Friday, December 30, 2011

It's common knowledge that the Republican slate of presidential candidates is shockingly weak, with a set of deeply flawed and even ridiculous men and women.  At first glance, this seems strange given the powerful interests that prefer the typical Republican program of regressive taxation, lax regulation,  and a trillion dollar torrent of corporate welfare to keep crony capitalism flush.  

I have a theory about the apparent indifference to the candidate fail parade, however.  Two things are going on.  

First, the presidency is likely to be a poisoned chalice this time around.  Tough times are coming, the government, the media and the public discourse are dysfunctional, and the nation is in no shape to face the oncoming challenges.  If anyone is going to be blamed for the coming debacles, why not the Democrats - especially if most of the country can be convinced that progressive, even socialistic policies are to blame?  

Second, and equally important, they already have a moderate Republican president in Barack Obama.   He's presiding over a set of economic and regulatory policies - imposed on him to some extent - that would thrill any Republican of an earlier age, and he's making little if any effort to change that.  

His signature progressive legislative accomplishment remains a (Republican designed) health care reform whose essential logic is to force people to buy health insurance policies from huge, profit-making corporations.  This week, the USDA and FDA shamefully chose not to regulate the abuse of human antibiotics in meat production -  instead choosing to sacrifice the public's health on the balance sheets of Big Ag and Big Pharma.  Last week, pundits seemed to consider it a great victory that Obama and the Democratic Senate maneuvered the Republicans into extending a tax cut.  

This is what a Democratic victory looks like nowadays?  convincing Republicans to lower taxes in an election year?

Personally, I still see plenty of reasons to prefer an Obama to a Romney, but I don't think the people and corporations that fund elections care that much whether it's a wounded Obama or the Mormon guy who takes this chalice.  The money flows their way in either case.

UPDATE:  Matt Taibbi gives a similar verdict over at Rolling Stone, The Meaningless Sideshow Begins.