Andrew Sullivan comments on Romney’s unprecedented swing after the first presidential election. Sullivan spends the first several paragraphs enviously describing just how much of a Big Deal this is for Romney: Before the debate, Obama had a 51 – 43 lead; now, Romney has a 49 – 45 lead but even more shocking to Sullivan is that Obama lost 18 points among women voters overnight.
Yet, what Sullivan studiously avoids saying is that Romney won the debate. The debate led to a massive turnaround for Romney that Sullivan himself labels “unprecedented” but Romney did not win the debate. That would imply legitimacy to Romney’s lead and suggest that he may actually be the better candidate – at least in the eyes of everyone who watched the debate.
Instead of deriving a conclusion based on the facts, Sullivan resorts to an emotional reaction, stating: “Lies work when they are unrebutted live on stage.” Romney cheated and Obama is the victim. Nevermind that Sullivan can never tell us what, exactly, it is that Romney lied about. Even after Sullivan mourns at length over Obama’s arrogance and incompetence he still manages to overcome the cognitive dissonance to end with a rally cry to overcome the “lies and propaganda”, to fight the “extremism” of Romney, and to support Obama’s “reality-based government.” In one paragraph Obama is an arrogant, incompetent president who will never give his supporters the kind of leadership that they deserve but in the next he is our only savior, our only hope, our shining light.
And that just about perfectly sums up the two-party trap. Your candidate simply is not fit to lead anyone, much less a nation, but it does not matter because the other candidate is worse (hint: the other candidate is always worse). So you’d better knuckle under in the one case of national crisis because if you don’t vote for “your” candidate, if you vote third-party or not at all, you’re actually voting for the other guy – you monster. The trap, of course, is that the temporary crisis is never temporary and as we are suckered into voting the lesser evil into office every election cycle our “lesser evils” just keep getting worse and worse.
The polarizing divide and conquer tactics used today, however, are not new. In the 1800 election Jefferson was accused of being the anti-christ and his opponents claimed that if he were elected our children would be coerced into singing heretical hymns out of fear, everyone’s Bible’s would be burned and America’s wives and daughters would be made the victims of legal prostitution. Citizens buried their Bibles or hid them in wells out of fear that Jefferson would send in troops to confiscate them. That never happened. Today, we must vote Romney because “the Catholic Faith hangs in the balance” as one friend of mine put it.
Andrew Sullivan is probably right though: Romney probably did lie. He has a long history of lying and duplicity. Of course, so does Obama who broke almost every campaign promise that he made four years ago. One of his greatest draws four years ago was his proposed foreign policy: to close Guantanamo Bay, end our wars abroad and bring our troops home. In fact, he did the opposite, doubling down on Bush’s failed policies. We’ve even gone from unconstitutional wiretappings under Bush to unconstitutional assassinations under Obama. So, as far as I’m concerned, whether or not Romney lied in the debates is of little consequence. First, because both Romney and Obama are established liars anyway and, second, Obama did nothing to refute the supposed lies as Sullivan himself admits.
I think that the reason that Sullivan has such a hard time coming to grips with Romney’s comeback is that he has swallowed the media narrative that paints the left and right parties as diametrically opposed forces with one as savior and the other as brainless idiots who will doom us all. In fact,once you depart from the rhetoric, Obama and Romney are nearly identical.
Sullivan laments that if Romney is elected then “We’re back to Bush-Cheney, but more extreme.” But isn’t that exactly what Obama has done as I mentioned above? It is this blind party loyalty that allows Sullivan to call Obama arrogant, incompetent and self-destructive in one sentence and then praise him as America’s only hope against (apparently supremely evil) Romney the next.
Here’s a news flash: both candidates are liars and opportunists who agree more than they disagree and, because they’re supposed to serve us, we should always be very critical of them, demand more from both candidates and refrain from supporting either until they shape up, if ever. To support terrible candidates simply because you are afraid of how much worse the other one might be serves only to further the corruption of our political system. We’re simply digging a bigger hole for ourselves.
Oh, also, lets call a spade a spade. I may not like Romney but he hands-down won the debate. Any disinterested observer can see that clear as day.