Editor’s note: This article was initially published in The Daily Gazette, Swarthmore’s online, daily newspaper founded in Fall 1996. As of Fall 2018, the DG has merged with The Phoenix. See the about page to read more about the DG.
The longer I watch the Republican nomination circus, the more I struggle to understand what the hell is going on in the Republican Party. Last I wrote about the nomination fight, Rick Perry was the flavor of the week. Since then, he fizzled out, like every other Not Romney, due to his utter incompetence as a debater, his inability to treat the children of undocumented workers as scum of the earth (as the base of the Republican Party demands), and his signing off on making HPV vaccine mandatory, thus turning the innocent girls of Texas into autistic sex-crazed fanatics (at least in the mind of Michelle Bachmann).
Perry faded, and in stormed Herman Cain, riding train 9-9-9 to the top of the polls. Cain pushed his ill-conceived SimCity-inspired tax plan like the true salesman he is, and for a brief while the political world held its breath and asked itself “is this really happening?” Unfortunately for Cain, he seemed to have a magnetic attraction to women working for him. Though much of the party rallied around Cain to defend him from what they perceived to be baseless attacks by the liberal media, Cain dropped out, leaving behind a legacy of foreign policy excellence and totally not creepy smiles.
Waiting in the wings was everyone’s favorite thrice-married former Speaker of the House Newt Gingrich. After declaring Paul Ryan’s radical generation-dividing plan for Medicare “right wing social engineering,” it looked like Newt’s campaign was dead before it started. But Newt, the great man of history he thinks he is, wouldn’t be held down. He shot up like a rocket in the polls in December. Republicans that knew Newt from his time as Speaker panicked that he might actually become the nominee.
Fortunately for these panicked Republicans, Mitt Romney had a money cannon at his disposal, and used it to great effect by blowing Newt out of the water in Iowa. The only problem was there was a secret threat brewing right under Romney’s nose. That threat was Rick Santorum, and there is nothing worse then having Santorum surge right under your nose.
Mitt lost Iowa to Rick, but he won New Hampshire, forcing poor Jon Huntsman and his media supporters to realize that right wing policy had to be covered by a layer of unhinged crazy talk to sell in the Republican Party of 2012. So Romney looked like the frontrunner we all assumed he was. Romney momentarily seemed to have the support of the broad coalition comprising the Republican Party, other then every major figure in the Religious Right who supported Santorum. Besides that one hiccup, he seemed a virtual lock for the nomination.
Then Romney lost South Carolina to Newt. The third Newting of the Republican Party was upon us! Like Lazarus from the grave, South Carolina Republicans resurrected Newt. And like your standard zombie movie hero, Mitt whipped out his money bazooka and blasted zombie Newt off his perch, paving the way to a decisive Romney victory in Florida. Once again, the nomination was Romney’s for the taking.
Apparently nobody told Rick Santorum. Like his out of nowhere victory in Iowa, Santorum stealthily won Colorado, Minnesota and Missouri. Santorum surged again, and as of right now, Rick Santorum, Swarthmore’s former Senator, is leading the polls in Michigan, the next major primary. In fact, he is leading the national polls as well. The strange schizophrenia of the Republican Party base works in mysterious ways.
All of this leads me to ask one thing of the Republican Party. Is everything okay over there? I know you don’t trust Mitt Romney on, well, anything, but this bouncing around from candidate to candidate to avoid settling for Mitt is concerning me. It’s unhealthy to swoon over any old candidate who will promise the end of Obamacare, the reinstatement of Don’t Ask Don’t Tell, and an ironclad commitment to never raise taxes on the wealthy, ever. You hop into unfamiliar beds hoping to find Republican Jesus, but keep waking up next to ogres. I’m sorry to say there is no true Republican Jesus on the horizon, coming to sweep you off your feet and save you from a loveless marriage with Mitt.
Rick Santorum might sound like that perfect man at first glance. He will crusade for the reclaiming (but actually remaking) of America as a Christian nation. He will work to empower the government to knock down doors to ensure that nothing too kinky is going on in the bedroom. He’ll do what he can to limit the accessibility of contraception, saying that “it’s not okay because it’s a license to do things in the sexual realm that is counter to how things are supposed to be.” He’ll even bomb Iran, lower taxes, and lock Dan Savage away in Gitmo’s deepest dungeon.
But Rick Santorum has warts like every other ogre they’ve tried before. He lost reelection in the critical rust belt swing state of Pennsylvania. He’s a Washington insider to the core. He voted to raise the dreaded debt ceiling multiple times, like a sane person would. He even bragged that he worked with known liberals Hillary Clinton and Barbara Boxer. Mitt Romney is going to release the hounds on Santorum, and the Republicans will be forced to stop projecting their fantasies on Santorum. His approval ratings will fall – maybe not enough to allow Mitt to limp his way to the nomination, but they will inevitably fall.
The bottom line is Republicans are going to have to nominate somebody eventually. Or not. Maybe they could just phone 2012 in. Given how disconnected from reality the Republican Party is, maybe it would be better for the country if they did.