Out of the Fog

By on February 11, 2012

Foggy Bottom 2012

An intriguing pattern is finally emerging from the political fog in Washington. The Romney stumble in last Tuesday’s primaries has caused Republicans and Conservatives to reconsider the Santorum candidacy. So has the fading of the Gingrich bandwagon, which got stuck in the mud somewhere leaving South Carolina.

The annual Conservative Political Action Conference in Washington D.C. has certainly helped clarify the shifting fortunes of the surviving candidates. Though not strictly a partisan event, it has always been important for Republican politicians and ignored by Democrats. It was that way again this year.

How did the contestants do? All wrapped themselves in the mantles of Barry Goldwater and Ronald Reagan.

Romney’s persistent efforts to reposition himself further to the right failed to hit their mark. He did win a straw poll over Santorum 38 to 31 percent, but this is another lukewarm endorsement. He has only himself to blame for this. His continual shifting opinions are well documented on video and easily available. What’s worse, he can’t stop. He’s a serial reviser.

Ironically four years ago, he sounded like the true Conservative in a field of moderates at CPAC. He was their man. Now he sounds suspect and desperate against a backdrop of true reactionaries like Santorum. In addition, this week he appears to have lost his electability trump card. This has had a liberating effect on  energized Conservatives and their backers.

Add to this, the concurrent outrage over women’s health care and contraception and you have quite a ‘pea souper.’ The  spewing outcry over the HHS mandate has opened a new political front in the social arena. The usual suspects in the GOP rushed to line up with elders of the Catholic Church and Christian Fundamentalists screaming about state interference in religious freedom. Many of their Conservative colleagues grabbed the microphones, speaking out passionately against family planning and birth control measures, some going so far as to defend a ban on BC pills as hormonal therapy for endocrine problems. It sounded like the Crusades (or the Inquisition) come again in its lack of restraint and absolute commitment.

The President yesterday announced an accommodation on the HHS mandate which seems to satisfy both parties. The furor ended and silence descended.  A lot of words had been said in the heat of the moment. Some campaigners discovered they had painted themselves into difficult positions. And with women voters, who do vote and do remember. Like toothpaste, it’s hard to get words back into the container once they are out. Unlike toothpaste they can end up on U-Tube for general home consumption.

At the end of the week, the GOP has some things to ponder. The economy seems to be getting better and Obama’s foreign policy has given the GOP little to criticize, unless one, of course, wants to start a war with Iran. Social issues may decide the election if a recovery is in the works. Will these Conservative positions carry the day?

If the political pageantry continues along these lines, and that is a big IF, voters may be faced with a clear cut choice between two different philosophies affecting where this country is going.  Unlike 2000 which became in part a referendum on who was the better brewski buddy, or 2004 when whether John Kerry’s war record was an asset or not, voters may be able to choose on real socio-economic proposals for the future.

Could we get this lucky? Can our luck hold out? Could we really have this clarity of choice help Americans sort out the great fog of health care policy? No more Grover Norquist Pledges? No more can-we-get-Olympia-Snowe-into-our-camp deals? No screaming “liar” at the President by US representatives? Just “here is what the voters told us in November…” How refreshing. That alone could make this an election year remember. Tom Godfrey

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