The Free Press, Mankato, MN

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November 15, 2012

My View: Election swamped conservatism, and the haters

— The votes have been counted and some conclusions are obvious: Extremism took a beating this election, as did the birther buffoons like Donald Trump. So did the race-baiters who demanded that we “take our country back” from that brown-skinned interloper; some later protested by holding racist demonstrations in Mississippi and Richmond.

The two litmus tests for Republicans today, it seems, are hatred for the elected president — whom Mary Matalin termed a “sociopath” on national TV — and unquestioning loyalty to an unelected lobbyist, Grover Norquist.

The gay-bashers and their discriminatory marriage proposals lost the election, too, as did the Christian Taliban and their anti-women program.

The Republican campaign to suppress the vote apparently backfired, energizing angry voters in places like Florida and Ohio instead to stand in line for hours to vote.

The Neocon chicken hawks were also disappointed. They thought they had a kindred spirit in Mitt Romney, who like most of them, managed to avoid service in Vietnam (with five deferments), but are always ready to attack some imagined enemy.

Abraham Lincoln said, “What is conservatism? Is it not adherence to the old and tried, against the new and untried?” Instead of the old and tried, however, the Republicans gave us magical thinking and economic double-talk. It’s only in the alternate universe of cranks and charlatans that you can cut income taxes, corporate taxes, inheritance taxes, and taxes on investments, dividends and interest by $5 trillion, raise defense spending by $2 trillion and still believe that your economic plan will reduce the deficit and debt.

Rather than the old and tried, Republicans have the old and tired — angry white male geezers who believe that reactionary social policies and crackpot economics will solve our problems.

The federal government spends seven times as much money on people over 65 as it does on people under 19, yet Fox News, Limbaugh, Beck and others are constantly trying to whip the tired old white guys into a frenzy against immigrants, minorities, liberals, and even women, such as the law student whom Limbaugh labeled a “slut” for daring to testify before Congress.

Fox specializes in conspiracy theories, like the post-election claim by right-wing talker Michael Graham that the Obama campaign told voters that women who voted for Romney would be put in “rape camps.” Fox is apparently testing H.L. Mencken’s theory that nobody ever went broke underestimating the intelligence of the American people.

According to Media Matters, 32 Fox personalities made over 300 campaign appearances for Republican candidates during the 2012 presidential election, five advised the Romney campaign and nine made joint campaign appearances with Romney. This is the cable network that constantly warns its viewers that all the other media outlets are biased.

The right expended thousands of words trashing the NYT blogger Nate Silver, who predicted all 50 states correctly, while promoting the hucksters at UnSkewed Polls who compensated for “liberal bias” by skewing the numbers toward Romney. CBS reported that Romney was “shellshocked” by the election results; he had believed the doctored, “unskewed” polls.

Conservative columnist David Frum has written that “Republicans have been fleeced and exploited and lied to by a conservative entertainment complex.” It’s worse than that: What Fox really does is poison the well for Republican moderates.

Then there is Mitt Romney, the candidate. While all presidential candidates overstate, exaggerate or spin the facts, Romney engaged in a campaign of unparalleled mendacity. This country has never seen a presidential candidate who lied as frequently and as shamelessly as Romney. He began his campaign with a book titled “No Apologies,” based on an assertion that Obama made “apology tours” as president, a claim that was shredded by every fact-checker. PolitiFact chronicled 19 “pants on fire” lies by Romney, including the non-existent “apology tours,” the “government takeover of health care” lie, the “$4,000 tax hike on middle class families,” the gutting of welfare-to-work rules, the shipment of automobile industry jobs to China, and others. The blogger Steve Benen documented 917 false statements by Romney during the 2012 campaign.

Unlike most candidates whose claims have been debunked, Romney doubled down on his favorite fabrications, repeating them at every campaign stop, as if the news media had no file footage. Predictably, Fox News claimed Romney lost because of biased fact-checkers.

Ultimately, Romney’s lies were self-defeating, particularly the most costly misjudgment of all, the ad claiming Chrysler was shipping automotive jobs to China. Ohio voters knew that Jeep was actually expanding domestically.

That lie may have cost Romney the election.

Tom Maertens describes himself as a political centrist who has worked in national security for both political parties in the White House and in the U.S. Senate. He is part of a Free Press team of readers from all political viewpoints asked to write columns.


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