As I near middle age I am coming the point in life where I will not indulge in youthful things much longer, like investing oneself in a political candidate or cause. As a young fellow below age 40 you can do this, but not as an adult above 40.
I can thank Mitt Romney for marking my demarcation point from idealism to practical reality and touch of cynicism (although not too corrosive). Over this past weekend the Mittster and his allies in Maine’s state Republican Party pulled off a blatant political dirty trick which basically won him the “official” straw poll vote in the Maine Caucuses.
A predicted snowstorm caused the Romney supporting chairman of the Washington County caucus to cancel their meeting on account of bad weather (which the local Girls Scout troop had no problem getting through and holding their meeting last Saturday) and reschedule it for next weekend. However, unbeknowst to him (or so he claims, you never know with this bunch), the Romney supporting chairman of the Maine GOP ruled all caucus straw poll results not turned in to the central office by last Saturday will not be included in the final total bad weather or not. Since Washington County was expected to go heavily for Paul, the 200 votes he needed to finish first could have easily been won there in a county of 30,000 people. But no, the polls are now closed and Romney now has his “mojo” back according to the media. And that was really the whole point wasn’t it? No delegates were awarded and Ron Paul may well wind up with the lion’s share of them come the state convention in May. But Romney is willing to risk this along with committing outright fraud just to look like a winner again, which is what’s important to the politically ill-informed who get most off their news from TV (which is most of the Republican Party). Is it fair? No. Is it politics? You better believe it. Such a move is a good way to lose one’s idealism because at what level the Powers that Be are willing to stoop to to win. The establishment once again held the line when threatened.
But such a move also shows once again the limitation of Ron Paul the presidential candidate. If the candidate didn’t once again take periodic breaks away from the campaign trail, if he improved his debating and stump speaking skills, if he had better handled the newsletter brouhaha, if his campaign, while better organized and certainly more professional, didn’t once again underperform with GOTV at the polls, then maybe Maine might not have been so close that such dirty tricks by the establishment could succeed. But sadly, you campaign with the Ron Paul you have, not what you wish him to be. There’s simply no way around his limitations as a national politician. But you should be grateful he ran in the first place because he certainly didn ‘t need to.
And there’s also no way around the fact the culture is simply not ready for a Ron Paul-like Presidency of government, not when that government is so deeply intertwined into the middle class’s well being. Ron Paul may say otherwise but no one believes him when he says he can cut a trillion dollars from the budget in his first fiscal year and not have themselves affected by it (especially if you live in and around around a military base many of whom are GOP voters). And when they conflate state regulation of narcotics or abortion with outright legalization, then it shouldn’t be any wonder Rick Santorum and his “big-government conservatism” (remember that?) still is popular with a good chunk of Republican voters. If you can’t change the culture, you can’t change the politics.
At least not for right now. So long as Paul can still win the youth vote he should still stay in the race. His serious campaign for the party nomination may have ended with another Charlie Brown-like defeat but all that means is the second phase needs to begin and that’s collecting delegates and having a presence at the party convention for he and his supporters compared to four years ago when they had to host parallel convention across town and the only way Ron Paul could get on the floor of the main GOP convention is with a chaperon provided by the McCain camp despite the fact he was a sitting member of Congress. In this case, if the rumors are true he has a tactical alliance or gentleman’s agreement with Romney, then it makes sense because Romney is the only one who grant him such things in return for not bolting the party.
But Romney doesn’t have to worry about this because while the Paul campaign lost Maine the movement itself won an important victory Saturday with Paul’s Iowa campaign chairman won the chairmanship of the Iowa GOP. There’s no need to bolt with the movement slowly gaining position of influence with a bevy of young voters growing up voting Republican. Non-major parties divide movements and grant them fringe status. There’s no need for it now. See, that’s experience and wisdom speaking, not idealism.
It’s too bad it has to end this way I can image the supporters of Taft, Goldwater, McCarthy, McGovern, Jackson, Dean, and Buchanan all felt the same at end. Losing in politics is like being slugged in the gut and you can only take so of those blows, especially when they come by less than honorable means. There’s a bigger level of politics which influences more than what a caucus meeting in Washington County, Maine does and when you realize this and accept it, then it shows you’re ready for adulthood politically.