The knots that the Republican Party has tied itself in grow ever tighter as the shakeout continues in the race for the 2012 presidential nomination, but none is tighter than the jobs knot.
Some 14 million Americans are unemployed as the aftereffects of the Bush Recession plague the country like a bad migraine. Opinion polls consistently show that Republican voters say jobs creation is the first priority by a significant majority. In the newest Washington Post poll, for example, 51 percent name jobs and a mere 13 percent name deficit reduction. Yet the party's congressional leadership to a man opposes President Obama's modest jobs bill and House Majority Whip Eric Cantor says that he won't even allow it to come to the floor for a vote.
Has a political party ever been more out of step with the mainstream, let alone a sizable portion of its own base?
Has a political party ever intentionally run from the near-term investment of job growth and long-term investment in the economy that are necessary to end the migraine because of political expedience and sheer meanness?
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At this stage, the scramble for the 2012 Republican presidential nomination has morphed from resembling a sack race at a church picnic to a game of Russian roulette.
With Newt Gingrich, Michele Bachmann and Donald Trump having shot themselves in the foot and Rick Perry seemingly unable to resist his impulse to join them, and with Mike Huckabee, Jeb Bush, Haley Barbour, Mitch Daniels and now Chris Christie and Sarah Palin taking themselves out of contention, Mitt Romney is beginning to look like the prohibitive favorite to face President Obama.
But this bring up another big knot: The former Massachusetts governor flunks the purity test that the party's all-powerful right wing insists on imposing on everyone from municipal dog catcher on up and a whopping three-quarters of GOP voters tell pollsters they want someone else.
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Might that someone else be Herman Cain? After all, he has an inspiring life story, seems like an awfully nice chap, and is a rocket scientist compared to the dim bulbs who constitute most of the Republican field. albeit one with a few strange ideas.
Cain's poll numbers are rising as fast as Perry's are falling, but like Perry it is a passing thing. A boomlet if you will.
This bring up yet another big knot: Cain is an African-American and no matter how hard Republicans of a certain persuasion hold their noses they will not be able to bring themselves to vote for a man whom the original owners of a certain hunting camp in West Texas used by Perry and his father had in mind when they named it "Niggerhead." (By the by, Perry is being unfairly tarred by Romney for hanging out at the camp even though the name was painted over years ago.)
And while white Texans are hastening to note that years ago the N-word was so commonplace that it was used as a brand name for everything from soap to tobacco, the reality is that racism is alive and well in the Lone Star State and very much so at the core of a party for whom white is right and none others need apply.
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The presidential nominating process is by nature a messy thing, but no one -- not Karl Rove or Bill Kristol or the Koch brothers -- could have predicted the mess that the Republican Party has gotten itself into. And deservedly so.
The party found itself at a crossroads at the end of Bill Clinton's second term with a slate of presidential wannabees not terribly different from those currently on offer. There were John McCain and Orrin Hatch, both of whom were respected within the party and without, gadzillionaire Steve Forbes, evangelical Gary Bauer and wingnut Alan Keyes.
The party faithful nominated George W. Bush because that was the path of least resistance, never mind that he was an uncurious intellectual lightweight who had shown no signs of an ability to be presidential as Texas governor. The Supreme Court, of course, gifted Bush the presidency and there followed eight years of unmitigated disasters that, as noted above, in turn gifted Obama the presidency.
Those were a crucial eight years for the GOP and it blew it. Totally. Instead of building for the future -- after all, the time would come when it would run out of Bushes to plant in the Oval Office -- it pandered to Christianists and then Tea Partiers while slaying several of its most moderate leaders at the altar of political purity and working tirelessly to turn off blacks, Latinos and other people of color who happen to be the fasting growing bloc of new voters.
It all has been a neat trick and the big knots that the Republican Party has tied itself up in will not be soon undone, perhaps not even for a generation or so. It also is likely to be a gift (to the Democrats) that keeps on giving, the first installment being to blow an historic opportunity to retake the White House and Congress.