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The End of America as We Knew It

Published: November 6, 2012
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We’re finally done. No more debates, no more speeches, no more ads, no more polls. Now you—you Americans—will vote (or not) and this long, national nightmare will finally be over.

It’s been an ugly trudge from the midterms to now. Die-hard American politicos—the ones who were looking forward to a good fight full of big ideas—must be really bummed out. Mark Shields and David Brooks are, and they’re generally the nicest guys in the business. They’re both discouraged by the smallness, the small-mindedness of both of these presidential campaigns. And they’re right.

I’ve long wished that the substantive, genial, quick and to-the-point weekly conversation between Shields and Brooks on PBS’ Newshour defined the political discourse for this country, for our leaders, but it hasn’t, and it doesn’t, and it won’t. The best pundits are operating on a vastly higher plane of consciousness than the candidates are, and that’s not really how it should be. That’s how bad this election cycle is. We deserve better candidates, especially now, at this moment in human history.

Both Obama v. 2012 and Romney v. 2012.1/.2/.3/.4/... are all political underachievers.

Romney’s entire 2012 presidential run—outside of the outsized praise for his first debate performance—has been a complete abortion. He can’t be proud of the campaign he has run. His Republican Tea Party pandering throughout the primaries was followed by a sad and ridiculous convention. They chased Glenn Beck and Sarah Palin away from it only to give an old man and a chair 15 minutes of national ramble-time? From there, Romney went on to a multi-week fuck-up that sent the Becks and Palins and Limbaughs scurrying and crying bloody foul. And they had a point. If he loses, they will be vindicated. What they really wanted was a big campaign full of big, bat-shit crazy ideas, and Romney wasn’t the guy to follow through. They saw right through him (but not past those goddamn impenetrable underwear).

The one, potentially visionary move he did make was in his selection of a running-mate. Whatever you think of Paul Ryan and his stream-of-consciousness pseudo-budget “The Path to Prosperity,” it’s a major re-engineering of America as we know it, and that ranks it in the category of big ideas. The only problem is that neither Romney nor Ryan really campaigned defending or explaining or championing “The Path” (it sounds creepier if you shorten it like that). It’s like the other Book Of Mormon of this campaign: it’s there, under the guy’s pillow, and he lives his life by it, but he doesn’t really want to talk about it.

So, Romney got a vision point for choosing Ryan and then quickly forfeited that point in the kind of characteristic Romneyan flip-flop that people have come to accept, embrace, and even admire. Remember when that simple phrase was the dirtiest word in American politics?! Remember?! It wasn’t that long ago. Oy.

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