The very rich are different from us. For one, their Etch-a-Sketches are better. The handheld toy I played with as a boy must be tiny compared to whatever Romney used to reinvent himself in the Denver debate.
Gone was the “severely conservative” firebrand, replaced by the moderate who worked with Democrats in Massachusetts. The doctrinaire tax-cutter from the primaries denied his own $5 trillion tax cut in Denver three times before the cock crowed. And perhaps most ludicrously of all, Romney — who stashes cash in the Cayman Islands and in Switzerland — said, “The place you put your money reflects where your heart is.”
Whatever Mitt Romney’s faults, he does not labor under a surplus of shame.
These weren’t mere flip-flops. Romney’s talking points in Denver were wholesale changes, rewriting his losing character out of the failing sitcom of his campaign the same way Richie Cunningham’s older brother Chuck disappeared after the first season of “Happy Days,” or the mother was recast midway through “The Fresh Prince of Bel Aire’s” run.
So here we sit in front of our televisions, getting this new Romney as an inauthentic substitute for the old one who said in a September 2011 Republican debate, “I know what I stand for. I’ve written it down. Words have meaning.” Romney’s words can have no meaning in his post-modern reconstruction.
Romney has also come un-tethered from Paul Ryan. At the same time Romney tried to walk back his sneering contempt for the 47 percent of Americans who don’t pay income taxes, his running mate was dividing the country into the 40 percent who are “makers” and the 60 percent who are “takers,” including those mooching “memaws” on Social Security. The Romney/Ryan ticket can’t settle on how much of the country they look down upon, but coherence no longer matters.
We have no right to act surprised. This is the campaign Romney’s folks warned us was coming. Romney strategist Eric Fehrnstrom said, “Well, I think you hit a reset button for the fall campaign. Everything changes. It’s almost like an Etch A Sketch. You can kind of shake it up and we start all over again.” Then later Romney’s pollster said, “We’re not going to let our campaign be dictated by fact-checkers.” Those words did have meaning.
To say Romney won his nomination by pretending to be conservative misses the fundamental change in the Republican Party. The Grand Old Party is one hot mess, populated by truthers, birthers, and Medicare recipients who attend Tea Party rallies holding signs that say, “Keep the government out of Medicare.” They believe polls showing a rising Democratic tide are skewed. Texas Gov. Rick Perry thinks Satan is behind the separation of church and state, and there’s a congressman on the House Science Committee who thinks evolution and the Big Bang Theory are ‘‘lies straight from the pit of hell.’’
To this tinfoil brigade now come the Jobbers who think the Bureau of Labor Statistics lowered the unemployment rate below 8 percent to 7.8 percent to help Obama get re-elected. Former GE CEO Jack Welch ignited the conspiracy theory with this tweet: “Unbelievable jobs numbers.. these Chicago guys will do anything.. can’t debate so change numbers.”
Within 12 hours, the Public Policy Polling firm found that two-thirds of Minnesota Republicans believed the BLS skewed the jobless numbers to help Obama. “This may be a speed record for a conspiracy theory taking hold with the GOP base,” tweeted PPP.
Today’s Republican Party is delusional, overcome by vapors from their rotten core, driven insane by cognitive dissonance and false ideologies. Put simply, these guys are nuts. And for the party that will believe anything, who better to lead them than a man who believes nothing?
Perhaps the one true moment in the Denver debate was when Romney promised to stop funding Sesame Street. Of course a Republican would hate Sesame Street. Ernie and Bert live together in peace, a black guy owns the most successful business, and The Count doesn’t skew the numbers to suit paranoid fantasies.
The polls say Obama’s still standing after the debate, and that’s bad news for Romney. You come at Elmo, you best not miss.
Jason Stanford is a Democratic consultant who has helped elect or re-elect more than two dozen Members of Congress. He lives in Austin, Texas. You can reach him at firstname.lastname@example.org or follow him on Twitter @jasstanford.