The political corners of the Internet are abuzz this week with rumors that we’re about to see a third Romney presidential candidacy.
What to make of it?
Is Romney 3.0 just William Jennings Bryan 2.0, or have we at last arrived at the time of the Romney Resurgence and Redemption, in which, having finally convinced his own party (in between 2008 and 2012) and the American electorate (2012 through 2016) of his abilities, America is now ready to embrace the man who “was right about everything”?
Oh, the drama! Maybe the question we should be asking is, “Will Romney be the first candidate to put his campaign on reality TV in real time?”
But, back to the issue at hand . . . .
I’m still skeptical that Romney will run, and even more skeptical that he could win.
And I’m not alone.
But others disagree.
Romney’s supporters are excited! And his detractors are out in force reminding everyone of what made him unelectable the first two times.
He’s a flip-flopper.
He’s too mechanical.
He can’t relate to the electorate.
Oh, and there’s still that religion thing.
And on and on.
But regardless of whether he runs or not, I think the most interesting thing is how we talk about Mitt Romney’s Third Wave candidacy without thought of our own roles in the process. Let’s talk about the candidates we create, and Mitt in particular.
Want an impossible job today? Run for President of the United States.
The road to the White House is not so much a road as it is a minefield created by an increasingly myopic and schizophrenic electorate.
Don’t you dare flip flop! But don’t be ossified and ideological in your positions. That’s just contributing to the problem of polarization out there in Washington D.C
We want an experienced and demonstrated leader! But we don’t want anyone corrupted by government or with excessive success in the private sector, because they must have stepped on people to get there.
We won’t elect any atheists! But don’t wear your religion on your sleeve, because that’s just creepy.
We don’t want any more wars! But if you make America look weak to the world, we’ll hate you.
America can’t be all things to all people and the world’s got to solve its own problems! But we expect you to stand up for human rights, because Darfur is just unacceptable.
I could go on and on, and I’m sure you could as well.
There is no path through the minefield that we’ve created. But oh! how the candidates try.
“Forward, the Light Brigade!”
Was there a man dismay’d?
Not tho’ the soldier knew
Someone had blunder’d:
Theirs not to make reply,
Theirs not to reason why,
Theirs but to do and die:
Into the valley of Death
Rode the six hundred.
Cannon to right of them,
Cannon to left of them,
Cannon in front of them
Volley’d and thunder’d;
Storm’d at with shot and shell,
Boldly they rode and well,
Into the jaws of Death,
Into the mouth of Hell
Rode the six hundred.
When a candidate comes limping back up out of the valley of death after trying to meet our collective demands, we crucify them for being too ideological, too mushy, too hawkish, too dovish — all at the same time.
And then we speak bemusedly, or even with genuine confusion, about mystifying political strategy:
“If only they would be their authentic selves! Why didn’t he show anyone who he really was?”
“Why is she running away from [INSERT EXPERIENCE HERE]?”
“Why do campaigns always degenerate into vacuous, issue light affairs? Can’t these candidates ever take a solid position?”
“Why won’t she answer the question asked?”
Hey, America! It’s America! Say “hi.”
I think it’s saying something that perhaps the only group of people less self-aware than the politicians we elect are those of us who elect them.
American politics have always been the politics of consensus, meaning that the range of disagreement — the occasional vehemence of our political discourse notwithstanding — is small. And we’ve constricted it ever further with our candidate requirements, and, in so doing, have limited the Presidency to a very select group of people whose hands are tied from the moment they set out on the campaign trail.
That’s all fine, actually.
But maybe we should stop blaming candidates for it.
I’m not trying to lionize candidates; Lord knows they’ve got plenty of issues, all of which are exhaustively documented. But let’s just be a little self-aware, shall we, about our own role in the disaster?
So . . . bring on 2016!
And bring on Mitt Romney 3.0, or Bush 3.0, or Clinton 2.0, or whatever (sorry, Elizabeth and Rand!) — it’ll be fun!!
But when we see the candidates — whoever they are — keep in mind that, to a large extent we’re looking in a mirror.