At least a few people have pointed me in the direction of this SFGate column by Michelle Richmond, which uses “The Ones Who Walk Away from Omelas” as a metaphor for what happened at Penn State. Ms. Richmond’s article was posted after mine and thus folks are wondering if that constitutes her taking my idea and if they should be outraged on my behalf.
Folks, thanks, but no. When asked about it in her comment thread she says she didn’t see my piece before she wrote hers, and there’s no reason I can think of to doubt her; you know, not everyone in the world reads me. Also, “Omelas” is a classic science fiction story, and it would be genuinely surprising if I was the only one to have thought of that particular story in connection to the Penn State events. It’s entirely reasonable to think two separate writers would write two separate, unconnected articles with it as a theme.
In other words: it’s a coincidence. These things do happen sometimes.
As most of you are no doubt aware, in 2012, I am about as likely to vote for a GOP candidate for president as I am likely to vomit a Volkwagen Beetle straight out of my esophagus. But if I had to vote for a GOP candidate for President, which current GOP candidate would I vote for? Well, I’ll tell you, in a list, from least likely to most likely.
9. Michelle Bachmann: Look, it’s not just the eyes. This woman is completely off the beam, blathers idiocies at an appallingly frequent rate and apparently knows about as much about anything outside the closed-loop of Tea Party talking points as the squirrels in my yard, busily gathering nuts for the winter, who I fear would bum-rush Bachmann if she came to my house and carry her away, Veruca Salt-style. Attractive, though, which does nothing to quell my longstanding concern that GOP voters think about potential female presidential candidates the way drunk fraternity brothers think about conquests, i.e., who cares if she’s zoned-out as long as she’s hot (see: Sarah Palin). In the end it’s the complete apparent didactic ignorance she spouts that puts her on the bottom of my list.
8. Rick Santorum: A querulous bigot, with whom I am dismayed to discover I share a birthday. Somewhat more apparently intelligent than Bachmann, but what does that say. If he and Bachmann were the last presidential candidates on Earth, I would vote to return the US to Britain. Fortunately the man has even less chance of being president than Bachmann — indeed, has even less chance of being president than all but one person on this list, I think — and his apparent confusion as to why he’s not doing better than he’s doing says something about his disconnect from reality.
7. Gary Johnson: Who? I mean, seriously: who? I know he’s still running, since his Web site says he is, and he even was at some of the debates, but, dude: You’re wasting your time. If all the other GOP candidates were hit by lightning at one of the debates you weren’t invited to, you still wouldn’t be the GOP presidential candidate; they’d drag Chris Christie kicking and screaming to the Republican National Convention long before they’d even acknowledge you were there. Yes, it sucks; you were by all indications a pretty decent governor. But you had your moment with the “shovel-ready” quip. Maybe you’ll make a good Secretary of the Interior or something.
6. Ron Paul: He’s certainly a man who sticks to his principles, which is admirable enough when you are one representative out of 435. But I doubt his principles scale, which is to say that if he had the same executive style as his legislative style, he’d veto everything that didn’t meet his “it’s not in the Constitution!” shtick, which would be just about everything, and thus would run the country into the ground in about six months flat. And I suppose that would be perfectly fine for a lot of the people who would vote for Ron Paul as president. But it wouldn’t be fine for me. I think he’s best where he is.
5. Herman Cain: He’s this cycle’s “straight talking no-nonsense CEO from BusinessLand” entry, and in that role he’s been facile enough that he appears to have convinced a large number of people that his 9-9-9 tax scheme will somehow benefit them rather than doing what it actually does, which is to give the rich an immense tax break while raising the taxes on a substantial number of working Joes and Janes, so good for him, I guess. On the other hand he’s clearly and woefully uninformed on anything that Herman Cain has decided Herman Cain doesn’t want to know about, and you know what? All those sexual harassment settlements don’t exactly inspire confidence, and that’s just about the most polite way I can put that. Andrew Sullivan is of the opinion Cain’s not in this to win this, and that he’s in it to sell his books and raise his speaking fees. I suspect he may be right.
4. Rick Perry: Aaaaaaaauuugh! Republican Governor of Texas! Run away! Run away! And he’s even more what Dubya is than Dubya was: That big smiley good ol’ boy thing, with an engine in the brainpan that doesn’t exactly run on premium fuel, as evidenced by that absolutely ridiculous “optional tax overhaul” plan he and his brain trust farted out a few weeks ago. Perry started strong in the field but faded once he opened his mouth, which actually makes me think better of potential GOP voters. Ironically, while lots of commentators pinpointed his brain freeze in the most recent debate as the end of his campaign, I had some sympathy for him when it happened, since I’ll be introducing people I’ve known for 30 years to other people and blank on their names. It happens. What he shouldn’t have said was that “oops” at the end. That’s what killed him.
3. Newt Gingrich: I’m just as amazed as anyone that Gingrich lands this high on my list, and it has more to do with this current GOP field being populated by the confounding crew that it is than anything else. Gingrich is a classic politinerd, which is to say he wonks out like no one’s business but then when he has to deal with actual live humans he’s like a giraffe talking to a fungo; it just doesn’t work. His compassion-blindness is what makes him great at the politics of character assassination, but it also means that politicians who understand people can box him into a corner and poke at him until he explodes. Hell, that was one of Bill Clinton’s favorite things to do. In a general election, Obama would rope-a-dope him all the merry day long. On the other hand, he does know how Washington works and it’s possible if handled properly (i.e., like a fragile ball of thin glass with EXPLODE on the inside) he might be able to govern. I’d actually love to meet and chat with Gingrich; I think as long as he and I never talked politics everything would be fine. But I think having him as president would be a very bad idea, only a slightly better idea than everyone else on the list below him.
2. Mitt Romney: Come now, Republicans: Do any of you really think Romney won’t be your eventual candidate? Really? Really? I think we all know this is how it’s going to go. Yes, Romney is the bland high school treasurer type, the one who carefully crafts his extracurriculars for maximum effect on his college applications, and who spends his time thinking about what to say that will make him popular with the other kids rather than, you know, being interesting in his own right. But at the end of the day you’ve got to beat Obama in a presidential election, which means you have to find some way to appeal to the independent voters — and not only that but the independent voters your Tea Party adventures of 2010 have scared the crap out of. And that’s Romney, the Safety Prom Date, the one you pick for the dance because you know he’ll show up in a limo, give you a nice dinner, dance with you and then not complain while you mostly hang out with your friends, and then on the way home will refrain from doing anything other than a couple overly polite kisses without tongue and a two-second breast-cupping, mostly for form’s sake. No, he’s not gay. He wants you to know he respects you. Just try not to think of football captain Rick Perry too much as he’s doing it, okay? Mmmmm… Rick Perry.
Anyway. If he gets elected, I suspect he’ll actually be somewhat moderate, for values of moderate that translate to “relative to the modern GOP,” which means “far to the right of anywhere Ronald Reagan ever was,” but whatever. I mean, he was governor of Massachusetts, for God’s sake. He knows something about meeting in the middle. For someone like me, he’s workable. But no, I’m not excited about him either.
1. Jon Huntsman: Smart fellow with an eclectic past (played in a rock band and was a missionary to Taiwan!) who went on to be an extraordinarily popular two-term governor of Utah, who played to traditional Republican strengths like cutting taxes while at the same time promoting a Federal increase of the minimum wage and signed on to the Western Climate Initiative. Worked for administrations both Republican and Democratic, and when he was Obama’s ambassador of China, got his name blocked on search engines for walking around in street protests, just to, as he said “see what’s going on.” Has this to say: “To be clear. I believe in evolution and trust scientists on global warming. Call me crazy.” Supports civil unions for same-sex couples, which puts him on the same ground as Obama. And so on.
In other words, Huntsman seems to be what I would actually like to see in a GOP candidate — and, indeed in a Democratic candidate as well: A fellow who has particular core values and works toward them but doesn’t appear to be a doctrinaire whack-job subscribing to a scorched-earth policy when it comes to working with people of other political views. Huntsman has politics I’m not on board for, such as his stands on abortion, but this is the field I have to work with, and in this field, if I had to vote for someone, this is the guy who gets my vote — and if he became president, he would be someone I would have at least some optimism about.
So where is he in the polls? Pulling down somewhere between 4.5 and six percent, well behind Romney and Cain, the current front runners, and indeed trailing Bachmann, Gingrich and Ron Paul. At least he’s ahead of Johnson and Santorum. My support for him tells me I would probably make a terrible modern Republican. But then again, this is something I already knew.