“I love you,” they say across the table. “These past few months have been great, and I feel we have something… something special. I’m ready to take our relationship to the next level.” I sit in silence and take a sip of my drink. “Well say something!” they plead. “Don’t you love me too?”
“Look,” I say. “Things started off okay. I told my friends that I liked you, and told them all about your qualities that I liked. But as time has gone on and I learned more about you, the more I’m not so sure about us.”
“What?! Just last night I heard you telling your neighbor how much you liked me!”
I sigh. “I was. But I was on the internet last night…”
“No. No! Lies! Distortion! You can’t trust what you read on the internet! Anyone can put anything up there.”
“Yeah, well, I was actually looking at other stuff. Things you said, things you did. But since you brought it up… there were some quite unflattering comments from other people who you were close with. One or two I could overlook, but there’s, like, a bunch. Honestly, I’m not sure things are working out.”
And so it goes with political candidates, courting your vote. Things start off swimmingly, and you get all excited about a candidate for a few reasons. But as time goes by, you learn more about them. More information comes out. And the more you realize this person isn’t really the person you thought they were. During this primary period, all the candidates are courting us for our votes. And it’s okay to change our support from one candidate to the other as we find more about them. We’re still dating, after all. As time goes by we find out more about them and maybe we realize that they have violated one of our personal non-negotiables.
I liked Herman Cain until he flubbed the Libya question. I liked Rick Santorum because of his pro-life stance, and agreed with his strong international policies; but then I looked into his voting record, read about how he treated Pennsylvania Republicans, and finally… some of his comments which I took to be out-and-out Communitarian. While Rick is an ardent Catholic, he follows a 50-year-old Communitarian-tinged strain of Catholicism — liberation theology — which has been denounced by the Pope (though its influence is still felt.)
If Ronald Reagan were alive and running for president today, would he be able to withstand the scrutiny we give candidates today? Thirty years ago, there wasn’t the internet, so digging into things about the candidates wasn’t as easy. We had to rely on what we read in newspapers and saw on the nightly news (on only three channels!) The fact is, right now we’re all looking for a knight in shining armor to come along on his white horse and save our nation from the throes of tyranny and socialism. In reality, none of the current crop of candidates comes close to that ideal, once you start digging. But some are less agreeable than others.
Barack Obama was able to win because he was a blank canvas of open expectations. I think we as a nation have learned from this mistake. And I think that in the absence of a true and genuine white knight in shining armor, we — as a nation — are inclined to choose the least dangerous, most vanilla candidate out there. That’s why Mitt Romney will be the GOP nominee, and that’s why he will beat Barack Obama in the general election. Not because he’s good, not because we like him more, but because we realize Obama was a big mistake and that re-electing him would be a bigger mistake. (And if you doubt that Romney will win the primary, just look at New Hampshire where Santorum only captured 8% of the Catholic vote, while Romney captured 45% of the Catholic vote, despite being a Mormon.)
Is Mitt Romney the best thing for the nation? No. Not by a long shot. But he’s “acceptable“. And he’s not Barack Obama.