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Politics in a New Century

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The Republicans are positioning themselves to be the leading party in a new century. The problem is, it isn't the twenty-first.

Most of their candidates and initiatives seem perfectly poised to tackle the issues at the start of the twentieth century, one hundred years ago. Rick Santorum, for example, is consumed by the anti-contraception movement, an idea that peaked in the 1920s, when Margaret Sanger was introducing the idea of birth control to Americans. Today, the politician from Pennsylvania wants to ban prophylactics, which would be bad news for the Trojan line, as well as for all couples. He must long for the era when Ramses were sold under the counter at drugstores. Mitt Romney, who has the backbone of a warmed-up Twizzler stick, supports this campaign plank. It is hard to imagine a better position to drive twenty-first century citizens to vote Democratic.

Then there's Ron Paul. Liberals applaud his non-interventionist foreign policy ideas. In so doing, they overlook Paul's desire to repeal the Federal Reserve Act, passed back in 1913. Advocating a return to the gold standard, Dr. Paul yearns for the country before we had a stable currency and a central bank. The 1890s were good old days to him. Of course, if he ever got within serious sight of the nomination, let alone the presidency, the amount of Wall Street money he'd face would dwarf the already gargantuan campaign spending this year. A Paul candidacy might play well in the era of William McKinley, but in 2012 would be the biggest fundraiser Barack Obama could ever dream up.

The whole party seems to be riding the train to long-gone eras. One of the bright ideas bandied around is the possibility of a brokered convention, one where delegates did not have to obey the will of the voters, and could choose whichever candidate they pleased. Sarah Palin told reporters that she supported this notion, that opposition only came from folks who had "their own personal or political reasons, their own candidate who they would like to see protected away from a brokered convention." Meaning Mitt Romney. This is a swell idea; everyone who voted in the primaries would feel betrayed by their delegates, by their leaders, by their party.

On the positive side, the whole country could enjoy the entertainment spectacle of a major political segment reduced to chaos. The role model here is the Democratic convention of 1924, held in New York City. Split between urban and rural factions, proceedings deteriorated till fights broke out, both verbal and quite often, physical. Hamstrung and exhausted, Democrats eventually nominated a nonentity compromise, and lost badly in November. The convention itself ran one-hundred-four ballots, a record which, mercifully, should last for eternity. As the spectacle ran into overtime, delegates required loans so that they could even stay for twice as long as they had budgeted for. Will Rogers quipped, "New York invited you people here as guests, not to live."

And as for Newt Gingrich, he's the only candidate who is forward looking. With his Captain Moonbeam proposals, he is perfectly poised to run for office in the twenty-third century.