Well the first of the candidates' debates were held last night, and Mitt Romney is deemed by the press to have won based on his blistering performance behind the podium against an opponent who seemed to have been hit with a tranquilizer dart. But that was the plan, it seems. Part Two is in operation now, and it's interesting to see how it's panning out.
The two-party system in American politics has been consolidated to the point where third parties have to work harder than ever to get anywhere, whether they hold office as governors or senators or not. While it seems easy enough to poll up to 15% to be included in the Presidential debates, you have to be on the polls in the first place. This hasn't stopped determined third party candidates from fighting to get on to the debates to get a national audience, but the media has all but frozen them out as wannabes. The race now is staged as a boxing match with a blue corner and a red corner and there's no room for anyone else but the referee. Both candidates have been called out for lying, but it's the way they're perceived afterwards that I want to discuss in this post.
The general perception is as drawn above; Obama is restrained but has been stretching the truth while Romney is confident but can't keep his story straight. He lies egregiously and seems to live in a paralell world in which there are no consequences for his actions. It doesn't help that his supporters don't seem to care whether he lies or not as long as he wins. Besides, he's white. He automatically gets points from the Republicans for being a rich white CEO who made himself popular while cooking the books to make the job he did as governor of Massachusetts look better.
Most news sites agree that Romney won the debate as far as presentation was concerned. Some have given him full credit based on Obama's restraint, but Salon says it's how the President rolls. He lets his opponent rattle on, then comes up from behind. Think "Rope," "Hang," and "Self." This is how the debate is widely perceived to have gone:
What's the damage?
You know those scenes in the movies when you think the character is dead and it's over, but just when you least expect it, he reappears and gets back into the fight? It's that. Salon sees it as "Barack Obama laid an egg" and are annoyed with him for not pushing Liberal values. Since both men are right of centre politically, that wasn't really going to happen. It's actually quite funny; Barack Obama is pretty conservative and doesn't do a lot to advance the cause of Liberalism. Romney is actually a bit further to the left than he is as a rule. He's only swung right to pander to the Tea Party. Most of us are surprised about him not hammering Romney on his flip-flopping. He did, but the following day.
Fact-checkers are ripping into Romney because Obama hasn't given them a lot to work with. It's a hare and tortoise thing. He didn't faint, he feinted, and it worked so well we saw "playing possum" as "roadkill." So did Romney and he's starting to pay for it now. Here's the kicker: if the plan was to get the right frothing at the mouth over the swing back to the middle, it failed. Right-wing website The Blaze barely mentions the flip-flops in one article, and in another they just crow about Romney's performance. Cognitive dissonance and denial are so great among right-wingers that they're not really taking Romney's faults on board, they just want Obama out. The only way to get past that is possibly to show Romney looking weak or flailing against a strong Obama.
Both of them. When Obama lies he tends to be more subtle about it. He stretches the truth and spins, but gets away with it because he's able to present himself better as a rule. Romney just flat out lies and makes gaffe after gaffe. He's less elegant. The Democrats don't usually have to backpedal or "clarify" issues as often as the Republicans do. While Obama can point to Republican obstructionism in his own presidency, Romney didn't have that problem in Massachusetts and his tenure there wasn't the massive success he claims it was. Actually, he left it in worse shape than he found it, using the same tactic he plans to roll out nationwide. His spin is epic: he claims to have raised revenues while lowering taxes but what he actually did was charge more for licences, etc. That's not good governance, its creative accounting. He claims to have lowered unemployment. Actually, while it's true that the number of people employed went up, compared to other states, Massachusetts wasn't all that great.
What does this mean?
It's not really who is President that matters, it's Congress that will make or break the next presidency. Democrats have swung hard to the right and the Republicans are far to the right of nuts-o-rama. If they get in and implement their platform, we're stuffed. It'll be Bush Term III. As I said on Google Plus, see Republican-run states for details.