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October 01, 2012 3:05 PM Choice-iness

By Ed Kilgore

Amidst the strategic confusion surrounding the Romney/Ryan campaign—I say “surrounding,” because while it’s clear it has infected Mitt’s intended echo chamber, we don’t actually know if they are as internally convulsed as they sometimes seem to be—the most confusing issue is the extent to which the GOP ticket is willing to treat the election as a “choice” rather than a “referendum.”

The official line, as explained by Greg Sargent today, is that we have entered a “debate and choice” phase of the campaign, now that Romney has persuaded as many voters as he possibly can that they should vote for him without looking into the poke for the pig.

But the relentless efforts by Romney and Ryan to disguise their agenda—most notably the agenda represented by the latter’s budget, which the former has promised to implement as quickly as possible, with perhaps a few nips and tucks—makes their commitment to a clear “choice” more than a little questionable. Jon Chait has great sport today with Ryan’s bobbing and weaving over the weekend (on Fox News no less) with simple questions about the arithmetic underlying his budget. And that doesn’t even scratch the surface of the huge contradiction between the standard, joyful argument of conservatives that their heroes are engaged in the destruction of the New Deal/Great Society legacy and the frantic efforts of said heroes to claim they are trying to save Medicare from mean old Obama.

So how can one properly describe the kind of “choice” election Romney and Ryan want? Perhaps we should adapt Colbert’s immensely useful term “truthiness” (defined by Merriam-Webster as “the quality of preferring concepts or facts one wishes to be true, rather than concepts or facts known to be true”). What Romney and Ryan are promoting is “choice-iness,” an election defined by a contrast between an imaginary version of Obama’s agenda and an equally imaginary version of their own agenda. It’s the kind of “choice” you get if you believe Obama is a socialist who wants to destroy Medicare, and Romney is a free-enterprise champ who wants to make sure Grandpa gets every nickel of his Medicare without diverting anything to those worthless welfare recipients or those ungrateful kids.

Ed Kilgore is a contributing writer to the Washington Monthly. He is managing editor for The Democratic Strategist and a senior fellow at the Progressive Policy Institute. Find him on Twitter: @ed_kilgore.

Comments

  • Memekiller on October 01, 2012 3:21 PM:

    "that doesn’t even scratch the surface of the huge contradiction between the standard, joyful argument of conservatives that their heroes are engaged in the destruction of the New Deal/Great Society legacy and the frantic efforts of said heroes to claim they are trying to save Medicare from mean old Obama."

    Ironically, if Obama does a Grand Bargain in the lame duck session, it will be true that he's scaling back entitlements. Not that that in anyway suggests the GOP isn't. It's just kind of funny that everyone pooh-pooh's the idea Obama is after entitlements when he's been salivating for some kind of deal for some time.

  • jjm on October 01, 2012 3:30 PM:

    I sincerely believe the Grand Bargain is over with, especially if the Dems retake Congress. There will be tweaks needed, but the uproar if they did anything after being elected BECAUSE they would protect the benefits we are entitled to would be endless. (Not that that ever stopped a politician after being elected from screwing those who voted for him or her.)

    However, I remain convinced that Obama offered the Grand Bargain purely to demonstrate how intransigent the GOPers were about dealing with him carefully and with the best interests of the people at heart. The demonstration was loud and clear.

  • doug on October 01, 2012 3:53 PM:

    memekiller, for a while I sort of wondered just what President Obama was up to with said "Grand Bargain", but the more and more I saw of Republican intransigence over raising taxes on the rich, the more I inclined toward jjm's view.
    IF the debt and deficit were the Armaggedon-inducing items that the Republicans claimed they were, then there is no reason that, along with swinging increases in the income tax rate, reductions in SS and Medicare shouldn't be part of the mixture.
    By refusing to allow even the minor tax increases to avoid the horrors they claimed were rapidly approaching, Republicans showed the world that it WASN'T reducing the debt and deficit they were after. It also showed how dumb they could be.
    Well, at least until this year's primaries...

  • lou on October 01, 2012 5:50 PM:

    If Ryan has finally been exposed as the fraud he is, what does that say about all the GOP congressmen who voted in lockstep with Ryan's budget plan? I just wonder how many of them actually read Ryan's plan and gave 2 minutes of thought to it.