When the results of the South Carolina primary came out and Newt Gingrich was the clear winner, many of my friends were, to put it lightly, dismayed. South Carolina, after all, has successfully predicted the Republican presidential nominee for the past thirty-odd years, and we were getting Newt? Unconscionable! A sign of our deteriorating political system! We as Americans deserved better than this!
I found the whole thing hilarious.
The difference, I have found, between people like me who are plain old amused and people who are outraged, is that the outraged people seem to have some sort of faith in the Republican electorate to make sensible decisions. And I… well. I think saying “I don’t” is sort of an understatement. If reaching to political consciousness in the directly post-9/11 era while being raised by two ardent democrats/socialists hadn’t already killed that, I think any and all Republican shenanigans post-Obama would have taken care of my remaining goodwill quite effectively. As far as I’m concerned, the Republican party has crossed the line of common sense/decency and is so far into Batshit country that they’re just never coming back. So to me, the more opportunities there are for things like Newt Gingrich congratulating the “diversity” of the presidential candidates when they are all rich, white, heterosexual, Christian guys, the better. Vive la crazy! Let your racist, classist, sexist, homophobic freak flag fly, Republicans!
This notion has not comforted anyone I know who was upset about the Gingrich win, and they still are sniffy and muttering unhappily about our country deserving more and the state of political discourse today, blah blah blah, American ideals, blah blah blah. And as someone who both loved Jon Huntsman and sometimes just re-reads Dwight Eisenhower’s wikipeida page to weep over what Republican politics should be, I get that. But I think the reason I don’t think that this situation is the time or place to nurse that can best be explained, I’ve found, if you think of the Republican primary as a season of The Bachelor.
Now, I haven’t watched The Bachelor in almost ten years, but as I recall, the cast of characters remains the same every season, there’s just new faces to go with them. And the Republican party has already brought out those characters and eliminated them all. There was Donald, who was obviously only there for the cameras, Michele, the one whose eyes and high-pitched incoherent screeching always indicated she was about five seconds away from a mental breakdown, and Herman, the token minority who sticks around for a few episodes just to prove to everyone that this show is totally not racist, not even a little bit, not in the slightest. By time we’d reached New Hampshire, we had your typical final five. There was Ron, who obviously was only sticking around because he was the fan favorite and so the producers couldn’t get rid of him. There’s Rick, the guy that, against all odds, just won’t be eliminated, which makes you think there must be something he’s doing off-camera that we’re just not seeing. There’s Mitt, the human Ken Doll in looks, plasticity of personality, and sexlessness. There’s Newt, the angry ex-boyfriend who made it back onto the show primarily because the producers wanted to cause drama, who everyone knows is bad news but somehow just can’t seem to let go of. And then there was Jon – poor, eliminated Jon – who was perfect. He was everything we’ve all ever claimed to be looking for! He was a successful and beloved governor with foreign policy experience, appealing to Independents, intelligent, well-spoken, and cool. He rode a motorcycle, for goodness’ sake. He spoke foreign languages, was great at compromise, dropped out of high school to join a rock band before he eventually went on to college, and had the refined silver hair of a timber wolf. All the viewers watching the Republican Bachelor go down were pulling for him. Why, we moaned to ourselves, why oh why couldn’t the Republican electorate find it in their hearts to love him the way we loved him? And when he was eliminated and rode his motorcycle of sensibility off into the sunset, we’ll admit it. We wept a little.
It’s always hard to care about any season of The Bachelor once the Jon Huntsman leaves. It’s not like you’ll stop watching, but why should you really get emotionally invested in this search for love when the person searching doesn’t seem that invested either? At this point you’re more watching the finale so you can at least be informed enough to complain the next day to your co-worker who’s watching along with you. Because honestly, is there really anyone worth rooting for at this point? Is there really a serious contender? We have Ron Paul, who everyone knows isn’t actually there to win so much as to promote his new spinoff show, Whackadoo Libertarians Hide in Log Cabins, Shoot Stuff, Sob About Gold Standard. No one has any idea why Rick Santorum’s there, but we’re all taking bets on when he’s going to burst into tears and sob about how much he loves Jesus.
Your two real frontrunners are Newt Gingrich and Mitt Romney, and, let’s be honest, is one really better than the other? You know if you’re choosing Mitt Romney, it’s because he looks like the guy you’re supposed to choose. He looks like what you see when you look up the word “politician” in the dictionary. But it’s not going to make the Republicans happy. They’re going to get with him and then secretly have an affair with the hotter, more fundamentalist cabana boy. But hey, at least they’ll have someone who’s rich and looks good! And Newt Gingrich is your terrible ex-boyfriend who, much like the herpes he gave you, just won’t go away. He’s always sort of there, calling you up, asking how you’re doing, and frankly, Republicans, he’s only back now because he knows you’re in an emotionally vulnerable place and he thinks he can get some. And you’re not exactly proving him wrong. What’s worse, you know how this story goes. You know he’s going to leave you one day because he almost gets sent to jail, and after you bail him out he’s going to go, “it’s not me, baby, it’s you,” and then ride off into the sunset to go make up some get-rich-quick schemes, yell at people, and then leaves when you need him for a luxury cruise with his new wife, who may or may not be a femmebot sent from the future to destroy us all.
We haven’t yet reached the final rose ceremony, yet, but whoever the Republican electorate chooses, does it matter? They’ll either go for the guy who’s secretly a jerk, or the guy who’s aggressively a jerk. Neither one of them is “better” or “the kind of candidate America deserves”. You can’t help an electorate that doesn’t want to help themselves any more than you can help someone who was stupid enough to think they could find love through reality TV. And you especially cannot help an electorate who thinks, by a twelve point margin, that trying to make this thing they have with Newt Gingrich work is a good idea.
So if this bothers you, I suggest you sit back, relax, and maybe change the channel to American Idol. At least until this whole thing is over.