Mark Steel: How to win a vote while loathing half the voters

September 21, 2012

Phew ... The US election is exactly the same as a night I had watching Crystal Palace play football. Palace were dreadful, but the opposition were even worse, a goal slid slowly between their goalkeeper’s legs into the net, and the man sitting behind me said to his mate, “This is marvellous. I’ve always said football’s much more entertaining when BOTH teams are shite.”

Barack Obama has blown most of the enthusiasm that won him the presidency, but Mitt Romney is a genius at finding new ways of being shite, declaring that 47% of voters will always back Obama, because they “think they’re entitled to healthcare, food, housing, you name it”.

Surely these sponging pigs can’t want ALL of those things? Even well-off people have to choose between them, maybe opting for food and housing, but dealing with gallstones by cutting them out with scissors without an anaesthetic, as we can’t have everything.

And he has to be admired for adding “you name it”, as if once someone on welfare applies for food or healthcare, you can be certain they’ll also demand anything else you can name. “Now you’ve given me some soup,” they say, “I also want a powerboat with a live orchestra on the back seat, and a go on a rocket and a panda.”

It suggests Romney isn’t that optimistic about winning, as Obama only needs one-seventeenth of the remaining voters who aren’t fiddling, “you-name-it” types, and he’ll have over half the votes.

To be fair, it’s possible Romney doesn’t realise this, and next week he’ll say, “Hang on, is it over 50% you need to win? Bloody hell, they told me nine — I’d never have bothered if I’d known.”

His problem may be that, since the Iraq War, mainstream ideas in the US have shuffled away from the old conservative values.

The Republican tactic of yelling about gays and promising wars is less popular than it was 10 years ago, but the Tea Party types who demand that outlook are the most organised section of his party.

Romney has to appeal to them in private, then try to be less mental in public, and not get caught saying something to one audience that he doesn’t want heard by the other.

Republicans can’t work out what they’re supposed to say. All they know is they’re supposed to cheer at rallies. So they cheered Clint Eastwood mumbling to an empty chair, and cheered when he said the war in Afghanistan should end immediately, which is the opposite of their policy, and they’d have cheered if he muttered: “I tell you who would be a good president — Trotsky. Is he still around?”

Or maybe Romney’s just magnificently useless, and this will carry on. Next week, he'll announce a plan to squash all kittens, then he’ll run over Sidney Poitier, then declare he’d like to punch Jesus in the head for making the lame walk, feeding the thousands and praising a Samaritan, or promising healthcare, food, housing, you name it. And Obama will just scrape in.

[First appeared at The Independent.]

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