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Demonstrating how to tie a dog to the roof a car? (c.berlet/
Like hard-partying college kids the morning after a particularly Bacchanalian bender, bleary-eyed Republicans have been stunned to wakening by the head-pounding pain of a bright midday sun. The light does not lie. This is not a fevered dream. Their entire bodies ache, but there is no escape. They have to drag themselves through hungover torpor or attempt to go back to sleep, even as they know the latter would be but a temporary respite. But even that may preferable to spending the next 10 months with Mitt Romney as their leader, their standard-bearer, and the embodiment of their political identities.

Republicans had quite the time attempting to find a rhythm for their drumbeat of hatred for President Obama, and their party's agenda of obstruction and destruction coupled well with the new administration's political and policy clumsiness. Potentially good policies were diluted or scuttled; the economy never found its way to its feet; the Potemkin village tea party hysteria provided a temporary amphetamine rush; and in 2010, the Republicans recaptured the House and seemed set to make a run for the White House. Then a funny thing happened. The vacuity of a political ethos based fully on negativity finally revealed itself.

Republicans aren't capable of leading. They only are capable of preventing leadership. This can be politically advantageous in a mid-term election when the electorate is angry and wants only to dump the incumbents, but presidential elections are different. There is an expectation of an actual agenda. An actual agenda that will help make people's lives better. Flesh-and-blood people, not just corporate people. Irrational frothing and fulminating isn't leadership. Republicans peered into the mirror that has been their party's presidential pageant and couldn't even themselves delude themselves into denying the reality that it has been but a freak show. A continual parade of superficial infatuations fueled several sheets to the wind continued to resolve into the stomach drop clarity of slack jawed embarrassment. The rollercoaster Republican polls have resembled nothing so much as a passionate lurching desperation. Really? This? Again?

There were plenty of mornings after, with Republican consensus surreptitiously scurrying home in shame before full sobriety had even begun to coalesce. It began with that former part-time governor from Alaska whose craven groping for fame left her so forgettable it's hard now to remember her name. Then came The Donald, the prince of perpetual priapic bluster, who still hasn't figured out that genuine affection cannot be bought. Then the parade of cartoon caricatures, from the dim Michele Bachmann and the dimmer Rick Perry to the slime of Herman Cain and the dregs of humanity that is Newt Gingrich; even Rick Santorum, that champion of Medieval social values who was tossed from his last held public office by a whopping 18 percent of the vote, finally had his 15 seconds of acclaim. Ron Paul continues to inspire some, but he never had potential to be anything more than a side show, his glittering little tent secretly adorned inside with tattered Confederate flags.

Mitt Romney alone had the money, and even though no one outside of his large family seems genuinely to like him, Mitt Romney always had the inside track to the Republican nomination. And now more and more Republicans are falling out of their beds in disbelief that to this their party has come. It astonishes. It hurts. A large majority of Republicans wants another option, but there is no other option. The names sometimes mentioned are as laughable as the original freak show, and would have no more success in gaining traction with the widespread public. Another Bush? The Bush budget director who oversaw the evisceration of the Clinton budget surplus and the creation of the largest ever deficits? Any one of several Republican governors who have negative approval ratings in their own home states?

Republican insiders have no one to blame but themselves. By coddling and enabling increasingly irrational and factually false narratives they have loosed upon themselves the most fetid underbelly of American subculture, risen now from the subterranean to kleig-light exposure, and therefrom withering back to the swamps from whence they've come. Only Romney remains. Polished and plastic, Romney personifies the vacuum of values, morals, and substance that is the oligarchy of the Second Gilded Age. There is no rationale for his candidacy. He has been running away from his short record in public office, and both his criticism of President Obama and his defense of his own record as a vulture capitalist are based almost entirely on lies. There is no Romney movement but for that emanating from the bowels of Wall Street, and an America more and more inspired by the Occupy movement is not going to warm to Wall Street's droppings.

Republican politics, in particular, long has been purely personality-driven, and the problem with Mitt Romney is that he has no personality. He is a living, breathing, walking enthusiasm gap. The man has taken so many positions on so many issues it's impressive that he is able to remember where he now stands on anything. Or maybe he needs only keep one finger to the wind. And absolutely no one believes that once the primary season ends he will remain committed to anything that is more substantial than a mote of dust. Other than the obvious Republican boilerplate of assisting the accumulation of as much wealth for as few people as is possible, it's impossible to know if Romney believes anything at all. He is a man without principles. He is a man without charisma. He is a man without charm. He is a  man with a large campaign warchest, and that is all he is. A very large bank account. He has always depended on the kindness of inherited wealth and personal and political connections.

There is nothing about Mitt Romney for Republican base voters to trust. There is nothing about Romney on which swing voters can grab hold. Trying to capture the essence of Romney is like trying to catch a wisp of smoke or a handful of water. He is a hall of mirrors. If not for that large family, one would wonder if there is any real Romney at all. And this is supposed to keep his party engaged for nearly a year? Will hatred of President Obama be powerful enough to drive depressed Republican voters out of their beds much less to the polls? Does the idea of retaining the Speakership for weepy John Boehner inspire? Does anyone really want to have to listen to Mitch McConnell drone anymore? Even with Romney the showpiece of such a gallery of gloom, talk of an enthusiasm gap is considered premature; but after seeming endless months on tour with Romney the showpiece for such a gallery of gloom, by Autumn we may be staring into an enthusiasm chasm.

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