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Michael Brenner

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Santorum, Romney, Democrats -- Losers All

Posted: 02/28/2012 8:00 am

In the latest weird turn in this weirdest of political seasons, Rick Santorum is now the pivot of American political life. Not because he will be elected president -- he doesn't have the proverbial snowball's chance in Hell (where he could expect a hostile welcome from Satan). Not because he will be nominated in Tampa Bay -- he will be derailed long before then. No, there are two other reasons.

First, his flaring campaign is giving the sweats to America's plutocratic masters. Second, the GOP's self-immolation is lulling Democrats into the false belief that their future is brighter than in fact it will be.

The moneybags who underwrite the Republican project to restore the United States to the glory days of the Gilded Age are vexed that its full accomplishment may be put back by a few years due to the reelection of Barack Obama, who slows the pace -- if not the direction -- of going backwards. Failure of liberal and mainstream Democrats to realize this dominant fact of current American public life leads them to exaggerate the practical significance of keeping a Republican out of the Oval Office.

The GOP's paymasters know the problem and are moving decisively to resolve it. Democrats, as usual, have their heads in the sand and thereby they will get a kick in the rump whatever transpires in November.

The former's strategy for killing off Santorum is three-pronged. Funneling whatever money it takes to keep Mitt Romney's error-prone campaign running at full throttle is the easiest part of it. Super PACs are the vehicle; bank accounts bursting with doubloons and ducats are there to stoke the engines.

A complementary part of the scheme is encouraging the mainstream media to draw a stark contrast between the sane and steady Romney, on the one hand, and the eccentric loose cannon who is Santorum. This latter hasn't taken much effort since the entire establishment holds to the proposition that it is their patriotic duty to put their thumbs on the Romney side of the scales.

The third element is stifling the in-house critics who did Romney grievous damage by spotlighting the predatory record of his private equity past and fishy Cayman Islands tax haven. That was the weapon Newt Gingrich wielded to such great effect to cut the ground from under the Mich-Mass native in South Carolina.

Gingrich obviously stirred the economic populist passions that roil just below the Tea Party's surface. He also succeeded in cutting Romney's favorable rating among 'independents' in half. Mysteriously, that line of attack came to an abrupt end sometime around the Florida primary. So did the Gingrich challenge. Is it conceivable that the former Speaker experienced an epiphany in which he saw the error of his ideological ways? Or did he respond to silent calls in the wee hours by checking his investment portfolio and discovering that preserving a lucrative lobbying business was compelling after his extravagant visits to Tiffany's? Is it a coincidence that Ron Paul's main activity these days is serving as Romney's hit man in assaulting Santorum?

Democrats view this spectacle with the schadenfreude of a party that always has assumed that it has a monopoly on political suicide. Four more years -- golly gee! To even ask the question "four more years of exactly what?" is to have oneself shunned from enlightened society. Still, the question must be asked -- not just because Mr. Obama long since has come out of the closet as a Rockefeller Republican. There is something even more important at stake for the Democratic Party and its supposed progressive agenda.

The Republicans who have been tearing themselves apart have done so not over ideological differences, but rather in a fang-and-claw fight to see who can conjure the most reactionary image -- on social issues, on economic issues, on foreign policy. Hence, there has been a relentless, fierce reiteration of a drastic agenda whose reactionary roots already are well established in American public discourse.

Those ideas are being entrenched while a largely passive Democratic Party is content to giggle at the GOP candidates' shenanigans. There is no organized, sustained counterpunch being delivered. Yes, Mr. Obama finds a few moments between fundraising gigs each week to say a few words sotto voce about the need for a somewhat more generous view of our public responsibilities. That is about it. Otherwise, it is the usual exercise in minimalism.

Celebrate Congress' extension of the payroll withholding; in fact, not a tax cut since it Social Security and Medicare payments that are being partially suspended -- thereby making the long term arithmetic on those two Democratic signature programs look far worse that it is.

Moreover, the Democrats paid heavily in offsetting cutbacks of those programs and in other spheres which were little remarked.

Beyond the acquiescence in the steady encroachment on what has been the Democrats' sacred terrain, the bigger philosophical challenge is not being met. The Republican candidates get endless hours of press each day for their inveighing against 'government' as incompetent, corrupt and superfluous. There is no Democratic counter. Indeed, there hasn't been one since Bill Clinton declared the 'era of big government over' in a desperate attempt to salvage his reelection.

So, too, on an array of domestic issues. Government is still overblown: Obama signs on to a deal for reducing federal workers' take-home pay by 3% and freezing positions.

No more taxes; the White House has sealed the immunity of the rich from tax reform on three distinct occasions.

Stop the assault on business; Obama has agreed to the emasculation of financial reform measures through arbitrary interpretations and non-enforcement while drawing all major economic appointments from the business crowd.

Public schools are crummy, teachers are to blame and should be punished; Obama vilifies teachers while fanning the flames of the charter school fad -- other Democrats watch with pursed lips.

Religion and the state are as one in the crusade for virtue; Obama nods his head while other Democrats remain silent.

Americans' physical security trumps civil liberties; Obama has gone beyond Bush in violating individual rights -- even throwing habeas corpus out the window. Drug tests for welfare recipients; Democrats take a pass. Rid the United States of illegals; Obama takes pride in doing it better than anyone.

Consequently, American politics has only one narrative, one lexicon, one set of core ideas and basic concepts. They are Republican ones. This means that the GOP will have succeeded in rigging the country's philosophical and ethical compass to their advantage. So don't be surprised when they sweep the electoral board in the years ahead -- once the paymasters impose discipline in the ranks and breed a few show hounds suited to primetime.

 
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