The Rant 

Can you believe the presidential election is less than a year away? So, here's what's going to happen: After another dozen or so more debates, the Republican presidential candidates are going to loathe the sight of each other because there's no way to weed anyone out of the process before the primaries begin. The worthy Jon Huntsman will be first to go, followed rapidly by Bachmann, Gingrich, Santorum, Paul, Cain, and any other fringe candidates. Except, they're all fringe candidates.

This will leave only Mitt Romney and the idiot Rick Perry standing, even after the stunningly ridiculous vaudeville routine the Texas governor delivered in New Hampshire. By the time the GOP convention begins in Tampa next August, the nominee designate will be Romney, because the Republicans always nominate the rugged-looking guy whose turn has arrived, just like Bob Dole and John McCain.

This will leave the Tea Party faction madder than Herman Cain's wife. They'll beg someone, anyone, to be the ABR (Anyone but Romney) candidate, up to and including Sarah Palin and Jeb Bush. When rebuked, they'll attempt a brokered convention or try to draft someone. But in the end, Romney will be the man and the Tea Party will go insane. They'll either attempt a third-party run with God knows who or intentionally sabotage Romney's campaign. For the Tea Party crowd, the choice between a Muslim or a Mormon is too much to fathom.

The only variable is which party's convention will draw the most protesters. And what happens in the streets could revive that whole "law and order" business the Republicans have run on so successfully in times of civil disobedience. Already, they mock the "Occupy" movement as being populated by hippies and the homeless. It's unpredictable what will happen when the movement "occupies" Tampa because of Florida's irrational governor Rick Scott and the allegiance of the police. In 1968, when the Democrats nominated the moderate Hubert Humphrey, who was a defender of LBJ and the Vietnam War, street protests turned into bloody, skull-cracking melees after Chicago mayor Richard J. Daley unleashed his baton-swinging police on the protesters. The ugliness and brutality caused the populace to turn to Richard Nixon, our second-worst president, to restore order in the land. The moderate Democrat lost because of discord within the party and the anger of the liberal left. Romney will lose because of the same anger on the rabid right. My hope is that voters are enlightened enough to see that the Tea Party Congress they put in power in 2010 has done nothing but harm, and they will vote them out. The right-wing's blitzkrieg on public employees and their unions should seal the deal.

Everyone seems to have gotten the message but the police. As public employees, their rights are under siege as surely as those of teachers, city-service laborers, and nurses. The right's open war on collective bargaining includes police unions too, yet police forces in Oakland, New York, Chicago, Denver, Boston, Atlanta, and Nashville have attacked the "Occupy" camps with violence and arrests. If the police were not ensnared in an "us vs. them" scenario, they would join the protesters instead of beating them. But when the police are ordered by a municipal lackey to dismantle an assembly with nightsticks, helmets, Plexiglas shields, pepper spray, and all the toys, don't you think they're going to use them?

The Democratic convention, which usually attracts the most protesters, will be in Charlotte, North Carolina, in September. Depending on the state of the economy and the intransigence of the Republicans in office, President Obama will either be regaled as the guardian against the barbarians at the gate or excoriated for granting the Tea Party Congress a foothold by trying to reason with them in the first place. Nonetheless, Democrats don't force their members to sign tax pledges or defend traditional marriage from the encroachment of the gay hordes wishing to live happy lives, so the convention should be less tumultuous. Despite the expected anger at Obama outside, within the convention hall Democratic unity will be strengthened by the irrationality of the opposing party. Regardless of the president's shortcomings, none of the carnival barkers who pass for Republican candidates can match him for intelligence, judgment, or respect on the international stage. So, with zero precincts reporting, I can now predict the next president will be Barack Obama. The question is, what will happen with Congress?

The country desperately needs a jobs program for infrastructure repairs, educational improvements, and technological advances, but we'll never get there with the conservative logjam that blocks any and all progress. The House Republicans have wasted their opportunity to lead with a series of meaningless bills concerning social issues rather than addressing the real economic concerns that have made the U.S. a borrower nation. And the Senate has been paralyzed for years by the tyranny of the minority and their misuse of the filibuster. Early on, Senate Republican leader Mitch McConnell freely acknowledged the party's supreme goal was to unseat Obama. Their "just say no" tactics should be repugnant to anyone who values democracy.

In spite of the GOP's obstruction, Obama brought the nation back from the brink of a second Great Depression, passed health-care insurance reform, saved the American auto industry and accelerated the development of the electric car, killed Osama bin Laden, stopped a genocide in Libya, which enabled the Libyan people to kill a murderous dictator, and he's getting American troops out of Iraq. Imagine what he might accomplish with legislators who actually had the best interests of the country at heart.

Randy Haspel writes the blog "Born-Again Hippies," where a version of this column first appeared.

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