On Tuesday, the Republican Party will nominate for President a man who, during the primaries, expressed his support for an amendment to Mississippi's state Constitution that would have declared that life begins when a sperm fertilizes an egg, making all abortion and most forms of birth control illegal and criminalizing any effort by a woman (or her doctor) to terminate her pregnancy. This man also stated that he would veto the DREAM Ac if it passed Congress, a law that would modernize our immigration policy (in its current form, it was filibustered by Senate Republicans), promised to defund Planned Parenthood, believes "corporations are people" and would provide massive tax cuts to the wealthiest Americans, who have already seen the most massive redistribution of wealth in their favor since the 1920s. Speaking of wealth, this gentleman has amassed an enormous fortune, probably the largest personal fortune of any man who has ever run for President, but refuses to allow the American people to see his tax returns, uses off shore tax havens to shelter his money and led a firm that was an innovator in outsourcing and leveraged buyouts. Oh, and the one policy achievement he has from his single term as a state Governor is a health care plan that his party hates so much, its majority in the House of Representatives has attempted to repeal the federal version of it more than 30 times.
To run with this man, Republicans have selected a Congressman who has called for the elimination of Medicare as a guaranteed health benefit provided through the federal government in favor of having senior citizens purchase private health insurance, supports reducing Medicaid spending, making health care inaccessible for millions of poor people, and trimming food stamps so that 17 million Americans who currently receive them would no longer do so. Oh, and he also believes that the term "rape" needs to modified with the word "forcible," and does not think abortion is appropriate in any circumstance. To top it all off, he has no foreign policy experience except, as he jokes, being close to Lake Superior and (not joking) that he voted to send men and women into combat.
Of course, the Mitt Romney and Paul Ryan people who tune into the Republican National Convention (RNC) will see are far different than the two gentlemen described above (even though they are those people too). Indeed, the RNC is the ultimate Etch-A-Sketch moment that Eric Fehrnstrom promised us some months ago. Gone will be inflammatory talk about illegal immigration, restricting abortion rights and denying contraception to women. In their place will be anodyne paeans to the "American Dream" with fluffy talk of mom and apple pie. No credit will go to the President that finally "got" Bin Laden or ended the Iraq War. Instead, there will be talk of expanding defense budgets and rattling sabers against Iran in solidarity with our good friend Israel. Refrains of "we built this" will echo in an arena built primarily with government dollars and from a Vice Presidential candidate whose private sector CV was limited to being the driver of the Oscar Meyer "Weinermobile" and a waiter at a well known Mexican restaurant in D.C. He has, however, collected a government check uninterrupted for nearly 20 years, used Social Security survivor's benefits to get through college and now has health coverage guaranteed for the rest of his life (he'll get a fat government pension if his ticket does not win but he is re-elected to Congress and stays for 8 more years).
Seniors will be reassured that their access to Medicare is inviolate while telling everyone under 55 that major changes must be made with less provided at greater cost. Our national debt will be laid at the doorstep of 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue, except only the current occupant will be blamed. Stimulus will be mocked even though Mr. Romney called for the same in 2008. Bailouts will be demonized except the one that rescued the auto industry, which will be embraced and co-opted by a man who wrote an editorial titled "Let Detroit Go Bankrupt." Governors from states like Florida, Ohio and Virginia will brag about their improved economies without noting the massive investment of federal dollars that helped stabilize their employment situation while the Governor of a state with a 9.8% jobless rate (New Jersey) is spotlighted. And nowhere will the sad legacy of George W. Bush be uttered - of flag draped coffins, limbless veterans, a surplus turned to oceans of red ink, a failed response to one of the worst natural disasters in our country's history and the enmity of friend and foe alike throughout the world.
If a question is raised about those Voter ID laws, they will simply retort that the ballot must be protected, never mind that 10 confirmed cases of in person fraud have been found in 146 million votes cast since 2000 or that the most recent cases of election fraud had to do with a Republican Congressman (Thad McCotter) and Indiana's Republican Secretary of State. Any attempt to talk about government investment in the economy will be derided as left wing socialism, even though the party's own VP candidate sent letters of support to Cabinet members on behalf of businesses in his district who wanted those precious federal dollars. Slow economic growth, an increase in the poverty rate and budget deficits will be Obama's fault while Senators in the audience who filibustered everything from health care to the appointment of the Public Printer clap lustily and their own intransigence is nowhere mentioned.
It will all seem very reasonable because it has been poll tested and word smithed, and millions are being spent on staging and lighting to give just the right impression. Republicans tease the President over the "greek columns" onstage at his 2008 acceptance speech but are spending $2.5 million on a stage for their own candidate who, I'm guessing, will use a TelePrompTer. All of this will be done in an effort to convince the media covering the event and the voters watching it that this is not a reactionary party beholden to the 1%, whose rabid right wing believes women can avoid rape-induced pregnancies and that the President is a Kenyan, Muslim or both. That this is a big tent, not a sheet and hood.