THE BLOG
03/06/2012 11:24 am ET | Updated May 06, 2012

Do You Take This Candidate to Be Your Lawfully Wedded... ?

The relationship between the American electorate and the White House is akin to marriage and every four years the spouses have to renew their vows or get hitched again. Renewal time is on the horizon and things are looking iffy. To see the angst of so many regarding the current lineup of GOP candidates is reminiscent not only of unsuccessful arranged marriages of the recent past but of dysfunctional relationships in general.

Things started going downhill when the Supreme Court bound our hands to George W. Bush. The voting public was like an involuntary mail-order bride who was minding her own business, engaged to marry someone else, when she was kidnapped and shipped off to a new husband who expected her to keep the house tended and her mouth shut. With embarrassingly low approval ratings even today, Bush's like-minded party buddies currently in the running for the GOP nomination avow his same ultra conservative stance on social issues, a stance not supported by a majority of the country, yet none ever mention his name because they know one important fact: the country divorced itself from Bush's presidency before it ended.

Any good relationship is essentially democratic; there is an aura of fairness surrounding the involved parties wherein both have equal say. The current GOP presidential contenders' view of their relationship with America resonates most strongly with the breadwinner-gets-the-last-word crowd, except in this case the breadwinner hasn't actually won anything yet beyond codependency with an evangelical minority that proclaims, time and again, unyielding support of any candidate whose pockets are open to their dollars and whose clichéd promises to wind backward the hands of time help them sleep better at night.

As conservatives try to swing the pendulum back from the Obamania that swept the current president into the White House, Democrats are scrambling to re-characterize Obama for the next election. "Hope" isn't good enough this time around. For both parties, getting voters behind their candidate is like trying to find a good mate for a perpetually dissatisfied misanthrope. Desperation is never attractive but it abounds during campaigns, even for those already living in the White House. If Democrats want to win, they need to be strong, not weak kneed, and the war in Iraq and all its mountainous debt, which most of them voted for, left them in a fix: rebrand our current spouse as strong enough to fix that big war problem and lovingly tend to all the other issues which worsened from neglect after our soldiers were first sent to Iraq. Healthcare, social security, women's rights, the environment, Wall St. oversight, gay marriage, illegal immigration and unemployment will be center stage in the next election and Obama better be prepared. I voted for him once and I already know I will do so again but I know others who aren't so certain. They would never cast a vote for Rick "Your Uterus Is My Priority" Santorum but they might vote for Mitt Romney if his eventual running mate isn't too scary.

In 2008 if the GOP had not insisted John McCain arrange-marry Sarah Palin, and instead made him marry, say, Mitt Romney, Barack Obama might not be the president of the United States today. Luckily people couldn't stomach the idea of Sarah Palin's fingers near the nuclear codes and one would assume the GOP has learned its lesson.

In good relationships there should be good communication but it is virtually impossible to communicate with a partner who is unwilling to listen, and moreover denies any problems exist. At least, any problems not paramount to that person. In the Bush years, The Decider decided he was destined for the presidency so any relationship-tending beyond arriving at his preordained post was unimportant to him. Some relationships go on forever like that, eventually settling into the pattern of one person speaks, the other tunes them out, and both grow old before their time. Complacency is partly to blame; the feeling of futility grows so intense that it displaces any hope for reconciliation, or that another partner is even possible. But another partner is always possible, and thankfully term limits guarantee it.

Now the country is planning for its next marriage. Last time the U.S. needed to de-Bush, emotionally and otherwise. This time the electorate must be its own advocate rather than allow either party to serve as its mouthpiece, and it should never again settle for political hand-me-downs. In 2000 and 2004 many people, moderates included, voted for Bush simply because of likeability. "I'd rather have a beer with him than the other guy," polls showed. Underneath that nonsense, provincial logic prevailed: "he comes from a good family." Those same voters would have married John McCain in 2008 if not for all his baggage, aka Sarah Palin. Alas, choosing the right partner is rarely easy. But divorcing the wrong partner is a lot harder and more time consuming.

This time it will behoove all voters to raise their standards significantly. The country should refuse to be ignored by its potential spouse, and pay attention to the earliest red flags. On the Republican side... Santorum's temper and frighteningly archaic social views, which should scare even ultra conservatives. Ron Paul's mental meanderings and incessant dodging of critical questions. Mitt Romney's trite promises, lackluster presence and backpedaling about abortion rights. Newt's forced-stepping-down from the speakership, wildly overinflated ego and his famous GOPAC memo, "Language: A Key Mechanism Of Control." Reading that is like hearing your potential spouse talk about you to his buddies and you learn how little he really thinks of you. On the Democratic side... Obama's ability to withstand the eventual debate heat, not get swift-boated, keep his campaign promises such as those regarding offshore drilling and never, ever pander to those who believe women should be second class citizens.

Your partner's past is a harbinger for your future together. When that person's past includes running previous relationships into the ground and leaving significant collateral damage, it doesn't bode success for you. Above all, in the courting stage, demand clear answers to direct questions and hold candidates to their actual words. That means all of their words, not just the ones you want to hear. A picture of a diamond ring is just that -- a picture. If it's never slipped on your finger, you've been had.