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The Republican Inferno

When the GOP retook the House and promptly made it clear that the supreme goal was to prevent Obama’s re-election, they showed themselves to be united by opposition, as never before. Nothing mattered except turning the president out of office. Nothing seemed more inevitable than Obama’s defeat.

And now look at them: a party dominated by evangelical Protestants, yet forced to choose from a pool of candidates that has so far included two Mormons, a couple of Catholic has-beens, a manifest dimwit from Texas, a wild-eyed nutjob from Minnesota, a singing pizza salesman and Ron Paul.

If there existed a sinister Republican plot to make Obama look like Charlemagne by comparison, how would it be different?

It is a slate so far beyond parody or satire that “Swiftian” doesn’t come close. It is as though Karl Rove had been succeeded by Hieronymous Bosch. The whole thing reminds me of nothing more than a scene from Canto III of Dante’s Inferno, where people who are desperate to attach themselves to something before the final judgment chase madly after any banner that passes. Look, there goes Herman Cain! No, wait, there goes Rick Perry! No, it’s the other Rick! It’s Palin! It’s Christie! It’s Romney! Now it’s Newt! After him!

While destiny plays “catch me if you can,” let’s freeze time and survey the field, which really does seem to have been scrumming all along toward the portal that says Abandon Hope, All Ye Who Enter Here.

One of the two Mormons, “Hapless Jon” Huntsman, has quit the race, but not before receiving the highest praise the mainstream media could bring itself to bestow. To distinguish him from rival candidates, he was said to be “sane.” He demonstrated his sanity by bursting into Mandarin from time to time during the campaign. A clean-shaven Ezra Pound, straight out of St. Elizabeth’s, could not have been more unsettling.

Huntsman’s excruciating attempts at humor during the debates were never as funny as the constant media speculation that he was “in the wrong party.” Expect more of the same in four years. That the mainstream media sees the Democratic Party as the natural and logical home of a far-right Utah billionaire says more about both the press and the Democrats than anything I could invent. In the land of Know-Nothings vs Do-Nothings, if you’re a right wing Republican, all you’ve got to do is refrain from attacking science and displaying overt bigotry, and you’re in with the in-crowd.

The other Mormon, the one with the fixed grin and the Porky Pig stutter, was cast as the frontrunner whose victory by some strange logic seemed assured, even though nobody in particular particularly wanted him. Yet no sooner had he cloaked himself in the mantle of inevitability when, lo and behold, the trouble started. He loved to fire people. He hid his money in offshore banks and couldn’t gin up a straight answer about his tax returns. Best of all, he was revealed to be the offspring of Mormon renegades who fled the United States to avoid prosecution for polygamy. They settled in Mexico, where his father was born, thus making Mitt of the Multiple Grandmothers eligible to claim Mexican citizenship.

Imagine what Republican operatives would be doing with that story if only Romney were a Democrat. If you think putting a Muslim terrorist from Kenya in the White House was scary, wait until you meet the Mexican polygamist deserter who keeps his money in the Caymans! Our first Mexican president! No wonder he hired illegal aliens to mow his lawn … he might be one himself! Where’s his birth certificate? If Romney were a Democrat, every time his photo appeared on Fox News it would be accompanied by the sound of a fake Mariachi band playing the Star-Spangled Banner.

Then you have former senator Rick Santorum, the Ungooglable Altarboy, who lost his last election to a Democrat by a landslide, who never met a polluter he didn’t like, and who really would like to ban birth control, being to the far right of perhaps 90 percent of American Catholics. He won the Iowa caucuses, but no one knew the outcome until it no longer mattered.

Next to bubble up in the mix was Newt Gingrich. According to cartoonists across America, if Newt is the nominee it will prove that God is on their side. At the time of this writing, Gingrich was enjoying one of his cyclical rebirths in the polls, an infallible sign that the wheels are preparing to come off his bandwagon yet again. In a way, that’s too bad, because it might deprive us of the spectacle of some serious payback time.

Indeed, the best thing about the prospect of Newt returning to Washington in triumph, after having skulked away in disgrace in the Nineties, is that whatever remains of the Republican establishment that banished him would suffer unspeakable torments that would make secret rendition flights look like junkets to Hawaii by comparison.

Apart from all the revenge, imagine the sheer agony of cabinet meetings in a Gingrich administration. There would be no escape from “big ideas,” endlessly expounded. It would be worse than a decade in Gitmo. Ever prone to mistake girth for depth, Gingrich has always endeavored to convince others that he is a “thinker” by way of convincing himself, preferably in Fidel Castro-length “Lincoln and Douglas” debates, or before captive audiences in community college classrooms. Beware anyone who believes his own baloney to such an extent.

Yet who can claim to be Newt’s equal in the art of b.s.? Clinton? If the media uncovered proof that Newt had stolen food stamps from his blind grandmother, shot three orphans in the back, and paid for a former gay lover’s sex change operation with taxpayer funds, would they dare to report it and suffer the fate of CNN’s John King? If so, Gingrich would promptly gather one hundred evangelicals together and explain that so great was his love of country, that his hard-working patriotism led him into houghmagandy with whoever was handy, in ways that were not always in accordance with his blah blah blah, and besides the elite media loves to use this kind of trash to tarnish America and protect Barack Obama. (Insert standing ovation here.)

If Newt was born to blather, the dearly departed Rick Perry seemed to be the second coming of Dan Quayle. If being dumb as a stump is a qualification for vice president in the GOP, he’s got it covered. True to form, just as speculation began building that he might make a good running mate for Romney, he inexplicably dropped out and endorsed Gingrich. I am only sorry Molly Ivins could not be there to give him a proper homecoming when he flew back to Austin from South Carolina.

Of Michelle Bachmann the less said the better, lest the sound of her voice stick like some dreadful ditty in the gentle reader’s cortex. In any event, she’s long gone from the nightly news, although alas probably not for long.

As for Herman Cain, his new career serving as a surrogate for Stephen Colbert is only the beginning. I predict he will wind up singing duets with John Ashcroft, in late-night commercials on cable, selling gold “investment” coins with their twin likenesses embossed. And I can envision a Chenille bedspread on which he is portrayed as delivering pizza to Jesus, while Marilyn Monroe waits in the truck.

The moral of this tale of woe? A clown circus like this is what you get when an entire political party is reduced to defining itself mainly by its opposition to somebody — and when its leaders pander to news outlets that bear a greater resemblance to professional wrestling than to journalism. You get a laser-like focus on who and what you’re against, but you don’t get much of anybody to be for.

Unless it’s Ron Paul. But let’s face it, to most Republican primary voters Ron Paul in the White House is a nightmare even worse than Obama. After all the kool-aid they drank in the Bush years, I don’t think many of them would manage to quaff this kind of nepenthe.

If Paul were the nominee, I suspect he would wind up getting fewer Republican votes than Obama would get. Still, he’s alleged to be the only member of Congress, living or dead, to have  hit one over the fence  during a Congressional baseball game. How likely do you suppose that seemed, before it happened?

David Vest, who now lives in Canada, was a 2012 Maple Blues Award nominee for Piano Player of the Year. Visit his website at http://davidvest.ca.

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DAVID VEST writes the Rebel Angel column for CounterPunch. He and his band, The Willing Victims, have just released a scorching new CD, Serve Me Right to Shuffle. His essay on Tammy Wynette is featured in CounterPunch’s new collection on art, music and sex, Serpents in the Garden.

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