In reviewing the Iowa Caucuses, wherein former Governor Mitt Romney achieved his desired victory with a margin of eight votes over former Senator Rick Santorum, I can only conclude that the votes demonstrate conclusively Shakespeare was right about the masses and their follow-the-pack mentality.
Reference Julius Caesar and the Brutus and Marc Antony speeches after the assassination of the late emperor. Brutus whips the crowd into a frenzy about Caesar's excesses so that they will excuse his actions and that of his cronies in perpetrating the murder. Then, in an act of bravado and ultimately very stupid display of democracy, he allows Caesar aficionado Marc Antony to say a few words about his friend and mentor, provided that he says nothing inflammatory about their deed.
In the brilliant "Friends, Romans and Countrymen" speech orated by Antony, he starts off deferentially, almost meekly, as he "comes to bury Caesar, not to praise him," but in so doing cites Caesar's greatness, slowly building the momentum towards the conclusion that Brutus and his pals have effected an act of betrayal.
While the Iowa caucus is not about unsavory actions of the sort that inhabit Julius Caesar, it shows how people immediately turn their attentions away from their favorite candidates, reacting almost en masse when, after certain accusations hit their mark, they abandon one to a scrap heap and head on to a new favorite son.
Examine the evidence. In the summer, somehow Michele Bachmann won the Iowa straw poll and was incredibly in the top position. No one really expected her to eventually win the nomination, but the media, in its ever present zeal to raise ratings, made it appear she had a chance and attention was focused ever more on her.
When they zeroed in on her husband's clinic and its supposed "cure" for gay people, people started to wonder about her, just as the clamoring started for Rick Perry to enter the race.
And there he was, Rick Perry, three-term governor of Texas, sure to steal the thunder from Mitt Romney, who'd seemed the man to beat for the nomination, but who never rose above 25%.
Unfortunately, no one outside Texas knew much about Rick Perry until his disastrous debate flaws convinced so many people he wasn't the best man to unseat Barack Obama.
As the questions about Perry grew, along came Herman Cain, with his 9-9-9 plan for taxation that most economists thought was nuts. But it was his very eccentricity -- not to mention that he was a conservative African-American businessman -- that vaulted him to the top of the polls.
And then, it wasn't his outrageous economic plan but his suspected peccadilloes which caused the media to question him tirelessly until he dropped out of the race.
All the while, Governor Romney, attacked by one and all, continued to stay at the 25% mark, never really rising above or below and convincing many that he would never win, because the majority of Republicans clearly didn't want him.
Suddenly former Speaker Newt Gingrich, perhaps the most famous of the challengers, who'd not been able to get big numbers, did particularly well at some debates, and the fickle Republicans, who'd by now discarded front-runners Bachmann, Perry and Cain, suddenly turned to Newt. Until Ron Paul and Romney's attack ads started flowing, and then Newt went tumbling down.
Ron Paul, everyone's favorite go-to-guy for quotes and clearly out of the mainstream, a maverick's maverick, with no chance to win the nomination or the election, suddenly rose to the top of the heap. He was a proven fundraiser, who'd nonetheless never gotten past go in his past tries for national office. Somehow, with almost no one left except Romney, whom the majority of the GOP didn't want, Paul was able to get an almost Gene McCarthy sort of following with young folks coming on board.
Except that Ron Paul, with his record, had no business competing for that sort of constituency. He's no liberal at all, except for anti-war rhetoric, which appeals to many. He's against any sort of state funding for human betterment, such as student loans and urban development, has a questionable stance about gay people (see his comments after meeting Sacha Baron Cohen in Bruno) and this is the sort of man anyone but right-wing young kids want to follow?
Others started attacking him now, but his singular and peculiar allure seemed almost unstoppable, except that the evangelicals, who'd given up on Bachmann and Perry, and, because of Gingrich's marital history weren't too keen on him, desperately wanted to rally behind someone to stop Romney and not turn the caucus into a national mockery if it went for Paul.
So, what to do? They looked around and suddenly at the bottom of the barrel they saw perennial 3% Rick Santorum, former Pennsylvania senator who'd been ousted from office in a landslide, and it didn't matter that his views wouldn't cut it to a national audience. They liked him fine, mostly because he was still available and as yet undamaged.
So, in typical Shakespearean mob fashion and showing absolutely no loyalty to any previous candidate they'd admired, they suddenly shifted, almost completely tossing Bachmann, Perry and Gingrich aside, drew enough away from Ron Paul and put their cards on the guy no one had previously cared about for over a year just to make a run at Mitt Romney.
Amazing. It almost worked until Romney pulled it out by a landslide of eight votes. Except by their actions, they took an unexamined guy from the cellar, propelling him to the national spotlight, and guess what's going to happen to him in the weeks ahead? We might just wind up with the first draft movement in the modern political era if momentum against Romney continues, even if he, as is expected, wins New Hampshire.
Don't be surprised if a new conservative enters the race before Florida, depending upon what happens in South Carolina.
And who's enjoying all this the most? Besides the media, of course? Why the unchallenged presumed Democratic candidate, Barack Obama.
Michael Russnow's website is ramproductionsinternational.com