Electile Dysfunction

The great strength of the Republican Party has always been its ability to unify behind an agenda, hold the votes of its elected members and roll over Democratic objections by sheer force of numbers. The Dems, meanwhile, are known for their lack of unity. As Will Rogers famously put it, “I belong to no organized party. I’m a Democrat.” But now, on both the state and federal level, the GOP appears incapable of unifying behind anything, let alone putting forth credible candidates for the 2012 elections—something that wags are dubbing its electile dysfunction.

The Republican battle to produce a presidential candidate has been painful to watch. Right out of the chute we had Michele Bachmann, who apparently got an email from her god telling her she had to run. For a brief time, her religion-soaked torch blazed brightly as she declared herself the one viable candidate who could save the nation from its Sodom-and-Gomorrah path. And then, perhaps because her ego outlasted her ideas, she fell to the wayside.

Then it was Rick Perry’s turn to offer bullpucky about how, if only we’d let him, he’d turn all of America into one big Texas. I guess he forgot what the last Texan in the White House did to the country. The rest of us haven’t.

Perry apparently has a hotline to his god, too. Unfortunately, the message from his deity didn’t seem to include any specifics about what exactly he was supposed to do to save the nation. Asked what departments he’d eliminate from the federal bureaucracy, Perry came up like a deer in the headlights—and so another leading Republican became roadkill on the road to the White House.

But not to worry, Republicans, you’ve got Big Daddy Herman Cain itching to take the lead—or you did until the ladies started talking. And talking. They just kept coming, warning the nation about Cain’s proclivities and, more importantly, his honesty. This week another Cain cuddle-bunny, Ginger White, came forward to say she had a 13-year affair with the pizza magnate and offered phone calls and emails to bolster her claim, leaving him well done.

After all that carnage, the contest seems to come down to Mitt Romney, aka the flip-flop man, versus Republican retread Newt Gingrich.

Romney has staked out the not-so-unique position of being for a variety of issues before he was against them and against a variety of issues before he was for them. From mandated health insurance to reproductive rights, Romney’s record is laced with reversals that promise to dog him should the GOP decide to try to ride a Mormon horse to the presidency.

And then there’s old Newt, one of the prime movers back in the day when, as Speaker of the House, he helped launch the nation on a disastrous path of deregulation. Remember his “Contract with America”? In light of the outcomes, “Contract on America” would have been more apt. And the Newtster has his own long, muddy trail to contend with, including taking a million-dollar consulting fee from Fannie Mae and Freddy Mac as those public-private mortgage giants were melting into insolvency.

Speaking of retreads, Montana’s Republican gubernatorial field looks like a low-end used tire shop. The supposed front-runner at this point is Rick Hill, who failed to distinguish himself in any way during his short Congressional stint and has mainly been doing big real estate deals since then. Hill says he’s ready now to lead Montana to bigger and better things—which, in Republican-speak, means turning us into an even bigger colony for foreign energy and resource extraction than what Brian Schweitzer has been able to do.

And then we have three legislative retreads in the governor’s race:

Ken Miller’s legislative career was highlighted by outrageous right-wing positions steeped in religion. Keeping Church and State separate simply isn’t in his playbook, which is one great reason why he should never hold another public office.

Corey Stapleton, another former state senator, wants Montanans to forget that he was one of the big boosters of the disastrous utility deregulation bill of the late ’90s. That single measure has probably cost all Montanans more money than anything the state has done before or since—and now we’re supposed to believe that following Stapleton will take us somewhere besides disaster?

Finally, there’s Jeff Essmann, who has the unique ability to claim at least 30,000 votes against him the instant he announced. Essmann was the architect of the medical marijuana rewrite that not only threw the vote of the people to the wind, but also left 30,000 law-abiding Montanans who had registered for medical marijuana cards trying to deal with his horrific law, which, hopefully, will be overturned by initiative referendum next year.

As you can see, in both state and national candidates, the Republicans have outdone themselves this year. Here they were poised to “take back the state” and make Obama a one-term president—and when the magic moment comes, what happens?

Electile dysfunction.

It couldn’t happen to a more deserving political party.

George Ochenski rattles the cage of the political establishment as a political analyst for the Missoula Independent, where this column originally ran. He lives in Helena, Montana. He can be reached at: opinion@missoulanews.com.

George Ochenski is a columnist for the Daily Montanan, where this essay originally appeared.