Friday, August 31, 2012

The 2012 Republican Convention

Paul Ryan: "We will solve America's problems by reapplying our founding principles."

Mitt Romney: "I like women, Hispanics and families."

Agent Smith: "One of these lives has a future. One of them does not."

Establishment Republican strategists like the ones writing Romney's speeches are worried about Hispanics in the future and women in the now. Hispanics currently vote overwhelmingly for Democrats. They believe, probably correctly, that the future of the Republican party at least in part depends upon Hispanics voting for them. What they don't understand is they are never going to beat the Democrats at pandering to constituencies. Marco Rubio knows how to appeal to Hispanics without pandering, and that's with a conservative message. He told the story he has told so many times, skewering Obama's politics with the line: "ideas that people come to America to get away from." He even spoke a line of Spanish, quoting his father about why he immigrated to America away from socialist Cuba. If you want to appeal to Hispanics, do it the same way you appeal to everyone else. Rubio understands that. Romney does not.

Romney seemed especially concerned about women. He mentioned by name all the women who had spoken at the convention, and not being content to stop there mentioned how he had hired a lot of women at Bain and as governor of Massachusetts. As if that wasn't enough, he said women now start most businesses. Okay we get it Mr. Romney. Women are cool. Why does it feel like you are still living in the fifties like your father, who became a Republican to vote for Eisenhower? You are not a war hero, Mr. Romney, and you will not have a successful presidency by telling everyone to calm down and love their families. Our problems are not caused by a foreign nation or a war, and the American people aren't ready to take a break. The night before Ryan joked that his iPod starts with AC/DC and ends with Led Zeppelin. Ryan compared Romney's iPod playlist to elevator music. Romney's comeback against Ryan's joke came out awkward and defensive. It was the first hint I've seen at actual tension between the two men. During the primary campaign last year I marveled at the ineptness of all of the candidates, including the conservatives ones, failing to endorse Ryan's budget proposal which had already passed the Republican House in two different versions. It seemed that even in a Republican primary they were one and all afraid of it. I said at the time that the first person to endorse Ryan openly would win the primary. Ryan himself could have won it. But nobody did. Romney didn't until he had already won. It seems Romney finally realized how much support Ryan really has and picked him as his running mate. Until last night, I didn't know whether Romney was rattled by Ryan or not. I thought perhaps Romney viewed Ryan as a talented young politician who could be an asset to his administration. It's clear to me now that Romney is going to keep Ryan at arm's length. Whatever influence Ryan will have on Romney's administration will have to come with reference to the support Ryan already has behind him. Romney is threatened by Ryan, but at least he appears to be enough of a man to make the right decisions anyway.

I've been working on a post incorporating The Matrix quite a bit, so it may seem like I'm using that movie a lot. I assure you it's entirely due to my great love for that film. At one point early on in the movie before Neo knows what's going on, Agent Smith hauls him in for a talk. He lets Neo know they've been watching him and they know he's a hacker living a double life. He tells Neo that one of his lives has a future and one of them does not, clearly intimating that Neo should stop being a rebel and play ball. Neo famously announces his plan to flip Smith the bird and promptly executes it, not unlike the way Ryan finally broke his discipline and allowed himself a shot at the establishment, saying: "In a clean break from the Obama years, and frankly from the years before this president, we will keep federal spending at 20 percent of GDP, or less. Because that is enough." The GOP establishment looks at the Tea Party and chastises it for not playing the game. They believe in the politics of the past, stroking the egos of various constituencies, emphasizing everything that makes us different from each other. The 2012 Republican convention highlighted the difference between the future of the Republican party according to Ryan, Rubio and Rand (Paul) versus the future according to Romney and the GOP establishment. At least one conservative who was alive back then noted the similarities to the 1976 convention where a barely defeated Reagan stole the show. Reagan lost that primary, but he won the presidency four years later and became one of the most successful modern presidents. The winner Gerald Ford managed only to lose the presidency to Jimmy Carter and became a one term footnote. Then as now, one of these lives has a future. One of them does not.

Now that's whack.