Overstating the Obvious: Contrarian Politics Doesn't Work

In business, contrarianism works.  Buying when others are selling, and selling when others are buying is a good way to make money, if you have enough money to back your bets.

It's a terrible way to run a country.

The problem with being a contrarian is that, as a contrarian, you aren't for anything:  you're against everything.

Mitt Romney is a contrarian.  Everything in his childhood, as a member of a contrarian religious sect, and family background, as the son of a maverick Republican governor and presidential candidate, predisposes him to believe in the contrarian theory of business.

In his practice as a investment manager, Romney embraced and followed the contrarian philosophy by buying companies and breaking them up into their constituent profit centers, going against the common practice at a time when others were building conglomerates by buying up disparate companies that really didn't belong together.  When those companies failed, Bain Capital bought them up and broke them back down into their parts, selling the profitable ones, and closing the losers.

It was a very successful business strategy, but that doesn't mean it can be applied to government.

As Governor of Massachusetts, he went against the grain by espousing and enacting a radical public health plan program that was the most progressive public health concept ever adopted by any state.

In his presidential campaign, Romney has continued to pursue his contrarian philosophy without ever understanding that contrarianism doesn't work in politics.

In this, he is not alone.  The entire conservative wing of the Republican party has embraced contrarianism as an operating system for their campaign.

Simply stated, their philosophy is that whatever Barack Obama does is wrong, so it must be right to oppose everything the President says or does on the theory that, since Obama is wrong, then the opposite of what he says and does must be right.

What they think of as strength is actually weakness. 

On the strategic level, it's a weakness because, in order to follow their contrarian philosophy, the Republicans must wait to see what Obama is going to do before they can decide what to do instead because they can't pick their strategy until Obama picks his.

On the tactical level, this approach to campaigning means that the Romney campaign can never espouse any positive philosophy because they don't have a concrete philosophical platform. 

All they have is that they aren't Obama.

That Romney was wrong on the facts was bad enough, but refusing to retract his ill-considered accusations against the Obama administration has revealed Romney's basic meanness, the childish, schoolyard bully who believes that he can intimidate the American people into accepting his benevolent dictatorship.

Today, after a groundswell of adverse reactions - from Republicans as well as Democrats - to his accusations against the Obama administration, the Romney camp has refused to admit the blunder and has 'doubled down' by claiming that Obama has a spotty foreign affairs record, trying to shift the focus of attention away from his ill-considered statement when the facts are that Obama has been the most successful president in terms of international affairs since Ronald Reagan.

It is becoming increasingly obvious that the Republican Party has no plan for fixing the economy, no well thought out social policy.  When it comes to international affairs, one has to stop and ask exactly what would Romney have wanted Obama to do:  Attack Libya?  Fire on the Egyptians at the American embassy in Cairo?

We live in very dangerous times.  This planet is a tinderbox waiting to be ignited.  

The last thing we need in the White House is a firebrand.  We need a fireman....someone who can put fires out....not one who wants to start one.

Sure, we're still the most powerful nation on earth. We have the biggest army, the most powerful navy and an awesome air force.

Now, tell me, please, exactly whom do you think we can attack when, with all our might, we couldn't subdue two third-rate Middle Eastern countries?

The Republicans better wise up fast, in the less and less likely event that they might end up in the White House: The world doesn't give a shit about our military might....because they know we can't afford another war.

The fact is that Romney can't afford to carry a big stick...all he has is a big mouth.

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Comment by Rodney Roe on September 13, 2012 at 4:17am

I liike the concept that we would be electing an arsonist in Romney.  After 9/11 one of my friends seriously wanted to reduce the entire Middle East to glass with nuclear weapons.  I don't think rapprochement is in Romney's toolkit.

Comment by Alan Milner on September 13, 2012 at 5:42am

There's no way to overstate the stupidity with which the Republican candidate has reacted - and continues to react - to unfolding events in the Middle East.  This morning, the Chief Cheerleader for the Republican Apologist, Joe Scarborough,uttered an even bigger stupidity, asserting that many world leaders privately counseled Barack Obama against abandoning Hosni Mubarak in his hour of need, as if there was anything the United States could have done to KEEP Mubarak in power against the combined might of the Egyptian people in the street.  If Israel couldn't keep Mubarak in power any longer, continuing the tradition under which they helped keep Anwar Sadat in power until he was murdered by his own bodyguards, there was no way the United States could have continued to prop up Mubarak's regime without supporting a dictatorial regime AGAINST the legitimate, democratic aspirations of an entire nation.  

When 1% of the citizens of a country take to the streets against their own government, that government is going to fall.  One percent is enough to sway a nation in our mass media environment.  Records indicate that less than 250,000 men served in the Continental Army during the Revolutionary war constituted just 6.25% of the population of approximately 4 million people...but they didn't have CNN covering the war.  

Anyone who suggests, as Scarborough did today, that a sitting American president could have done anything to KEEP Mubarak in power begs the question of whether an American president has any legitimate right to KEEP a dictator in power in the first place. 

America isn't hated around the world because we are bad guys.  We're hated because we continue to support bad guys in power because we want our client nations to be tightly controlled.  

When a historic process is going on, you get out of the way or you get rolled over.

Comment by older/exasperated on September 13, 2012 at 6:20am

Mitt Romney is a dangerous stooge as with most of the Republican party. They have no economic policy and no foreign policy, nothing but obstructionist posturing against anything Obama or Democrat. The want to control the power once that happens things everywhere will start to implode. Not only are the recent comments on the Middle East by Republicans false and misleading they most likely will cause an escalation of tensions and attacks because our foreign policy becomes suspect and this will have a snowball effect on economic conditions throughout the world because many in the world do care what the US does because it affects their ability to function. Romney is not a businessman, never has had foreign policy experience or military understanding in his life. He has been riding Daddy's coattails since he was born. He has never worked an actual day in his life. More or less he is just an idiot and a thief just like those that prop him up in the Republican party. Good post Alan, fuck I hate politics.........................o/e

Comment by Alan Milner on September 13, 2012 at 6:35am

Oh, yes.  About keeping Mubarak in power.....why would an American president want to spend his political capital to keep an aging, ailing, confused, 83 year-old dictator on his throne when the man has obdurately refused to name an actual successor for fear that naming a successor would be tantamount to naming his usurper.  One of the problems the Republicans face in this campaign is that their best policy advisers are either too closely tied to George Bush, and therefore suspect, or, like Colin Powell, have actually jumped ship to support Obama, along with a significant percentage of the retired generals who, unlike serving officers, have the right to express their opinions publicly.  

Comment by anna1liese on September 13, 2012 at 5:35pm

"We live in very dangerous times."  May everyone remember that and take enormous pause before they push a lever or fill in some kind of form ... in less than two months time.

Comment by Myriad on September 14, 2012 at 10:03am

There is the saying that we humans are part angel and part devil.  More like part genius and part fucking moron.  We can go to Mars, we can build some amazing contraption to study the 'god particle', but we're also screaming maniac fools.

Comment by Rodney Roe on September 14, 2012 at 3:02pm

OK, Jan, I'm guessing - not speaking French - that meant "The more things change, the more they stay the same."  I was thinking of the question as being, "How many psychiatrists does it take to change a light bulb?"  The answer, "Only one, but the light bulb must have a sincere desire to change."  Mitt Romney has had no experiences in his life that would make him think that he needed to change, and he, like most of us, is probably incapable of change.


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