Both Sides Now : Are 99%'ers More Popular Than Romney?

By Mark Green

Perhaps fiction can better explain events this week in the GOP race and OWS. Is Herman Cain really Chauncy Gardiner? Mitt Romney The Music Man? The 99%'ers Howard Beale meets The Graduate?

At this rate in the presidential race, Newsweek will tomorrow be arranging the cover shoots of Santorum and Gingrich since they too will have their Cain-like 15 seconds of fame as the non-Romney. As for the 99'ers, how did a few dozen of them in four weeks trigger protests in 130 American cities, 100 campuses, and a dozen capitals around the world? Why are they now twice as popular in polls - 54% to 27% -- as the Tea Party? (To hear show, click below.)

*On Romney, Cain, et. al. First is the question du jour -- can motivational speaker Herman Cain really be the Republican presidential or vice-presidential nominee? Mary Matalin, quoting communist Chou en Lai on the French Revolution, says that "it's too soon to tell", adding that Cain has the advantage of not yet being the jinxed frontrunner -- "look at Thompson and Perry." On Cain being the presidential nominee, Ron Reagan says that the answer is "no." Period.

So why can't Romney -- with the jawline, hairline, experience, skills -- get GOP respect? Why does it seem that his slogan is "You Could do Worse"? Why has he been stuck at 23-25% of GOP voters? Ron calls him an "accommodationist...who will say anything on any issue to get through the week [choice, gays, guns, payroll taxes] and this will cost him with voters who are very good at smelling out authenticity." Mary agrees that Romney's positions are "disconcerting" to conservatives but that he's "chipping away at his problem and becoming a much better candidate."

Ok. But to be blunt: beyond being a "flip-flopper", is he a phony with a character problem since, for example, he routinely belittles "the Harvard Faculty Lounge" (he's a Harvard college and business school grad with a dozen advisors from there) and said at the New Hampshire debate that he's "spent my entire career in the private sector" (while running for the Senate, running for president twice and serving four years as governor)? Mary discounts his statements as "political-speak" and asks, "what's Obama's core?"

*On Occupy Wall Street. Mary doesn't accept the premise that it's popular and spreading, deriding those who "defecate on police cars" and break local laws. The Host allows that in Week Four we're probably beyond the "take a shower" critique. Hasn't its message -- about a rigged political system causing more inequality and fewer jobs -- inspired protests in hundreds of cities and headlines around the world.

Ron and Mary robustly debate the substance behind the 99-1 message. She regards it as more class warfare since those who got out of the working class are entitled to spend their own money as they choose. "You could execute the richest 400 people and it wouldn't help the poor." Ron counters that the protestors "have tapped into a wider resentment at a system where lobbyists fund politicians to do what their clients want. People are fed up with multi-millionaires paying 17% tax rates while poverty rises."

They also clash on how Occupy Wall Street compares to the Tea Party. Mary believes that both share an anger at the economic status quo but Tea Party people will wear better over time because they aren't so disruptive. "What about those who carried assault weapons to rallies and talked about second amendment?", Ron counters. What about George Will's wish that the Occupy crowd lots of publicity since '60s anti-war protests were followed by GOP nominees winning five of the next six presidential contests (a fact that surely surprised Mr. Reagan). Actually, although anti-war protestors were proved "right about the war," the Host notes, a difference now is that, so far, the 99'ers have been non-violent and convey a more universal message that aligns them with the working class, not offends them.

*Quick Takes. Prisoner Swap. Pennsylvania Electors. NBA. Consensus alerts! Reagan and Matalin agree with Israel's difficult decision to swap of 1000 Palestinian prisoners for Gilad Shalit ("which showed what a civilized, moral culture they are," says Mary); agree that Pennsylvania GOP leaders should not change the rules about how to allocate allocate Electoral College electors in that state in a way that appears intended to damage the incumbent; and are similarly distressed that NBA owners and players appear headed to the cliff in their game of chicken, with Mary personally lamenting that her family recently bought season floor tickets to Hornet games.

*On the Radar. Ron informs us that the Nixon Library next week will be releasing the tapes of that president's grand jury testimony in the Watergate case. Mary, an on-air CNN contributor, raises the curtain on the Tuesday night CNN debate with the GOP presidential hopefuls.

Mark Green is the creator and host of Both Sides Now, which is powered by the American Federation of Teachers.

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