Wednesday, February 08, 2012

The return of the undead

If I didn't read Ed Kilgore at the Washington Monthly, -- if you enjoy campaigns as sport you should -- I wouldn't have known that Mitt Romney has been so foolish as to tout an endorsement from former California Governor Pete Wilson. Wilson deserves credit as the guy who in 1994 put the GOP on track to become the party of inciting hatred against immigrants to win political points -- and hence to oblivion wherever the Latino-origin population is entering the political system.

Here's Kilgore on the stupidity of Mitt's latest move:

... in a year when the Latino vote nationally could well be the ballgame, it’s just bizarre that a candidate who already has problems with this segment of the electorate would make this gratuitous gesture of contempt. It’s not as though Wilson is some conservative celebrity who will help him nail down the nomination, either; hard-core California conservatives consider him a squish on issues other than immigration.

It’s stuff like this that makes me wonder if Mitt is really the remorselessly efficient robo-pol he’s cracked up to be. Embracing Wilson is the kind of thing a novice candidate desperate for any kind of support might do. For Mitt Romney, it’s simply an unforced error.

Daily I become more hopeful I'll never have to write "President Romney."

This news provides me a chance to pass on another bit of Pete Wilson trivia I just ran across in Walter Shapiro's One-Car Caravan. Apparently it's Pete's fault the modern presidential primary calendar has become such a front-loaded, byzantine mess.

Once upon a time -- that is, as recently as 1992 -- the presidential caucuses and primaries unfolded at a sensible pace that encouraged deliberation by the voters and, not incidentally, provided political reporters with a natural narrative arc filled with exciting reversals of fortune and dramatic comebacks. Back then, February belonged to Iowa and New Hampshire, which winnowed the field; the cluster of southern primaries in March known as Super Tuesday reduced the contest to an undisputed front-runner and a desperate challenger; the race was generally decided when the big industrial states such as New York and Illinois weighed in come April; and any remaining doubts were dispelled as California, Ohio and New Jersey went to the polls on the first Tuesday in June.

But then -- hiss! boo!! -- the Republicans ruined everything in 1996. California jumped its primary to the first Tuesday in March in deference to the outlandish presidential fantasies of GOP Governor Pete Wilson. New York moved up as well, as Al D' Amato gamed the system to boost his Senate patron, Bob Dole. The result was a slam-bang-thank-you-ma'am calendar that effectively truncated the presidential race from four leisurely months to three pin balling weeks. This was politics reshaped to fit the attention span of an eleven-year-old boy weaned on Mortal Kombat video games and computer-generated movie mayhem.

There you have it: Walter Shapiro at his baroque best; Pete Wilson in his usual role as comic book villain. Ain't politics great?

2 comments:

Rain said...

It is an amazing season is all I can say and it's mostly laugh or cry. I prefer to laugh at them but if they get power, it won't be so funny-- which means we have to work to make sure they do not.

Ronni Bennett said...

Too bad for me about Kilgore. I guess. One of my biggest problems with political reporting and punditry is the excess of sports references and metaphors.

Nevertheless, these are two terrific bits of political arcana worth having. I am particularly happy to know who to blame for the primary mess we must live with now.

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