to vote just to get rid of Obama. Democrats are supposed to vote just to keep the nutty Republican away from the White House. Everyone hates the person they're voting for, the process is interminable, nobody's happy at the end, and the whole thing somehow costs fifteen billion dollars and the better part of a year. Sounds like fun. Can't wait.

I don't think I can do it, people. I don't think I have it in me to take this sad excuse for a process seriously this time around.

FOX, HEN HOUSE

A quick summary of why I never got on board with ObamaMania and why, at its top dollar best, our political system today can produce a reformer about as radical as William Howard Taft. Shorter title: This is why we are so fucked.

News item, July 13, 2011: "Immelt: Obama jobs council devising plans for job creation." General Electric CEO Jeffrey Immelt was the logical choice to serve as Barack Obama's "jobs czar" – who knows more about creating jobs than the CEOs of large, multinational corporations?

News item, July 25, 2011: "GE Moves 115 Year Old X-Ray Unit to China." See? Look at all of the jobs he created. In China. By closing something that has been in Waukesha, WI for more than a century. To "tap growth" in China. And these aren't the kind of pull-the-lever-on-the-kick-press jobs that we keep being told are fated to go overseas because they involve no skill. These are exactly the kind of high-tech buzzword jobs that Obama won't shut the hell up about, excepting the absence of "green" in the description.

This. This is why Barack Obama is a failure of colossal proportions and why I don't want to hear any of the half-assed excuses about how everything that has happened to him is the fault of nasty Republicans, stupid voters, and the like. He's a failure because despite what many of you managed to convince yourselves in 2008, he's just another smiling face in a long line of corporatist whores that have rotted what used to be a somewhat liberal party from within and left us with a political system offering little but the illusion of choice.

For the last decade, many people who study political participation have speculated that 1996 and 2000 might have been the nadir of voter turnout and interest in politics in the U.S. The 1996 election in particular was contested during a strong economy between two candidates no one much cared for. Increased turnout was observed in 2004 and again in 2008. I can't wait to see 2012. We're going to see campaigns spending previously unfathomable amounts of money in an effort to fire up voting bases whose attitudes toward the candidates range from boredom to white-hot anger.

Tell me something: where is that wave of energy and enthusiasm that swept Obama into office in 2008 going to come from in 2012, with the President owning two wars that didn't end (plus a third that just started), the Teabagger austerity agenda that he endorsed wholeheartedly, and supporters already resorting to arguments of last resort like, "Well, he's better than the alternative." On the Republican side the nominee will either be a semi-sane candidate who the base will hate (see: McCain) or a lunatic for whom sane people will be too embarrassed to vote. That record voter turnout in 2008 could turn into record lows in a single election cycle.

Aside from the half-assed health care reform that he allowed insurance companies to write, what has Barack Obama accomplished to encourage – or even mildly please – his core supporters? The Immelt appointment as Jobs Czar and the vignette about GE's job growth plan for China is a good representation of what Obama is all about: repeatedly, naively believing that untrustworthy people – Teabaggers, John Boehner, CEOs of companies that pay no taxes and employ 60% of their workforce outside of the U.S. – will work with him "in good faith" if he uses a lot of soaring rhetoric and asks them nicely enough. He seems fundamentally incapable of realizing that these people do not like him and do not care about his interests or those of anyone but themselves. And so they break it off in his ass, not occasionally but every single time.

The alternative hypothesis is that he fundamentally agrees with a corporate, Wall Street friendly version of liberalism (aka Moderate Republicanism) or, even worse, he is essentially a Manchurian Candidate right-winger. I find that possibility so disheartening that I prefer to believe that he is stupid.