“Therefore it is unnecessary for a prince to have all the good qualities I have enumerated, but it is very necessary to appear to have them. And I shall dare to say this also, that to have them and always to observe them is injurious, and that to appear to have them is useful; to appear merciful, faithful, humane, religious, upright, and to be so, but with a mind so framed that should you require not to be so, you may be able and know how to change to the opposite.” ― Niccolò Machiavelli, The Prince
I did not watch the Presidential debate Wednesday night. Not one minute of it. Neither did I watch the coverage of the debates by any news outlets, liberal or conservative. Somehow I think that doing so in such a poisonous political climate is bad for the soul. However while watching the Major League Baseball Channel I did occasionally check my Twitter feed and Facebook timeline.
What I saw on those made me really glad that I didn’t watch. I made a comment on my Facebook page that I wasn’t going to watch 90 minutes of political spin. The current debate formats used by every news network ensure that not only the candidates get to spin their stories but “spin rooms” are set up so all of the candidates surrogates can spin the debates. The media, liberal and conservative, mainstream, lame stream and weak stream love the spin rooms because for them this is money and power.
So I didn’t watch. I talked to a few friends today and got their take and finally this evening I watched some coverage of the aftermath and did a little reading. I got the message. Mitt Romney “won” the debate by flipping the etch-a-sketch. After months of pandering to the hard right he flipped to the center with enough force that it almost made the President’s head spin. It was like he was the old Massachusetts Governor Romney again, the one that he cast aside to win the nomination. From the pictures of the debate that I saw as well as the few clips that I watched tonight on appearance Romney stole the show. But I wonder how short lived the post debate “Romney kicked the lazy, incompetent, disengaged, protected not a real President’s” ass will last.
What really got to me about the responses I read last night in real time on Twitter and Facebook was the absolute willingness of the most extreme partisans on both sides to say the most hateful and outlandish things about the other candidate or their positions. Not only was much of it hateful, but some was positively racist. Yes there were some that were trying to stay on actual policies but most seemed content to act like drunk football fans dissing the other team and some of the nastiest of the bunch were Christian clergy.
I wonder when people who really didn’t like Romney but supported him because they thought that he supported their interests will do when they see that when push comes to shove he, like so many politicians will toss them over the side to get elected. We know that in the primaries that many in the GOP, especially in the more Libertarian Tea Party and Social Conservative Evangelical Christian and Roman Catholic circles at best were tepid in their support of Romney if not outright hostile to his candidacy. But after they couldn’t nominate a non-Mormon anti-Mitt they gathered around Romney because of their opposition to Obama.
To me it now looks like Romney is doing the proverbial side step and is about to do whatever he needs to do or say to win the election, even if it means offending various GOP constituencies. Personally I don’t blame him if he does. Some of the things that he endured from people in his own party during the primaries, especially from Evangelical Christian leaders were shocking. The religious intolerance alone from some Evangelical leaders was frightening. So if Romney is able to turn this around and win I doubt that he will remain beholden to such people for long. Unlike some I don’t think that Romney is running simply to help his fellow rich people. I think that he sees the Presidency as the pinnacle of personal success and if he is elected I know that he will want to go down in history as a great President. I may disagree with many of his policies and even some of the things that he has done, but I don’t think that he is in the race to lose, or should he win to fail as President.
That will be the ultimate irony of the campaign. That united by hate for a President tat they do not deem legitimate, that many find repugnant simply because of his race that they elect a man that will use them to get elected and then toss them and their agendas aside.
If nothing else Romney is a smart and ruthless businessman who is willing to play a zero sum game to win and should he be elected to do whatever he needs to do to be successful. He understands Machiavelli and he is willing to do the things that he needs to do to win. In Massachusetts that meant universal health care and being “soft” on birth control and abortion. He also did what he needed to do to balance the state budget including revenue increases. Before the convention every time he or one of his staff tried to move toward the center in even the smallest way they were smacked down by the right wing of their party and conservative ideologues. Judging from the transcripts of what Romney said last night it sounded to me like he has now made that move. He will still try to placate some on the right but be certain he will do whatever he needs to win now, especially since he is trailing in the battleground states where he cannot win without moving to the center.
I have always said that people need to be careful of what they are voting against because they just might get it. My guess is the no matter candidate wins the election in November that the religious partisans of the Christian right will be the losers. They will have sold their soul for the sake of their political power and will come out on the short end of the equation. I think Jesus mentioned something somewhere about those that gain the world but lose their soul….
Those are just some thoughts after all, one of these guys is going to be the next President and whether or not he is “our” candidate he will still be President. So be careful what you vote against, you just may get it.