What if Ford, stinging from the failure of its infamous Edsel, had tried to rectify it by building more Edsels with even more of everything people hated about the car?
What if the Coca-Cola Company, following the debacle of New Coke, came out with Newer Coke?
Can you imagine if, in 1976, the Republicans had decided to run another Richard Nixon? And the new Richard Nixon was even more Nixonian than Nixon himself?
For me, all of these scenarios come to mind when thinking about Rick Perry as the front-runner for the Republican nomination. Seriously, yet another antagonistic Texas cowboy, the literal successor to George W. Bush, is running this soon? And gaining? I realize the American public has the attention span of a gnat with Alzheimer’s, but this still seems really wrong. Like spending $300 million on a Battlefield Earth/Pluto Nash crossover flick. Like an NFL team drafting its next quarterback based on emotional resemblance to Ryan Leaf. Like rebuilding the Titanic and then ramming it into that iceberg again on purpose, because God himself can’t sink this ship, no matter how much pointy-headed liberal bureaucrats hate God!
All right, I’ll stop now.
It’s as if the Republican Party had a sensible plan to marginalize its most extreme elements, but then discovered that irritating its critics would be more fun instead. The term “doubling down” comes to mind. The sheer defiance of Paula Deen’s butter-soaked culinary creations in a health-conscious age. Or, for that matter, the KFC Double Down sandwich. Grease is the word. Grease is good.
Oops, I did it again. I’m eventually going to get to the point.
I want the Republicans to field a presidential candidate who would genuinely serve the needs of this country. And I don’t say that like some cynical conservatives say the Democrats need to run Joe Liebermans or Zell Millers; I’m not suggesting the Republicans try to appeal to me by running some platform-defying outlier that I’ll never consider anyway. But I do think the GOP should stop catering to tea party extremism and run someone whose idea of small government literally means that, as opposed to meaning gutting social safety nets and infrastructure while running up huge deficits. Oh, and allowing big government interference into personal lives in the name of security and family values. At some point, didn’t the party stand for limited (but effective) government and economic self-reliance? Isn’t there someone who stands for that? How hard can it be for the Republicans to field a Republican?
(Irrelevant tangent: Did I pluralize the above politicians correctly? Should I have written Joes Lieberman? Zells Miller? Joe Liebersmen?)
Instead, the entire remaining GOP field seems to be a tribute to spite and to deliberately not learning from past mistakes. And somehow, it seems to work like gangbusters. When Perry can surge while arguing, among other horrible things, that we need to charge deductibles to poor emergency-room patients so that "they got a little skin in the game,” something is very, very wrong in this country.
(Side note: Perry’s “skin in the game” comment makes me especially angry. Forget his ridiculous idea that poor people are somehow not incredibly interested in health care — is Perry trying to insinuate that only people who can pay for health care have a right to say anything about it? And that the only arguable position on health care is the conservative one? He seems to want to steer people that way: Maybe if we make all people pay for health care, then they’ll all become grumpy bootstrappers who think health care must be earned!)
Of course, there are Democrats who say that a Perry campaign would be the quickest guarantee of an Obama re-election, so let’s encourage that. In smarter times, I might agree. But a lot of people truly seem to like the Texas governor, whether it’s his stance on the issues, his pronounced swagger or both. And as we all know, beer-having desires can translate into electoral idiocy. So while I’m still confident in Obama’s re-election, I hate to entertain this strain of alternative.
And it goes beyond mere politics. I want a race where I may prefer one candidate over another, but regardless of outcome would not leave half the nation sick. We used to run tickets that didn’t frighten people; why can’t we do that now?