Republican presidential nominee Mitt Romney. (Photo credit: mittromney.com)
As Election 2012 nears, the Republican Party is cashing in on a ruthless strategy of "good cop, bad cop" -- having used harsh obstructionism in Congress to keep Americans suffering under high unemployment for four years, the GOP now brings in a smiling Mitt Romney to offer some hope, if only the nation does what the GOP says.
Romney's closing argument for his election as President of the United States has been that the only way for Americans to stop the pain from Republican obstruction is to surrender to total Republican control. The "good cop" message is: If you don't sign here on Nov. 6, the bad cop will have to return and make your next four years miserable, too.
The newspaper's editorial board then poses the question: "Which candidate could forge the compromises in Congress to achieve these goals? When the question is framed in those terms, Mitt Romney emerges the stronger candidate." And it seems the strategy is working. For instance, the Des Moines Register justified its endorsement of Mitt Romney on the grounds that America needs a President who can pull "the economy out of the doldrums" and work on other national problems "in a bipartisan manner that the country demands."
The editorial notes that...
"...one of the biggest obstacles either candidate faces is partisan gridlock in Congress. It appears unlikely either party will have enough votes to have its own way without bringing over members from across the aisle.
"Early in his administration, President Obama reached out to Republicans but was rebuffed. Since then, he has abandoned the effort, and the partisan divide has hardened. That has hampered not only the economy, but the entire country. We remain a nation of red states and blue states. "
"Voters should give Mitt Romney a chance to correct the nation's fiscal course and to implode the partisan gridlock that has shackled Washington and the rest of America -- with the understanding that he would face the same assessment in four years if he does not succeed."
Ignoring Romney's Positions
Curiously, the Des Moines Register offers little assessment of why Romney's economic policy prescriptions, which include continuing George W. Bush's tax cuts and tacking on a new 20 percent across-the-board tax cut, would do anything to create jobs or reduce the federal deficit. Romney also wants to add $2 trillion more in military spending.
Nor did the editorial address other pressing issues, like Romney's promise to scrap Obama's new regulations of the health-care and financial industries, or Romney's disdain for action on global warming. In his speech at the Republican National Convention, Romney made a punch line out of Obama's rhetoric about reversing the rise of the seas.
The newspaper did express hope that Romney would not implement Republican plans for rolling back progress on the rights of gays and women. But there is little reason to believe that a federal government under total or near-total Republican control would not fulfill longstanding promises to its right-wing base, either through legislation or through the appointment of more reactionary justices to the U.S. Supreme Court.
Indeed, the Des Moines Register's editorial had the feel of a hostage video from a desperate captive who is trying to bond with the least abusive of his tormentors. Staring into the camera, the victim says: If you just pay the ransom and do what they say, I'm sure everything will work out.
But the editorial's most troubling failure was its unwillingness to recognize that the Republican behavior over the past four years represents a dangerous development in the history of the U.S. democratic Republic. If one party is rewarded for political nihilism, the logic is that nihilism will become the wave of the future.
Or perhaps you will get permanent Republican control of the U.S. government, what political operative Karl Rove has set as his most cherished goal. That would come because any future Democratic president could expect the same GOP scorched-earth response that confronted Obama and thus cowardly people like the editors of the Des Moines Register would counsel against bringing on such nastiness again.
In that view, the only way to avoid the GOP's wrath is to surrender to Republican rule, with the presumption that the Democrats, operating in a permanent minority status, would not dare engage in similar obstructionist tactics.
An Abusive Relationship
I have sometimes compared the current relationship between the Republicans and the Democrats to an abusive husband and an abused wife. The Republican husband comes home in a fury, roughs up the wife and kids, and trashes the house, before passing out on the couch. The Democratic wife then tries to tidy up the place and conceal the bruises before the husband awakes in another bad mood.