A WINGTIP STAMPING ON A HUMAN FACE FOREVER
Dave Weigel's final thought on the Republican presidential debate, from his liveblog:
And Romney won.
Yeah, I think so, too, even though he didn't exactly triumph. I didn't watch the whole thing, but in the bits I watched, Romney projected a cliched presidential personality on a stage on which no one else projected very well at all, and he turned right-wing cliches into easy-to-swallow platitudes that I imagine sound reasonably satisfying to GOP primary voters, even those in the crazy base, while probably sounding safe and tolerable to swing voters.
ROMNEY: I think fundamentally there are some people -- and most of them are Democrats, but not all -- who really believe that the government knows how to do things better than the private sector.... And they happen to be wrong.
ROMNEY: ...Every time you have an occasion to take something from the federal government and send it back to the states, that's the right direction. And if you can go even further and send it back to the private sector, that's even better.
Instead of thinking in the federal budget, what we should cut -- we should ask ourselves the opposite question. What should we keep? We should take all of what we're doing at the federal level and say, what are the things we're doing that we don't have to do?
There was more platitudinous conservatism beyond that, but CNN's posted only part of the transcript so far. But I'm worried about this. See, Romney pitches his voice midway between avuncular and angry; his words are pitched the same way. I think he may have a sweet spot: this stuff plays to every Limbaughnista and Fox fan's bitter resentments, but the rest of America has heard this stuff for so many decades -- ever since Reagan, really -- that by now it sounds like harmless common-sense folk wisdom. After all the craziness in the last election cycle, Romney might sound like a return to sanity while promising to do pretty much what the crazy people promised to do. That could work -- and if so, he's really dangerous.
Another line from Weigel, in reference to a Newt Gingrich answer on health care repeal:
Very honest of Gingrich to point out that "Obamacare" won't be repealed unless Republicans pull off insane gains in the House and Senate.
Yes, Gingrich suggested that you'd need twelve new Republican senators to repeal the health care law. I don't know why Gingrich believes that, and I don't know why Weigel believes that. If the Republicans beat Obama, hold the House, and take the Senate, do you really think Democrats are going to stay sufficiently unified to filibuster a health care repeal? Democrats? Are you nuts? Even with the wind at their backs (see: spring 2009) Democrats can never stay unified; if they've just been shellacked in two straight election cycles, the survivors are going to tack even even further rightward, and do it so fast they'll almost manage to keep up with the rightward moves of the GOP. So I think Republicans will have a free hand to do whatever the hell they want even if they have a tiny majority in the Senate.
Which is why I worry even about Romney. If the Republicans win, they'll have the opportunity to engage in shock-doctrine politics, using the excuse of an economic crisis that at that point will be about five years old -- and they'll have control of the whole government. Why wouldn't they take every cockamamie business-friendly notion off the shelf and try to ram it through in the first few weeks and months? Why shouldn't we expect a nationwide version of Scott Walkerism? Even led by that ex-right-centrist? Look, we know they think they're demographically doomed as a party, which is why they're restricting voter registration wherever they can. Why not shoot the works at the national level now, while they still can?
UPDATE, TUESDAY MORNING: Well, the conventional wisdom (here, here) is that Romney and Michele Bachmann were joint winners. She did exceed a lot of people's expectations, mainly because a lot of us expected her to come off like Frances McDormand from Fargo reciting Jared Loughner's YouTube scripts. She just sounded like a sort of sane person, though two years of the tea party (and thirty years of Reagan/Limbaugh/Fox) have lowered the sane bar, haven't they?
In any case, everyone thinks the big losers were Pawlenty (for -- shockingly! -- being as uninspiring as he always is) and Cain (because Bachmann stole his act). Hey, how 'bout this, folks: the big loser was Palin! No, really: she has an attention-grabbing bus tour, she did a slick promo video, her movie's coming out, no one's found any dirt in her e-mails ... then Anthony Weiner gets all the attention she's seeking, followed by a debate in which a declared co-winner is the Palin substitute (who, unlike Palin, can actually speak off the cuff in sentences that resemble standard English). There it is! Palin was the big loser! Can I be a big-cheese pundit now?