Tuesday, August 21, 2012

Time-Warping in Tampa: Romney’s Step to the Right

 …And then a step to the right
With your hands on your hips
You bring your knees in tight
But it's the pelvic thrust that really drives you insane,
Let's do the Time Warp again!

-- From “The Time Warp” by Richard O’Brien

With the Cold War moving from front pages into history books, it was during Bill Clinton’s stint in the White House that ideology began to go out of style in the national dialogue. Clinton was such an unapologetic capitalist and so many people were making money, it was useless to call him a "pinko."

Most of the time Clinton's two-term presidency was rather loosely tethered to what had been traditional liberal thinking in the USA. Likewise, the compassionate conservatives and neoconservatives of George W. Bush's eight years in the White House hardly fit the mold of what conservatism had generally meant during the previous half-century. And, in spite of what some partisans like to pretend, Pres. Barack Obama didn’t really campaign as a dyed-in-the-wool lefty, New Deal/Great Society Democrat in 2008.

But as soon as Obama was elected, along came the Tea Party bandwagon, fueled by raw anger at government and a rabid disliking for the new president. The new wave conservative momentum established by the bandwagon took a couple of years to be assimilated by the Grand Old Party.

Now the eager leadership of 2012’s remodeled Republican Party wants to round us all up and schlep us back across the bridge to yesteryear. Back to before Medicare. Before Roe vs. Wade. Before the Voting Rights Act. Before Social Security.

So, for the first time since the 1980s, ideology for its own sake is back in the forefront of what’s being argued over in a national election. In tapping Rep. Paul Ryan from Wisconsin as his running mate, Mitt Romney -- the former governor of Massachusetts -- took his party's image yet another step to the right on the crooked road to its jamboree in Tampa ... fade out.


...Fade in: As you picture the putative presidential nominee at the upcoming Republican convention the tune in the hall is familiar. Under his perfect hairdo, Romney is in front of a chorus row of superdelegates on a huge stage, all festooned in red, white and blue. Wearing shades and tuxes they are performing a number straight out of “The Rocky Horror Picture Show.” Hands on hips, they're singing, “Let’s do the Time Warp again!”

OK, in all likelihood, the GOP probably won’t use “The Rocky Horror Picture Show" (1975) for its theme in Tampa. Still, it says here that if the Republicans were all outfitted in costumes inspired by that cult movie the convention's TV ratings would be boffo.

Meanwhile, the Republican wish to recapture the commonly shared happiness of the Gilded Age actually has something in common with this musical from the midnight show vault of classics. In part, both are about a longing for a total fantasy -- a world of faux nostalgia that never existed in the first place.

With his pivot to the right Romney’s campaign strategists are saying they believe there are more uncommitted voters for Republicans to win over out on the Flat-Earth fringe than what votes might be found languishing in the indifferent center. The Romney camp must also be hoping the right-face turn will help seal off their candidate's well-documented moderate past in Massachusetts, to retroactively paint Willard Mitt Romney as a lifelong conservative.

Consequently, this fall Republican talking heads will be selling a lot of warmed-over ideology. We’re going to hear plenty about the intrinsic evils of socialism and trade unions. The manly strut of the GOP’s 1964 candidate, Barry Goldwater, will be lauded. Once again, Ronald Reagan will be hailed as a saint.

Speaking of nostalgia, even Ayn Rand‘s ideas are being dusted off.

And, speaking of juvenile pop philosophy, over his long career as a public person, Romney’s flip-flopping, wannabe hunger to have it all his way -- all ways -- brings to mind the unquenchable lust of Dr. Frank-N-Furter in “The Rocky Horror Picture Show.” Frank-N-Furter’s approach to dealing with reality was: “Don’t dream it, be it.”

Which is a twist on what conservatives believed when Goldwater was their nominee in 1964. In that high-contrast era Republicans consistently painted themselves as hard-edged realists and problem-solvers. The Democrats were depicted as fuzzy-thinking dreamers ... fade out.


…Fade in: Now it’s the pragmatic Democrats who seem much more concerned with solving real-world problems than anyone on the other side of the aisle. You don’t have to like Obamacare to see that it was an attempt to solve a very real problem. Solving society’s most vexing real problems doesn’t seem to be important to today’s power-coveting conservatives.

Instead, they invent a problem to solve, as they have with voter fraud legislation in several states. Their answer to global climate change is, “Drill, baby, drill!" Their solution for the economic meltdown that put millions out of their jobs is to unshackle Wall Street's bankers from pesky regulations.

Famously, Romney’s 2008 advice about the automobile industry was, “Let Detroit go bankrupt.”

From today’s GOP, instead of a fresh vision for America's future, we’re just getting more political kitsch. Ayn Rand, indeed!

Yes, it’s the same old song and dance -- let’s do the Time Warp forever.

-- 30 --

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