Every once in a while a jaded political operative utters a profound truth, cutting through all the baloney and phony punditry.
That’s what Mitt Romney’s adviser did when he suggested that his boss could just hit “reset” and adopt more moderate positions once he locked up the Republican nomination and didn’t have to cater to the far right of his party. “It’s almost like an Etch-a-Sketch,” the aide, Eric Fehrnstrom, said. “You can kind of shake it up, and we start all over again.”
Sure, all of Romney’s foes will now clobber him with his aide’s comments and try to score political points off the “gaffe.”
But Fehrnstrom was offering a truth that rarely gets told in big media about how our politicians operate.
Romney and his fellow candidates count on voters not to pay attention, to leave them plenty of room to gloss over earlier statements.
Politicians count on the media’s cynicism and its craven need for access to power to blunt any remaining watchdog instincts. The media ignore commitments the candidates make and contradictions between what they do and what they said, shrugging it off because “everybody does it.”
Romney has had to shake the Etch-a-Sketch hard to erase the image of himself as the moderate Republican governor of Massachusetts whose own health care plan provided the template for President Obama’s health care plan, while candidate Romney now falls over himself to oppose the plan.
But the president has his own image shifts to answer for.
For example, candidate Obama portrayed himself as a strong advocate for the 99 percent, promising to change bankruptcy laws to help homeowners facing foreclosure keep their homes.
That shift, known as “judicial cram-downs,” would have provided a powerful incentive for banks to work out loan modifications with homeowners.
But when bankers fought cram-downs, President Obama quietly folded and judicial cram-downs died in Congress. Since then, the president and his administration have offered a series of limp anti-foreclosure measures that rely on voluntary bank cooperation, with paltry results.
But the Etch-a-Sketch is a pretty old toy. The current political season reminds me more of a slightly less retro game that gripped the public imagination – Pacman. In this wildly popular video game, a pizza-shaped icon gobbles up everything else on the screen.
The Supreme Court’s Citizens United ruling unleashes unlimited, anonymous contributions to political action committees, or PACs, aligned, but not formally tied, to specific candidates.
Unfortunately, when it comes to using the PACs to bolster their campaigns, the Republicans and Democrats are on the same page.
Both are eager to gobble up the gazillions of dollars available through the PACs, thoroughly undermining the spirit and practice of democracy, in which the majority, not the super-rich minority, are supposed to win.
The best way for us to shake up the political establishment, and the billionaires and big corporations who control it, is to fight for a constitutional amendment to overturn Citizens United.
Here’s our version of such an amendment, written in language that’s easy to understand and will withstand any legal challenge.