Thursday, January 19, 2012

The State of American Discourse, pt 1: Mitt Romney's Taxes

I'm not ashamed to admit that I love politics.  By this I mean actual politics (people sharing and debating ideas to determine which course of action best solves society's problems) not what passes for politics today (a bunch of people trying to yell louder than one another).  For this reason I, like many of you, am very disillusioned by the way politics is handled today, both in the media and by the politicians themselves.  But not disillusioned enough to turn away.  I have a curious fascination with it all.  In the same way that film buffs sometimes love bad movies most of all, I am obsessed with bad politics and bad journalism.  So I've decided to make a segment to discuss the many, MANY, MANY times that people remove political discourse from the realm of the useful and transplant it into the world of Shit That Does Not Matter At All, distracting you from what we should be discussing.  So, without further ado...

The Republican primary race.  Mitt Romney is in the lead, as he should be.  Being the most centrist candidate and therefore the most likely to attract independent voters, anyone with the most basic understanding of presidential politics can see why he would emerge as the front runner.  Anyone except Newt Gingrinch, who himself wants to be the front runner.  Unfortunately his stance on the issues and his winning personality have only brought him to third place and he needs an extra push forward to get to the lead.  Or instead of pushing to the lead he could just cut down everyone in front of him.  Let's go with that one.

So his plan has been to pressure Romney into releasing his income tax returns, saying that it's important for voters to not have to face any surprise revelations later in the year.  I love this tactic for its ridiculousness.  Firstly, Romney is a career politician.  He's held multiple elected positions over a long period of time; anything hiding in his tax returns would have come out by now.  Secondly, since when did the party of no taxes start judging a candidate's character off of what he pays in income taxes?  Best of all is just the process of watching a bunch of millionaires who spend most of their time defending millionaires suddenly spar over who is the biggest, elitist and therefore worst millionaire.

Mitt Romney will make his taxes public if he gets the nomination.  He has to; it's the law.  I can understand if Newt doesn't like this process, but it is the way it was before he started running for president.  He wasn't asking anyone to release their tax returns back in Iowa.  Why does he bring it up only when he's finding himself looking up the totem pole with precious little time?  The American primary system is unique.  It's downright bizarre.  But no one was complaining about that during the few months every four years when candidates pretend they care about Iowa.  No one complains as we dart from the Midwest to New England to the South weeding out potential candidates while a state like Hawaii, who is already basically left out of the presidential election by virtue of their late time zone, has no chance of impacting the race considering how late their primary is.

Newt Gingrich is painting this as a matter of integrity.  If Mitt Romney was only more honest, he'd tell us how much money he makes.  Yet Romney is the one behaving with dignity.  He committed to the electoral system we have, with its strengths and weaknesses, and is following its flawed rules.  He could even quell this whole thing by releasing his taxes, where he surely has nothing to hide, but that would be giving in to a bully.  Whereas Newt had no problem with a primary system that favors the voice of some Americans over others until he found a rule that makes it personally harder for him to become president.  Then it's an injustice.  Where's the integrity in that?

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