The farce of the Republican primaries
The performances are contentious, and we’ve become accustomed to the in-team bickering and ubiquitous hovering of wives. Paraded before baying crowds, every fraction of the contenders is left open to criticism.
Even their hair is symbolic; with salt-and-pepper flecks at the temples a bonus. I’m not talking about the World Cup, the Olympics, or Hollywood’s upcoming awards season. I am, of course, speaking about the Republican primaries.
The night an American President is elected, the next race begins. Barack Obama has essentially never stopped campaigning, as every speech and piece of legislation passed is leverage to be stored away until needed on the debate podium.
In an absurd system that bares very little resemblance to the one in this country – we were fifty years behind America in televised debates, not holding our first one until 2010 – the Republican Primary season this year may be the most farcical of all.
And this carnival of conservatism is actually working in Obama’s favour.
With the advent of real-time and social media, any mistakes made by the Republicans are magnified and often go viral. Take Rick Perry’s now-famous ‘oops’ moment, when the name of the third government agency he would cut if elected evaded him.
So keen were the rest of the debaters to appear as a united Republican front that Ron Paul even tried to name the forgotten agency for him. At a later appearance, Perry not only got the date of the election wrong, but also overestimated the minimum voting age by three years.
Errors like these define a campaign, and Perry isn’t the only one making them. Michelle Bachmann’s attempt to invoke the spirit of the mythical American west led to her start her Presidential campaign in Waterloo, Iowa.
Proudly declaring Waterloo the birthplace of John Wayne, she forgot a crucial point. Waterloo is in fact the birthplace of serial killer John Wayne Gacy. Bachmann is no longer running.
The longer this race goes on, the nastier the attacks become, and the more awful stories, secrets, and undesirable facts are revealed. While mud is thrown from the hands of men with their own well-documented baggage (Newt Gringrich tried to impeach Bill Clinton whilst conducting an affair of his own) Obama can get on with the task at hand and continue to look like the stable, sane and obvious choice to win.
Seventeen debates have already been televised, and it’s only January. Compare this to the landmark three Britain aired in 2010, where the most controversial event to occur was that Nick Clegg had some agreeable opinions.
On top of these debates, however, is the cult of the attack ad, paid for by the campaigns and featuring the drama and soundtrack of a B-List action film, condensed into one minute and five seconds.
Newt Gringrich has attacked Mitt Romney with particular malice, but it’s not always for his policies. Romney’s ability to speak French (“Je m’appelle Mitt Romney”, the ad goes), as well as an incident in which Romney placed his Irish setter, Seamus, in a crate on the car roof during a road trip, apparently makes him unfit to be President.
Most would call this pathetic, but to Gingrich and his supporters these are the last-chance attempts to derail him. Although deemed too moderate by the rest of the candidates, it’s likely that Romney will win the Republican nomination.
The latest South Carolina poll puts Romney at 33%, followed by Gingrich, Rick Santorum (another victim of the internet), Ron Paul, and Rick Perry, who is miraculously still in the race.
With former ambassador to China and fluent Mandarin-speaker Jon Huntsman now out, Romney remains the least socially conservative candidate.
The remainders will fight to show which one most detests abortion, and who will be more effective in blocking women’s access to contraception. As former governor of liberal Massachusetts, Romney once supported abortion, a black mark upon his record that will never be forgotten.
Once the Republican candidate is chosen, Obama’s task will really begin.
But while the mistakes and accusations continue to roll in, he can sit back and know that all he has to do is take the dog in the car on the next family road trip.
In bypassing the majority of the Republican mess, Obama has a much better standing come the later months of 2012.