For weeks I've been a bit amazed at how brazenly the Romney campaign has lied about simple things: the welfare waivers, the raiding of Medicare, that he would balance the budget in ten years, that they released two years of tax returns, the now infamous GM Janesville plant, the assertion that Obama never passed a trade bill while in office, Romney's weird story about this departure from Bain; while also repeating things which the campaign had to know were not true -- the economy is worse today than when Obama took office, the Arab Spring has become an Arab Winter, the whole "he didn't build it" embarrassment. And, of course, there is the hiding the ball on his taxes, the offshore accounts, the high likelihood of massive tax evasion and the repeated mistakes/errors/lies on his public filings.
I've been in this business for twenty-five years now and, truly, I have never seen anything like this at this level of the game.
The big question is why? The New York Times speculates that it is because the current set of facts about the world and the U.S. economy are not sufficient to un-elect the President. To win they would have to make things up to make them seem worse than they are. I think there is an element of this. But to me it speaks to something much deeper and more disturbing in the ideological evolution of the center-right in the U.S. -- how their politics has placed protecting the privilege of elites over all other concerns and considerations.
At the core of this approach is something profoundly anti-democratic. In order to protect privilege estate taxes are eliminated; investments taxed at much lower rates than regular income; programs/investments critical for the middle class -- schools, infrastructure, retirement programs, health insurance reform -- are cut; programs for the poor are gutted; laws making it much harder for people are passed across the country; the campaign system now allows just a very wealthy few to have an extraordinary influence over political discourse; while all the while the right is fighting, fighting, fighting to lower taxes for the wealthiest among us.
If your politics revolves around protecting privilege, then lying to those without it is no big deal, for at the core of this new politics is a remarkable contempt for the well being of everyday people and the common good. This contempt for the truth is just an extension of their contempt for us and our interests. Which is why Mitt Romney is, in so many ways, a perfect candidate for this modern Republican Party, and Paul Ryan its perfect propagandist. They lie because at the end of the day their politics are not about us -- they are about them, and their small group of funders and political allies looking to do a leveraged buy-out of the most powerful government in human history. Which is why there has been almost no mention the first few nights of the GOP Convention about what they will do when in power. Other than protecting low taxes for the wealthy, it just isn't clear there is that much else they care about.
So yes, the extraordinary contempt for the truth demonstrated by team Romney is an issue in this campaign. But commentators and journalists need to dig a bit more and, I hope, connect it to a much deeper and more troubling corruption of the modern center-right.
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