Joe Gandelman: Campaign 2012: Who would have thought it?
LA JOLLA, California — Twenty years ago the sheltered Children’s Pool Beach here was crammed with kids. Then, slowly, but inexorably, they came: the seals. And then more. And even more. Then they started giving birth. By 1997, the kids’ beach was closed by the city due to “continuously high fecal coliform counts.”
Today, after legal battles pitting environmentalists against some citizens, the people are back, but the seals are still there and co-exist amid a battle over putting a year-round rope to ensure the tourist-attracting seals don’t leave.
But if you go back 20 years, your reaction would be: “Who would have thought it?”
Who would have thought the seals would move in and dominate the kids’ beach, pose a perceived health threat, then largely lose a legal battle so our species could return? Who would have thought rope would become a raging issue in La Jolla, San Diego’s Beverly Hills by the sea?
And so it goes with our politics and election year 2012. It’ll take a full week for the first debate to sink in and solidify in the conventional wisdom, but on a larger political scale we are faced with a bunch of “Campaign 2012 Who Would Have Thought It” moments.
The word “moderate” is a dirtier word than ever in the GOP, due to the flight of the son of a historical one. Who would have thought it? Former Michigan Gov. George Romney courageously charted a middle course, despite criticism from conservative Republicans and Democrats such as John F. Kennedy. As the book “The Real Romney” reports, Romney’s son Mitt abruptly discarded his moderate political skin as Massachusetts Governor once he decided to run for national office.
Now the younger Romney seems to be trying to tip-toe slightly back towards the center, but it may be too late for a political facelift or Etch a Sketch reset. Meanwhile, in Massachusetts, Republican Senator Scott Brown is veering further right in some of his polemics to keep his GOP vote. He sounds like Fox News lite.
Political ad’s silliness reached an all-time low. The American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees’ ad features the garbage man who collects trash at the Romneys’ oceanfront mansion here in La Jolla. “I’m 55, 60 years old,” he says. “I know my body’s gonna break down [and] Mitt Romney doesn’t care about that.” Who would have thought it? Will Republicans counter with an ad featuring Barack Obama’s proctologist?
Reverse enthusiasm. Six months go it seem as if GOPers would be all fired up and excited about their candidate, and Democrats would be demoralized due to the economy plus liberal bitterness over Obama failing to get “the public option” on health care. Now many GOPers are as excited about Romney as by a plate of cold tofu, and Democrats are still savoring their convention high. If this keeps up, come January, Obama gets the Oval Office seat and Romney gets Clint Eastwood’s empty chair.
Poll truthers and the alternate Republican universe. All it took was Rush Limbaugh to suggest that polls showing Obama ahead were the work of the “libural” media conspiracy to suppress Republican votes, and a Republican’s website to “correctly” adjust polls so Romney is ahead, and it became a major mantra on Fox News, among some GOP talking heads on many (until-now) thoughtful conservative blogs and among everyday Republicans. It takes THAT little effort for Limbaugh to create a Republicans theme? Who would have thought it? (Actually, I already have.)
Warm Tea. Although some suggest its influence has waned, just as the seals forever changed The Children’s Pool by coming in, taking over then co-existing with the people, the Tea Party Movement is now part of the GOP and the party will never be the same again. Richard Nixon could never be nominated today. Who would have thought it?
Meanwhile, Campaign 2012 is filled with “continuously high fecal coliform counts.” If our politics is so hateful and ugly now, with each campaign getting nastier, precisely where will this put a President Romney or President Obama next year and beyond?
I don’t want to think about it.
Joe Gandelman is a veteran journalist who wrote for newspapers overseas and in the United States. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.