I give a lot of shots in my office. At my last job the medical assistants did it, but at my current gig (which I love far too much to mind) the doctors give them ourselves.
Understandably, this means I am the proximate cause of a lot of anxiety for a goodly number of children on any given day. I address this anxiety by telling my patients that I am, no joke, awesome at giving shots. I do not lie by saying they won’t hurt at all, because it’s not true and I eschew lying to my patients, especially when my lie will be proved false two minutes after I’ve uttered it. But I do say that it won’t hurt much if they do just as I say and trust me. This doesn’t always work, but when it does it works very, very well. Because I am awesome at giving shots so they hardly hurt at all, such that innumerable kids have told their parents they only want me to give them shots in the future. (This is the very definition of a “mixed blessing.”)
I say all of that as a way of establishing my credentials as someone who knows how to get unpleasant things done as well as possible. And it is in that same “let’s get this over with so you can pick out a sticker” mindset that I offer some advice to my friends in the Republican Party.
Before I start, I should make clear that I don’t really think the problem I address in this post is the reason Mitt Romney lost on Tuesday. I think he lost for a whole host of reasons, not least of which is that the President’s personal popularity never really waned all that much. But the problem sure as hell didn’t help with that whole “appeal to people who aren’t already in the tank for us” effort.
I refer, of course, to the problem of high-profile assholes who are associated with the GOP. By this, I’m not referring to people like Todd Akin who say epically stupid, polarizing things while running for office under the Republican banner. Frankly, the national party created as much daylight as it could between itself and him, and I’m 100% sure he will forever be persona non grata within their ranks after personally costing them a cakewalk of a Senate race.
No, I’m referring to people who aren’t actually putting themselves at the mercy of voters, and thus have little disincentive to be horrible. Two incredibly troublesome examples from this last electoral slog spring to mind:
1) Donald Trump. As God is my witness, I do not understand how or why anyone takes this man seriously anymore. I do not comprehend why there is a “reality” TV show premised on the notion that people of sound mind would compete to work for him. I cannot fathom how he is treated as anything other than a buffoon by anyone with a functional layer of gray matter.
His rank ass-hattery is bad enough, but donning the mantle of Birther-in-Chief should have made associating with him anathema to anyone seeking high office. I’m sorry, but there is no way I can see the manufactured controversy surrounding the President’s birth certificate as anything other than barely-veiled racism. All other explanations beggar credulity, as far as I’m concerned. It would… surprise me if black people did not feel similarly. You’d think Mitt Romney would have treated the Donald like he was plutonium-239.
But no! No, there Romney was in Vegas, letting Trump shill for him. I don’t know how far the $2 million raised at that event went in the campaign, but it couldn’t possibly have gone far enough to have been worth associating with a man who only managed to get more cartoonishly loathsome as Election Day drew nigh.
2) Rush Limbaugh. Oy vey, Rush Limbaugh. Do I need to repeat myself? Can we all just agree that calling women who want their insurance to pay for their contraception “sluts” and comparing them to prostitutes is catastrophically stupid and offensive? That any reaction to such statements that does not say so categorically is woefully inadequate?
But no! No, here’s what Romney said when confronted with Limbaugh’s remarks:
“I’ll just say this, which is, it’s not the language I would have used,” Romney told reporters after an event in Cleveland. Instead, he said, “I’m focusing on the issues that I think are significant in the country today, and that’s why I’m here talking about jobs and Ohio.”
No! No, no, no, no! [Aside: In my head, those words are shrieked in the voice of Daffy Duck at his most irate.]
No. I don’t care if you’re in Ohio to talk about jobs. I don’t care where you are or why you’re there or what topic you’d prefer to be discussing. When confronted with a massively insulting statement that is sure to horrify an astronomical number of women, uttered by a man widely considered to be the mouthpiece of the Republican base, one has no option. One simply must say something along the lines of “I repudiate every word of that monstrously offensive statement.” Full stop.
All of this dovetails nicely with what Tod wrote in one of his typically-insightful pieces, and especially with a brilliant follow-up comment by DRS. If Republicans hope to make inroads with people who do not already comprise their aging, racially-homogenous base, they absolutely cannot be associated with this kind of nonsense any longer. If one of your top surrogates says outright that a respected former GOP Secretary of State has endorsed the President because they’re both black, you absolutely must find the biggest, fastest bus to throw him under in front of as large a number of cameras as you can assemble.
So that’s my advice to anyone who wants to run for President as a Republican in the coming years. No more Limbaugh, who is almost certainly still going to have a following in the run-up to the next primary season. No matter how much his approval may help your chances, do without it. Let’s all hope the media will have learned to ignore Trump by then, but surely some other blowhard eager to use controversy to promote his brand will have come along to take his place. Ignore him, no matter how many cameras might point at you if you stand next to him. Don’t appear in the same zip code, much less the same ballroom. And if someone you’ve already associated with makes a blatantly racist (or sexist, though you can maybe still skate by if it’s just homophobic) comment, you should click on the DRS comment link and (mutatis mutandis) regurgitate it on camera.
Trust me, it will hardly hurt a bit.