The candidates are making a mess of this, but they’re nowhere near the biggest problem. I do think Newt was right to fire back after the question asked about “open marriage” (btw: not approving of anything he said. The media is liberal. But as a whole, it is not some grand conspiracy to discredit conservatives). He’s still run a mess of a campaign and can’t be trusted in front of the general electorate. Romney is making his tax issues a bigger deal than they should be. The SuperPAC problem is damning for all involved, even though that’s the rules of the game, the dumb rules we have now. When Colbert says exactly what Romney says prior to Romney actually saying it, well, the problem speaks for itself.
No, the big problem isn’t the candidates or the system. It looks more and more to be the base. I was watching PBS’ NewsHour and my face sunk into my hands as voters talked on national television, with no shame, about candidates being God-approved. One guy even talked about Newt being making mistakes, being repentant, and his story being an appealing and powerful one. Apparently there is no difference between “sinner” and “slimeball” (not that I think Newt is a slimeball), no criteria we can use to distinguish a crazy or cynical person from someone who’s made mistakes or forged themselves into leadership material. And “let not your left hand know what your right hand does” is completely gone as integral to piety.
The main lesson, if I’ve got a correct read on things: we’re going to have to do something apart from campaign season to communicate real issues to voters and make them aware politics is a trade-off. It is very rare you get some policy that is an unqualified good for all. I’ve already expressed my skepticism over the idea that the low taxes/less government mantra is a feasible proposition for modern conservatism. In fact, I think sticking to that ideology too rigorously has created a set of unrealistic expectations for governing. What I’d really like to see are Republicans talking about policy being good for as many Americans as possible, getting people out of hopeless situations. Right now, I see a preachy party that needs unity fast.