With Mitt Romney's super-PAC limo now on cruise control to victory at the GOP convention, voters are left with only two reasons to vote against Barack Obama: Either they are desperate to return a white man to the White House or they feel strongly that it is time to break the glass ceiling denying Mormons the presidency.
Out of a sense of tolerance I could cotton to the latter -- heck, why should the bizarre beliefs of Romney's church be a deal breaker? I'm hoping for a strong Jewish contender someday and wouldn't like her burdened with defending Old Testament claptrap.
The problem in this mind-numbing Republican primary season is that the campaign has exposed Romney as not just another white male Mormon like some of the fairly reasonable senators who have represented Utah. Or like Romney's own father, George, at one time the governor of Michigan. No, this Romney is now widely regarded as the vulture capitalist he is, a politician who is a say-and-do-anything opportunist with no moral limits on his outsized ambitions.
Nothing is sacred to the former Massachusetts governor, not even his own signature health plan that he sold to that state's voters as the standard for rational government decision-making as regards the deep problems faced by our economy. The weaknesses of what Romney and the GOP deride as Obamacare have been all too obvious in the plan Romney touted in Massachusetts -- a mandate to sign up without the cost restraints that a single-payer government program would offer. Now, with a new national plan from Rep. Paul Ryan emerging from the U.S. House, Romney and the Republican Party generally seek to compound that error by undermining Medicare and Medicaid, two programs that offer at least a modicum of cost control. Instead, the candidate and his fellow Republicans would turn consumers over completely to the tender mercies of for-profit insurers.
The justification for gutting what little remains of enlightened government programs to aid the vulnerable is, of course, the dreaded federal deficit. (Lest we forget, seniors were foremost among the vulnerable until the arrival of the programs now under attack.) What is so outrageously hypocritical about the proposals from both Romney and Ryan is that they do not touch, and indeed would further open, the spending spigot that caused all of the red ink following President Bill Clinton's budget-balancing act.
Both Romney and Ryan want to increase President George W. Bush's tax breaks for the wealthy, which seriously cut revenues while treating as sacrosanct the Cold War levels in military spending that Bush put in place in a wildly irrational response to the 9/11 attacks. This week Ryan announced that defense spending is off-limits, and Romney has campaigned for an increase in what represents more than 40 percent of the non-mandated federal budget.
I can't wait for the moment in a presidential debate when Romney talks about the need for even more advanced U.S. weaponry to counter the emerging military threat from Communist China and Obama ever so coolly points out that Bain Capital, the company that Romney co-founded, has been supplying those Red tyrants with surveillance equipment to better monitor their citizenry.
With Ron Paul's fortunes as a presidential candidate declining, there is no pressure on GOP leaders to link a withdrawal from the imperial adventures in Iraq and Afghanistan with a reduced federal handout to the military-industrial complex. Nor will the Republican leadership confront the party's responsibility for the nation's economic collapse, the subsequent loss in tax revenues, and the Fed and Treasury policies that bailed out the Wall Street charlatans who invented this meltdown.
Instead of reining in Wall Street greed, the GOP is demanding a reversal of even the tepid efforts of the Obama administration to hold the financial industry accountable to honest business practices. And, at a time when the largest multinational companies have shifted jobs and profits abroad, the GOP stands for rewarding that betrayal of American workers by eliminating all taxes on overseas corporate profits.
The pity in all this is that a legitimate critique of the Obama record -- present to some degree in the Paul dissection of the president's war policy and his continuation of the Bush Wall Street bailout strategy -- will not be heard in the general election debate. Instead, on the one hand, we will have Obama offering clever-sounding arguments for establishment policies that fail to deal with high unemployment, a brutal level of housing foreclosures and sharpening income inequality. And on the other hand there will be a Republican Party so steeped in the ethos of greed, racism and war-mongering that it would leave even Ronald Reagan and Richard Nixon, were they alive, with no choice but to vote for Obama as the lesser evil.