I predicted Romney to win and I am sticking to it. Let the kids at the Tea Party sleepover have their fun, sooner or later the grown ups are going to come upstairs, turn off the music, make everyone get back into bed and cut out the lights, just like they always do. Post-Eisenhower, the Republican Party has worked on the principle that the great unwashed should just shut up and do what their betters tell them to do. And when push comes to shove, they will.
So what do the results really tell us?
Three things, I think.
First, the average IQ of any large group of randomly selected people should be a hundred, but it may be quite a bit lower than that in South Carolina. What do SC Republicans want? Progress on the economy, abortion, gay marriage? Yeah, right. I am from South Carolina. What they really want is an electoral lynching. It’s called the White House for a reason, they believe.
To achieve that, they should vote for the most moderate candidate available. That’s not poli-wonk talk, it’s real science, what game theorists call the “ice cream stand on the beach” solution. (For real.) If you’re putting a new ice cream stand on a beach that already has one, where is the best place to put it? The other end of the beach? Nope, as close the existing stand as you can get, but closer to the middle. For the non-mathemeticians, that means the candidate most likely to beat Obama is a moderate. Nominating someone who is not only not centered, but instead of being on the beach may be up on the boardwalk stealing bicycles, is asinine.
Unless we assume this is some uber-sophisticated tactic on their part to prolong the selection process long enough to convince the party elite to draft Mitch the Bitch or Bush 3.0 or the like, Gingrich makes no sense at all.
Second, be they fools or be they savants, they are all a bunch of hypocrites. The exit polls say that people for whom morals and religion were paramount overwhelmingly went for Newt instead of devout and untarnished candidates like Santorum and Romney. Newt? Really? The voters of South Carolina are saying one thing and doing another, and all I can say to that is “Thank God.” (Were She to exist.)
As memory serves, it was Asimov who said, “Men always cheat their gods,” and thankfully that’s true. As bad as the mullahs are, they would be worse without that secret stash of Johnnie Walker locked in the desk. And can you imagine how ill-tempered the Christian right would be if they weren’t having sex with prostitutes in airport toilets? I, for one, applaud their hypocrisy, if the alternative is they actually act on what they purport to believe. And I am delighted to have more proof of that hypocrisy, were more needed. (Yes, Vitter, I am talking to you.)
Third, Woody Guthrie is spinning in his populist grave.
Populism is the politics of envy. For the most part, American populism, from Andy Jackson to Huey P. Long, was about envy of the rich. The new Tea Party populism, though, is about envy of the poor. The white middle class envies the non-white lower class, whom they believe enjoys a life of tax-payer funded leisure while whites have to go to work every morning. The white lower class envies and resents the non-white lower class, whom they percieve has been redistributed income, status, and opportunities that would have gone to the whites in the past. Because economic growth is not a zero sum game it’s not exactly true, but no matter–they believe it. It’s populism, but of a particularly nasty sort, and different from traditional American populism.
This populism of the Tea Party may be new and fresh to America, but it’s not new and fresh. Check with Americans who have immigrated from third world hellholes, because they have seen this poor-bashing for decades. That form of populism is the stock in trade of third world despots like the Bhuttos and the Ghaddaffis, who purport to be friends of the poor while looting their countries. They get by with it because they are so adroit at playing the various factions off against each other.
I have to admit all it is fun to watch all this writhing about in pain by the Republicans, but I don’t think it changes much. To quote Kurt Vonnegut, “Anyone who has come this far on a fool’s errand, owes it to the honor of those fools to complete that errand,” and for Romney, the errand started when he was a very young boy and his father missed out on his presidential aspiration. I can’t see him giving up and quitting now, and over the long haul he’s still got the cash to grind it out.