In the mid-90s cult hit "Swingers", protagonist Mikey heads out to Vegas with playboy buddy Trent for a night of debauchery, starting with the blackjack tables. Trying their best to look like whales, Mikey changes out $300 at a table...not realizing it's at $100 minimum. When the cards are dealt, he gets 11...and Trent urges him to double down, because you always double down on 11. Mikey is unsure, because $200 is "blood money". He doubles down, loses, and ends up at the low stakes table with the rest of the dregs:
Doubling down is playing out in our Presidential campaign, except this time, Mitt Romney is playing the Mikey role, and Trent is Paul Ryan, the Tea Party, movement conservatives, etc., urging Mitt to push all his chips to the center.
The "double down" metaphor was used quite a bit last week when Romney held a press conference to amp up the rhetoric to defend his late night screed on Libya against the Obama administration. He "doubled down", people said. And he lost. Now, this week, as a video from May of this year is released showing Romney say he doesn't care about the 47% of people who don't pay taxes and get government assistance, he is more like Mikey, not really willing to double down, today saying this more about "campaign" talk on who can get a majority of the vote that was "inelegantly stated".
His running mate, however, is pulling a full-on Trent, saying something today that a lot of people haven't noticed:
"We do not believe that the role of government is to equalize the results of people's lives," Ryan said. "It's a very different idea. Government is instituted to protect our natural rights. The idea of government is not to invent new rights so that ... we can have a government-centered society that defines and regulates our rights. That's up to us."See what Ryan is doing there? He's laying out the philosophy of movement conservatives. They don't believe that government should "equalize the results of people's lives", i.e., government isn't there to help you. It's only there to protect "natural" rights (presumably life, liberty and property, a la Locke), and to hell with the rest. Legal rights? The ones created by the Constitution, laws, court decision, etc.? Dead to him. It's not the government's business to give you a damn thing.
It's a stunning admission, and an incredibly bold double down. Taken to its natural extreme, government created "rights" (read: "laws") have no place, because natural rights, by definition are inalienable.
And as far as equalizing the results of people's lives, it's an incredibly cruel world view. It says to the the 47% -- or anybody for that matter -- that you got your lot in life, and it's up to you, no matter how poorly the system is rigged against you, to figure your way out of your mess. It's the Republican version of a caste system. Down with the New Deal. Down with the Great Society. Dismantle it all and you can figure it out on your own.
This is the debate they wanted, right? The great debate of ideas and values? Because it strikes me as a tremendous loser.
This morning, I wondered aloud on Facebook and Twitter how Mitt Romney could urge us to "Believe in America" when he doesn't believe in 47% of Americans. A conservative friend of mine tried to tell me that's not what he said, that those people were simply "a lost cause" and why not concentrate on the other "hard-working" 53%, and hey, what's wrong with trying to help the majority of people anyway? I took issue with the statement that 47% were a lost cause or not hard working, but also pointed out that as President, you aren't just President for 53%, you are President of the entire country.
The response: "Too many people in the world to like everyone."
That's why we here Chris Christie saying people whine too much and want to be love. Life's tough, get a helmet, and screw you if you don't make it. We gave you a tax cut so you don't have to pay taxes...if you didn't make it, so what? We need to cut taxes more for those at the top, and get rid of your safety net. That's life. Hit the bricks.
Fortunately, I tend to think that even in desperate times, people believe in community. People believe their government can help them. People can see the inherent good in a government that works to ensure they don't get screwed, rather than simply protect the basics. Everyone does better when everyone does better. That's not "equalizing" in the Paul Ryan meaning...it's giving everybody a fair chance at real opportunity in the, you know, human sense.
So, it will be amusing to see how much the movement conservatives will play Trent to Romney's Mikey in the coming months. Because ultimately, just like Mikey, they will lose all that blood money. And in November, Romney-Ryan won't even get a free breakfast at the casino coffee shop to console them.