Sound and fury signifying Iowa
Can we please, PLEASE forget about Iowa now?
After wall-to-wall Mitt and the Seven Dwarfs, I'm to where I'd rather watch "Keeping Up With the Kardashians" while having a root canal.
But you too can have an absurdly disproportionate impact on presidential politics. Just move to Iowa. Come autumn before each leap year there are three journalists for every resident, as Iowans are courted, pandered to, targeted, polled, interviewed, flattered, analyzed, speechified, pontificated, poked and prodded like burned bratwursts at the Jaycees Fourth of July picnic in Des Moines.
As the reporters grow breathless and the candidates get shrill (the cute way to do this now is to kvetch about the other guys going negative as you let your super PAC do the dirty work for you), it's weird to remember that the entire number of people involved in this ridiculous tableau is about the number who sat in the Rose Bowl Monday.
The "votes" aren't really votes, either. What they are involves meetings and stump speeches and is so arcane that if I described it you'd fall asleep.
It's widely believed that this process is a major indicator of the nation's mood, which it probably is if the nation is made up mainly of aging, rural, conservative, white, Anglo-Saxon, Christian Evangelicals who think a traffic jam is six cars waiting to pass a tractor.
The reason I can speak about this with authority is that I was born in Iowa. We Hawkeyes like to think plain speaking is one of our virtues.
Iowa is much like Garrison Keillor's Minnesota but without the humor. The three major food groups in Iowa are pork, ham and bacon. As a self-reliant Iowan you hate the overreaching federal gummint, except for ethanol subsidies, which if we'd pump them up a little would save civilization as we know it.
So what's the takeaway? Well, Romney "won." By eight votes. He got less support than he did in 2008. Candidates usually get more votes the second time through, since Iowans are notoriously slow to jump on a bandwagon.
Ron Paul proved he could draw a few younger people and independents, which is to be expected for a guy who wants to legalize drugs and stop having all these wars. But is it, you know, Republican? The party establishment wishes Paul would go away, everybody knows he won't be the nominee, and he knows it, too. But he's having fun seeking power in the government, although he's firmly opposed to powerful governments and government power.
Rick Santorum simply caught his wave at the right time. Of the seven dwarfs, he may be the last to do so. Herman Cain, Rick Perry, Michelle Bachmann and even old Newt Gingrich all rode earlier waves of ABM sentiment (Anybody But Mitt) to the top and down again. Jon Huntsman won't be catching one.
The unprecedented string of flavor-of-the-week candidates reflects most Republicans' sense of desperation to find somebody whose name is not Mitt Romney to take on President Obama. How desperate? If anybody remembers as far back as early 2011, when Donald Trump announced that he would run on the Republican side, even HE shot to the top of the polls.
This week it's Santorum, the culture warrior. How wide is his appeal? In a money-driven system in which 90-something percent of all incumbents are routinely re-elected, Santorum managed to lose his U.S. Senate seat to a Democrat in 2006 by the biggest margin of any incumbent Republican in state history. This was after an eyebrow-raising campaign in which Santorum claimed knowledge of a centuries-old conspiracy of radical Muslims to seize power in the West, suggested that women shouldn't work outside the home and came out strongly against evolutionary biology.
Who's left? Unless Richard Nixon makes yet another amazing comeback, Mitt Romney. Why are most Republicans (about 75 percent in Iowa) so cranky about that?
Several reasons. Some Evangelicals (who make up about 60 percent of Iowa Republicans) aren't comfortable with his Mormon faith. He basically invented what would become known as Obamacare. He's a serial flip-flopper on big issues. And there's the fishing thing. Remember the poll that found guys would rather go fishing with George W. Bush than Al Gore? Nobody wants to go fishing with Mitt "corporations are people" Romney, who looks like he wouldn't want his hair to get messed up anyway.
But the real problem with Mitt Romney is this. In a year in which the biggest issues are jobs, jobs and jobs, the inconvenient fact is that Mitt Romney made mountains of money for himself by destroying American jobs. As a private equity executive and co-founder of high-flying Bain Capital in the 1980s and '90s, Romney was a whiz at buying up companies on the cheap, slicing and dicing them — this often involved laying off American workers — and turning a fat profit.
Thousands lost their jobs and health insurance and had their pensions cut. Others didn't. Anyway, Romney wound up counting his money by the hundreds of millions. George Will, in a weak effort to put a positive spin on this, quipped that Romney was guilty of "acts of capitalism," which, if you're a Republican primary voter, Will presumes, you're ready to excuse.
So the Obama people are licking their chops. Look for swift boat-type ads this summer. Real people whose jobs were destroyed by Mitt Romney for personal gain, looking into the camera, telling their stories, one after another. With feeling.
But the Bain Capital story will have to wait. I have a funeral in Iowa to pack for. I'm taking my best overalls.
Bill Varble is a freelance writer living in Medford. If you have comments or suggested topics for the column, please send them to email@example.com.