The field of Republican presidential hopefuls can be best described by the epigraph of an early 18th Century political essayist, Jonathan Swift: “When a true genius appears in the world, you may know him by this sign, that the dunces are all in confederacy against him.”
Leading the way are Rick Perry, Michele Bachmann, and Mitt Romney, but the GOP primary campaign is wide open, with the likes of Sarah Palin still waiting in the wings. It seems republicans are seeking a great white hope in their efforts to defeat President Obama in 2012, and Herman Cain, the former CEO of Godfather’s Pizza, has become their spokesman.
Asked on a conference call yesterday why Republicans can’t just impeach President Obama, Cain answered, “That’s a great question and it is a great — it would be a great thing to do.” Cain citied the administration’s decision to stop defending the Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA) as an impeachable offense. Presumably Cain believes the most important focus of the nation isn’t creating jobs, growing the economy, or providing social security to the elderly and health care for the poor; no, in Cain’s small world, the greatest threat facing the nation is gay marriage, and somehow Obama should be impeached because of it.
WATCH ANDREA MITCHELL’S COVERAGE OF RICK PERRY:
The GOP race for the White House has begun and with it the visceral, largely unfounded, attacks against Obama that have been employed by far-right conservatives for the past two years. It seems as though the best way to get to the top of the GOP pack is to persuade primary voters that you hate Obama the most, and thereby become the most fearless at launching venomous attacks against the nation’s Commander-in-Chief. Some reporters have described it as the Tea Party high-jacking of the Republican establishment, and it has become the status quo.
Michele Bachmann, whose claim to fame is that she founded the Congressional Tea Party Caucus and believes the founding fathers fought to end slavery, has titled her campaign tour “Take Our Country Back” to emphasize the fact that there are two Americas: us and them.
Governor Rick Perry, who recently questioned whether Barack Obama is patriotic and loves America, proudly presides over the most racially disparate capital punishment program in the nation.
And Herman Cain, an African-American who came of age in South Carolina during the civil rights movement, as the son of a domestic worker and a chauffeur, has learned to mimic the likes of Palin and Donald Trump, in his hateful, small-minded attacks on the nation’s first African-American president.
What has come of our body politic when these non-starters, have become front-runners?Besides Cain’s lack of political or policy experience, he reflects the bigotry and ignorance in the GOP field. Cain has stated that he would institute a religious test to work in his administration. He has unapologetically stated that Muslims would have no place, and that communities should be able to decide to discriminate against members of this 1.5 billion populous faith. Earlier in his campaign, Cain flirted with birtherism, questioning whether Obama was born in the U.S. — and by so doing, Cain appealed to the very racists who would never vote for him regardless.
Rick Perry, the most recent entrant to the GOP field, has risen overnight as a potential front-runner alongside Mitt Romney. Why? Because in a field void of ideas or policy and economic solutions, the Republican establishment has instituted a race to the bottom and are appealing to the least common denominator.
They have carefully crafted a racially-infused attack campaign against Obama, and framed Perry as a quintessential presidential figure: harking back to what they believe to be the golden-era of American politics. The vast majority of white Americans, especially Republicans, believe simply that Perry and Romney both look “presidential”. Essentially that means they are middle-aged, white males, who have most of their hair.
Perry in particular combines the Reagan-esque style of connecting with people, with a Bush-style of saying nothing. Romney is actually smart enough to know what he does not know. But ignorance is bliss for Perry — as it was for Bush, and Perry is willing to do or say whatever is necessary to win. His latest gaffe of inciting potential violence against Fed Chairman Ben Bernanke speaks to how uncivilized the discourse has become.
Bachmann, Perry and Cain continue to follow the talking points already written on the Tea Party sounding board: lower taxes, less government, repeal of Obama’s health care reform. There is very little consideration for the fact that the recent Standard & Poor’s report which led to the nation’s credit-rating downgrade, almost explicitly outlined how dangerous adhering to this Republican platform would be for the future of the country. But these are not forward thinking politicians. They see that riding the anti-Obama train has traction with primary voters and they are betting it will lead to a win.
Of course electing any of them — with the small exception of Romney — may prove detrimental to the nation’s long-term future, and especially damaging to the lives of poor. But rural Americans in the South and Midwest who elect Republican candidates like Perry and Bachmann, or are fans of Herman Cain, may just be persuaded, despite the fact that the conservative policy platform is antithetical to the interests of the most vulnerable in society. Americans seem to have developed amnesia, and forgotten how Bush’s failed policies got us here in the first place.
Republicans have already won the battle over the conversation, and though Perry, Bachmann and Romney have very little to add to the dialogue, they do have a few things going for them: the economy is struggling, Republican and Tea Party race-baiting tactics have worked sufficiently to demonize Obama, and they all represent a potential great white hope.