Thursday, January 17, 2008

We have nothing to fear but fear-mongering candidates

While I'm not at all surprised that the Democratic presidential race is as close as it is, I am frankly shocked at the parity of its Republican counterpart. From day one, I figured Rudy Giuliani was the shoo-in. Maybe he still is; his campaign hasn't yet kicked into Super Tuesday mode. But, surprisingly, these past few weeks have been entertaining, with Mike Huckabee and Mitt Romney seeming like very plausible candidates. Wait, did I say "entertaining?" I meant, "frightening."

On one hand, it's hilarious to hear these two lead the GOP pack in out-Jesusing each other. It's like Fred Phelps and Jed Smock having a sword fight with their Bibles, arguing over who hates the most in the name of God. Except that enough voters sway to the religious right for this bickering to occur on a national stage. And that's cause for genuine concern.

Mitt Romney, in particular, is the catalyst for everything that's wrong with the Republican Party. He is everything the GOP likes in a candidate: a handsome, clean-cut, hyper-religious white businessman who compares the campaign trail to the Iraq war and whose only hangups about war and torture are that we don't do enough of either. On the other hand, he's a Mormon and used to be governor of Massachusetts, which to them means he doesn't worship a real god or live in a real state. And that rift is likely to do him in. Not that I'll lose any sleep over it; but such fickleness does mean that the eventual GOP nominee will have to fit into some uncompromising standards. And he will be everything we expect.

Enter Mike Huckabee. My prediction is that Huckabee will be the Republican nominee, or at least will take a close second to Giuliani. Both Rudy and Mike are defiantly neocon in an age when everyone expects the party to kowtow to more sane elements. And given conservatives' natural aversion to sweeping change, don't expect any different in 2008 than we saw in 2004 or 2000. The only real question remaining is which aspect of neoconservatism GOP primary voters will value the most: religion or fear? Religious voters will align with Huckabee, while 9/11 ultra-security obsessives will pick Giuliani.

"But," you say, "What about John McCain, Fred Thompson and the RON PAUL REVOLUTION? Aren't they going to be wild cards?" Well, of course they are. And of these wild cards, McCain could very well be an ace in the hole among undecided voters. But a McCain victory would be less of a vindication of his previous losses than it would be an admission by voters that they were hoodwinked by George W. Bush's smearing tactics in 2000. That would require a concession of weakness by conservative voters, which won't happen. So McCain's out.

As for the other two candidates, here's why they will eventually fizzle:

Fred Thompson: Strong following based largely on his proficiency in quoting Ronald Reagan. Said following consists mostly of TV devotees, who'd rather raid a refrigerator than the polls.

THE RON PAUL REVOLUTION: It's a revolution, which by definition involves the overthrowing of the status quo. It also apparently involves ending the war in Iraq while still espousing right-wing principles of government and economy. No thanks. It's surprising enough the Republicans even let him in the race with forcing him to change his slogan to "THE RON PAUL RECREATIONISM."

Given the party's current trajectory, I'd say we have nothing to fear from the Republicans this time around. But in the immortal words of Indiana Jones, "That's what scares me."

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