Mitt Romney's sickening insincerity was on full view Sunday night as CNN served up both candidates complete finish-line pitches to the Ohio crowds thought to hold the fate of the election in their fickle sway. Romney has consistently proved one thing over the whole, long, nauseating course of his campaign: that he will say anything to get a vote, no matter how hollow, fatuous, craven, or at odds with reality the utterance is.
Last night he went on about how the USA would become "energy independent" when he opens all federal lands to oil drilling. This plays on some lamebrain notion that there are vast fields of easy-to-get oil sitting out under the Wyoming hardpan waiting to be tapped. Surely Mitt know better.. or does he? The reality is that these lands fell into federal ownership largely because they had so little value in the first place. If there was another Spindletop lurking under the sagebrush you can be sure it would have been found long before now, so Mr. Romney is just preying on the public's wishful ignorance (or his own) when he says these things.
Which gets to the larger issue of what the "drill drill drill" mantra really means: namely, that Mitt Romney has no idea where history is taking us. The public may be very nervous about how they will pay for gasoline needed to live in the suburban matrix, but the reality of the situation is that the suburban matrix is the problem and doing everything and anything we can to prop it up is going to destroy the nation. Mr. Romney is oblivious to this reality and so you can be sure that his mysterious "plan" for leadership is an empty promise. A reality-based plan, for instance, would be the rapid rebuilding and electrification of the regular railroad system, both as an economic development measure and a national security issue, along with the spirited promotion of walkable neighborhoods and the rebuilding of our small towns and small cities. But Mitt is "a car man," as he likes to say.
President Obama was on display, too, a little later making dubious claims about his accomplishments and distinctions. (Jon Corzine is still at large.) There's no evidence that he understands the true nature of the implacable economic contraction underway and how it will change everything about how we live on this continent. But I think there is a better chance that he could get a clue in the next four years than is the case for Mr. Romney. Also, I don't trust Mr. Romney to deal intelligently with foreign nations, while the specter of yet another arch-conservative idiot on the Supreme Court of the type that would rule affirmative on something like the Citizens United case gives me the vapors... so I have to pull the lever for Mr. Obama.
Finally, I just don't like Mitt Romney. He's the over-eager twerp in the classroom with his arm always sticking up. He's the missionary bozo in a necktie ringing your doorbell to sell a fairy-tale cult religion dreamed up in the 1820s by another over-eager con artist. He's obviously using the national stage to work out his father issues (George Romney ran for president in 1968, blundering his way out of the race early on). He shamelessly panders to the worst elements of his own party - the ignorant, militaristic, punitive-minded Nascar evangelicals - and dissembles so automatically that there is nothing left of whatever core beliefs he might have theoretically developed earlier in his career. He's too chicken to engage with the realities of climate change, so visibly on display this season. He's spoiling to rumble with China, apparently oblivious to the fact that China's leader-in-waiting, Xi Jingping, is an army brat. I pray at my little alter of ecumenical totems that the tides of history will sweep Mitt Romney out to the seas of retirement from public life, where he can enjoy his Medicare entitlements secure in the guarantee that he will not be hassled over any pre-existing conditions.
Speaking of tides, we are now a week past the awful depredations of Hurricane Sandy and a lot of people are yet sitting in the cold and dark. The story is still developing - in a way similar to Hurricane Katrina - in the sense that the ordeals of individual suffering and loss are slow to emerge from the chaos of the moment into public awareness. For instance, it took weeks after Katrina for many property owners to learn that the loss of their house was attributed to "flooding," which is generally not covered in home insurance policies. There are still vast neighborhoods, such as Long Beach, Long Island, where the issue hasn't even come up yet, at least not in the news media. When it does, it will be much bigger deal politically than was the case in Biloxi, Mississippi, or the 9th Ward of New Orleans, where people were more accustomed to the cruel boot of authority, not to mention the frequent tantrums of a subtropical ocean.
I don't know how Sandy will affect the electoral results in New York, New Jersey, Virginia, and Pennsylvania, but even if polling places can be set up in ruined, blacked-out districts one would think the eligible voters have a lot more urgent matters on their minds.
Anyway, once this dreadful election is over the floodgates of events will open up and we will once again be forced to reckon especially with the epochal forces that seek to shatter the financial system. Sandy was a kind of preview of coming attractions for a different sort of wreckage to come.