Barack Obama is going to be president for another four years.
Even though the economy is reeling, our national deficit is skyrocketing and myriad campaign promises have been left unfulfilled …
… you had best make peace with the immediate prospect of a second Obama term.
Four years ago, I (like many other overzealous Democrats) thought that the 2008 election sounded the death knell for the Republican Party as we once knew it. With their demographics ever shrinking and the American voting public growing less concerned with the traditional drum-beating over marriage equality and reproductive rights, I foolishly assumed that the GOP would go into a decade of hibernation in an effort to reinvent their image and their platform. During this time of Republican vulnerability, I believed that Democrats would enjoy easy majorities in both houses of Congress; and that a wave of progressive legislation would sweep over the American countryside like a fresh autumn breeze.
Yeah, that didn’t happen. Republicans beat us senseless in the 2010 midterm elections; recapturing the House and nearly tipping the balance of the Senate — had they not bungled easy pickup opportunities against immensely vulnerable candidates in New Jersey and Nevada, the GOP could have possibly taken both houses. With 23 Democratic Senate seats up for grabs compared to just 10 for the Republicans this year, one has to figure Republicans as odds-on favorites to take back the Senate.
In a typical year with a typical Republican candidate running on a typical Republican platform, that just might be the case.
But as we’ve all seen, this year’s GOP primary has been far from conventional. Bachmann asserting that HPV vaccines can lead to mental retardation. Perry being unable to name three government agencies that he would dispose of as president. Santorum advocating for additional screening of Muslims at airports … and who can forget his “paper towel-napkin” analogy in defense of heterosexual marriage? Newt Gingrich appealing to values voters. And Herman Cain … never forget Herman Cain.
Unfortunately, the very elements that have made this primary amusing have at the same time caused it to be, upon reflection, rather pitiful and — for lack of a better word –— sad.
Just like watching Tim Tebow’s futile attempts to complete intermediate routes, make routine audibles or even go through his basic progressions; the only thing that I can do when I look at this race is shake my head and bury my face in my hands.
Actually, Tim Tebow is perhaps the most accurate analogy for the state of Republican politics at this time. Tebow experienced a unique and unexpected success this season that many believed was, to some degree, undeserved. Some groups of Americans have come to terms with this stark reality (e.g. establishment Republicans, Denver Broncos management) and some groups refuse to confront reality (such as people voting for Rick Santorum; or the 43 percent of Americans that believe God has a hand in Tebow’s successes).
And this, my friends, is the driving force behind the 2012 presidential campaign. It is not red versus blue, liberal versus conservative or rich versus poor. No, it’s reality versus unreality; or fact versus not-fact.
Case in point: Let’s take a look at Jon Huntsman, former Republican presidential candidate. Earlier in the campaign, he tweeted: “I believe in evolution and trust scientists on global warming. Call me crazy.” I was massively depressed by this tweet, although my angst was hardly directed at Huntsman. That a candidate of a major party in the greatest country on Earth (look, when a black man becomes prime minister of Canada, Norway, or England, I’ll gladly eat crow) must go out of his way to mention that he believes in something so elementary as evolution is nearly inconceivable. It’s almost as if he said, “Guys, there might be something to this whole heliocentricity thing. Could be wrong, tho” or “There just may be something to this whole ‘gravitational constant’ deal #smh #newton #G-unit.”
So why would Huntsman do something like this? As L.A. Times columnist Kim Geiger wrote, “It was part of a larger effort at the time to cast himself as the moderate choice in a crowded GOP field.”
Yes, you read that correctly. In the Republican Presidential primary, accepting scientific tenets is defined as “moderate.”
It doesn’t stop with science; either. In a recent interview with 60 Minutes, Republican House Majority Leader Eric Cantor’s spokesman, Brad Dayspring, interrupted CBS’ Lesley Stahl when she pressed Cantor on the fact that Reagan raised taxes even though keeping taxes low was (supposedly) one of his most sacred principles as a politician.
When confronted with the reality and fact that Reagan raised taxes and compromised, Dayspring responded with: “That just isn’t true. And I don’t want to let that stand.”
If there’s one thing I’ve noticed about these Republican candidates (as well as most Republicans in general), it’s that they seem to have developed a sense of collective amnesia regarding the past 30 years. From listening to these candidates this year, I wouldn’t even know that George W. Bush existed, let alone that his policies were largely responsible for plunging our economy into the toilet. There will always be philosophical differences — many of them irreconcilable —between the two major parties here in the United States. Even within these parties, you’ll never fail to see ideological disputes between idealists and pragmatists on a wide variety of issues. I get that. I’m not expecting that tension to disappear overnight – or ever, for that matter.
But there is a distinct difference between saying “Although he raised taxes, Reagan was a great president” and “Because he never raised taxes, Reagan was a great president.” The former is an opinion based on fact, and the latter is an opinion based on the equivalent of Republican fan-fiction.
Yet this is precisely where we find the current state of Republican electoral politics. And while that appeal to and utilization of cognitive dissonance may reap dividends in midterm elections and local races, it will not be enough to topple Obama in November’s election.
Because as we all know, reality has a liberal bias.
Tony Montgomery is junior in the College of Arts and Sciences. He is the president of Cornell Democrats and the 4th Ward Chair of the Tompkins County Democratic Committee. He may be reached at email@example.com. Guest Room appears periodically this semester.