Thursday, May 24, 2012
The Return of the Oedipal Candidate
There seem to be several reasons these days (and maybe in the old days too- I don't know) why people run for the highest office of the land. The one that makes the most sense is that the candidate feels that he or she is the most qualified person to serve their country on behalf of the American people.
These people, usually career politicians, have affiliated themselves with the party that represents their beliefs most completely, and utilizing that affiliation, they run in opposition to the person that does not affiliate themselves with the same set of beliefs.
At least, that's how it's supposed to work.
But I've noticed there is emerging another type of candidate, that I'll call the Post- Freudian or Oedipal candidate. This candidate's need for office seems centered on showing the world that he is a better man than his father, ultimately, but, like Oedipus, he usually brings ruin to his country and shame to his name.
One such Oedipal candidate was George W. Bush, the son of a one- term president with a reputation for "wimpiness" who failed to quash an evil dictator named Saddam Hussein when he had the chance. So, in classic Oedipal fashion, his son, also a politician, decided that if he achieved this same office, he'd show everyone how wimpy his dad really was, and, by contrast how un- wimpy he is, by finishing the job: ending the threat of the dictator and righting the wrong done by his father.
In this way he would avenge himself on all the intellectual beatings he took from his smarter father and others (I'm sure) and justify all the nights he had to be hauled out of a drunk tank by some influential political colleague of his dad's.
Or not- how should I know?
Of course, in order to do this, he had to involve the entire world in the process since he had also achieved the highest office of the land.
The result: thousands of lives lost, a nation plunged into fiscal crisis and a total lack of true leadership. In other words, not really a great result. However, he did get rid of Saddam Hussein, the very thing that his father did not do. So- mission accomplished, from a Freudian point of view.
I am afraid we're seeing the Oedipal candidate once again in the person of the current presumptive Republican nominee, Willard Mitt Romney.
Mr. Romney's father, George, a successful businessman, the CEO of American Motors, devout Mormon, philanthropist and politician ran for the presidency twice (like Mitt), and lost both times in the nominating stage. The second time, he did what many candiddates before and after do. He found himself in a position that was not supported by his party, in this case his opposition to the war in Viet Nam, so he switched his views, claiming that he had "been brainwashed" by military officials and US diplomats, a phrase that resonated badly with his potential constituency.
He lost the nomination, opening the door for the horror that was Richard Nixon, who, ironically enough, appears, in hindsight, to have embraced the policies of a contemporary liberal democrat.
And now, along comes tough guy Mitt. No brainwashing here. Just Bainwashing. (Remember- you that here first, loyal readers!)
Even though he has the same tendency to change positions on the issues that his father had, this no longer matters in the soundbite age in which we live. What matters is not uttering the fatal bite.
Just don't say "Brainwashed." Don't say it about your Healthcare program in Massachusetts, or your father's pioneering stance on Civil Rights (remember- you're running against a Black man) or his charitable generosity.
Or you'll never get elected.
And you'll never be able to show your old man that you can do what he failed to do.
Calling Dr. Freud! Dr. Freud?