The Republicans' Cow Pie Bingo

The Republican presidential race now moves from New Hampshire to South Carolina, but it's really taking place in an upside-down Lake Wobegon.

|

The Republican presidential race now moves from New Hampshire to South Carolina, but it's really taking place in an upside-down Lake Wobegon—where all the men are homely, all the women are weak and all the candidates are below average.

We are often told that modern campaigns generate rivers of pointless trivia and shameful misinformation. But this one has served ably to do something that is as valuable to voters as it is unwelcome to the Republican Party: put a merciless spotlight on the mammoth flaws of every aspirant.

There are people who yearn for the short political campaigns in parliamentary countries like Britain, where the process of choosing a national leader is over before Rick Perry can count to three.

But in those places, candidates are generally well-known and thoroughly vetted before they offer themselves for the nation's highest office. Here, random individuals are apt to follow the example of Joan of Arc, called to service by voices only they can hear.

As she discovered, though, an auspicious beginning doesn't assure a happy outcome. In a long, expensive, nonstop campaign like this one, first impressions mean nothing. What matters is enduring appeal. Or, at least, tolerability over time.

The wide-open nature of presidential politics makes the campaign as unpredictable as cow pie bingo. Candidates who appear formidable while watching from the sidelines turn out to be inept on the field. Candidates who seem laughably unlikely at the outset suddenly take flight on the wings of destiny—before eventually plunging back to earth.

That's the value of the endless debates and media scrutiny. They expose every liability a candidate labors to conceal, while demolishing every asset the candidate presumes to publicize.

Perry started out looking like a rugged cowboy but soon gave voters the impression he would try to milk a bull. Herman Cain unveiled a "9-9-9" plan that, it turned out, represented the number of women he has hit on. Michele Bachmann, who made headway on the assumption that Republicans wanted a little bit of crazy, offered more than they could take.

Newt Gingrich talked himself to the top of the Iowa polls and then talked himself back down. No one ever left a Gingrich encounter wanting to hear more.

Rick Santorum, offering himself as a clear conservative alternative to Romney, got a big "no thanks" from New Hampshire voters. Even in the Republican Party, he has demonstrated, you can be too anti-gay. Jon Huntsman found that you can also be too reasonable.

Ron Paul, meanwhile, has unearthed surprising evidence that many Republicans think the battle against big government should not stop at the water's edge. Unlike Barack Obama and George W. Bush, they are not eager to launch attacks on other countries or take on massive nation-building projects.

Paul sounds eerily like the Bush who ran in 2000—promising we would be "a humble nation." So he has no chance of getting the nomination of a party in thrall to endless war.

Mitt Romney remains the candidate for Republicans who are willing to settle, which is not most of them. His two chief credentials for high office are a career in private equity investment and one term as governor of Massachusetts, and he has been busy explaining away both.

He has had to downplay his signature achievement in government, a health insurance program that inspired the Obama administration plan so detested on the right. He has had to pretend that Bain Capital was in the business of creating jobs, as though making money were an inconsequential afterthought.

Romney's best bet for conservative credibility, oddly, is absorbing attacks from more conservative candidates. Gingrich and Perry, who regard Obama as a socialist for his attacks on the alleged excesses of capitalism, now attack Romney for profiting from the alleged excesses of capitalism.

Both invoke Ronald Reagan 10 times a minute, but it's impossible to imagine Reagan denouncing private equity firms as "vultures" with a "mentality of making money against all other considerations," as Perry did, or depicting Bain Capital as "rich guys looting companies," as Gingrich did.

Once their campaigns are over, these two have a bright future with Occupy Wall Street. Meanwhile, they may achieve the feat of making Romney look like a man of consistency and principle.

Unreal? Sure. But in this race, unreality is the new reality.

NEXT: Down the Drain

Editor's Note: We invite comments and request that they be civil and on-topic. We do not moderate or assume any responsibility for comments, which are owned by the readers who post them. Comments do not represent the views of Reason.com or Reason Foundation. We reserve the right to delete any comment for any reason at any time. Report abuses.

  1. The Republican stable is hardly better than the crop of politicians produced in the UK. David Cameron is pretty much a fraud, Ed Milliband looks like he just came out of grade school and Nick Clegg wants to be dep. prime minister for any country in Europe except Britain.

  2. As always the Republicans will pick a shithead…..just like the Democrats. Battle of the shitheads.

  3. Thank you for brightening my morning. You are the perfect barker for the election carnival.

  4. Jon Huntsman found that you can also be too reasonable.
    ————————–
    reasonable in what, a used-car salesman sort of way? Please. The only point to be made is the one that can always be made about Repubs: never under-estimate their ability to snatch defeat from what should be the easiest of victories. I have it on good authority that some orders of monks learned about self-immolation from watching the GOP.

    1. What a shocker it is that professional concern troll Steve Chapman likes his fellow professional concern troll Jon Huntsman.

      Yes, most of the republican candidates totally suck, but this is just Chapman being his normal dickish self.

  5. But America is the only country where the citizens put their hand over their heart when they play the national anthem! Mitt Ruminny!

    1. You can say that again!

  6. But America is the only country where the citizens put their hand over their heart when they play the national anthem! Mitt Ruminny!

  7. Sorry for the doppelgaenger post.

  8. Gingrich and Perry, who regard Obama as a socialist for his attacks on the alleged excesses of capitalism, now attack Romney for profiting from the alleged excesses of capitalism.

    They’re politicians. What did you expect?

  9. “…where the process of choosing a national leader is over before Rick Perry can count to three.”

    15 months? that seems just as long as our campaigns….

  10. Marjana is a girl from the far North. From Siberia the land of snow, forests and lakes. But the warmth of her personality is more like its hot springs.?

    We love her melting smile. It goes perfectly with her eyes that are as blue as ice. Her snow white skin and her voluptuous breasts complete the picture.

    She has headed south like an exotic migrating bird to the warmth of the Mediterranean. Her arrival in Barcelona was the first glimpse she has ever had of the sea. Everything is new and exciting to this child of nature. This is her first experience of nude modelling.

    She is as passionate about embracing this as she is about taking her sensuous pleasures. Two things that delight her are dancing and drawing. We know that there are more. And from now on they will be our pleasure too

    http://www.hegre-art.com/models#action=show&id=217

  11. Hello,my friends!Here’s the most popular dating site for now__SeekCasual*com, a place for people who wanna start a short-term relationship.And also for finding soul mates.Over 160000 happy members are waiting their lovers.Join free and have a try,nothing to lose!

  12. Bi-sexual information?Seeking for the people have the same sexual orientation. please check out the site “Datebi.com”, you will find the like-minded people!

  13. Dear Stacy and Catherine,
    “The Republicans’ Cow Pie Bingo” is about politics (a race for president). I think you have the wrong ideas about cow pie bingo. I think you are on the wrong website.

  14. Is Reason so desperate for “pageviews” that you split this article into two separate files? That’s pathetic.

Please to post comments

Comments are closed.