For Republicans, there’s always been advantage in being labelled the party of the right. Right makes might! Or is it the other way around? They happily play it both ways. The label blinds them. It tempts them to feel they are always right.
When you know you’re right – that right is always on your side – then you need no other justification for playing freely with falsehoods in running for office. In the more than five and a half decades that I’ve labored in partisan politics, government, and the national affairs of education, I’ve met many a Republican who did not hesitate to say that in politics “the ends always justify the means.” As they saw it, the fact that they were always right meant there could be no wrong in doing whatever they needed to do to win. How effortlessly GOP becomes Grand Old Prevaricator!
Now that the Supreme Court has flattened the last barrier against money ruling American politics, falsehoods will play an ever larger role in election outcomes. The game has already proven many times over that the lie that’s repeated often enough can stand long enough to carry the voter’s favor into the voting booth. Only later do voters come to realize that they have been had.
Democracy’s intent to deliver effective representative government suffers badly in America today because voters feel they’ve been “had” too many times. The ablest people are less and less willing to stand for election because they can’t help but feel the system is broken, that good public policy can’t be made where special interests and their money can bury any options they oppose.
Prevarication takes many forms in politics. The demise of democracy is being written in and by dishonesty and deceit. Have we come to the day in which leaders find their principles formed by polls, or the fancies (or fantasies) of the ideologues outweigh honesty and principle? Evasion is a form that can work both ways. Many a candidate has won high office by convincing voters that the opponent is hiding something.
Ironically evasion is working both for and against Mitt Romney. He claims the business success that made him very rich would play well in the White House in growing jobs and shrinking government. Yet the record of Bain Capital, his big success, was heavy in mergers that killed jobs. His PACs make him Wall Street’s pet, and profits have always blinded Wall Street to the horsepower of jobs in consumer economics, the lifeblood of capitalism.
Can Romney survive his evasion over public display of his tax returns? What is he hiding? How much wealth is he banking abroad? He is both famous and infamous for his flip-flops, easily the 21st-century champion of this political art form. It’s debatable whether flip-flops are prevarication. But they raise questions of integrity.
If Mitt should win, what can we expect on principle? Will we get the Mitt of his Yankee governorship, favoring health insurance for everyone, freedom of choice for women, and civil unions or marriage for gays? Or, will we get the Mitt who is a High Priest of Mormon faith, who will oppose full freedom for women and gays, and will bow to the big insurance companies on keeping American health care the costliest in the developed world for the sake of their lush profits?
Frank Mensel – July 2012