Fire Ant was back in the lion's den -- actually, the Palm Beach Ale House -- to watch round two of the debates, surrounded by the county's GOP faithful, gathered there again to root for their side. A much lighter turnout than Obama-Romney, as it was a face-off between the second-best men. That's lighter as in "less well-attended," not in skin color. The PB GOP couldn't get much paler.
Two dozen strong they were, and though you'd expect them to come in juiced on Romney's unanimous TKO in Debate One, not to mention the buzz of the room's battery of screens set to Fox News, they were flat from the get-go and slackjawed by the end. Biden came on grinning ear-to-ear and ate their boy for lunch.
They had their moments, or course, but no momentum. An isolated handclap for The Kid's opening rant about the "unraveling of Obama's foreign policy" gave way to dead silence as Old Joe distilled the spiel to "a bunch of malarkey." The Kid claimed Obama has "no credibility" on Iran; Old Joe dismissed The Kid's "bluster" and "loose talk." Flustered, The Kid burrowed in and grew confused: Iran, with every passing year, is "spinning the centrifuges faster." Is it physics? Or metaphor?
On to the economy, and Old Joe dropped a bomb of his own, the "47%" bomb, the awful percentage of citizens the Mittster famously dismissed as leeches. The Kid reminded Old Joe that he too has a history of speaking from the hip. A fair shot, and it got a few laughs, but Joe squelched it. "I mean what I say," came the reply. The point rang true -- Mitt's "47%" was also, sadly, truly meant.
That's how it went, and the GOP crowd suffered. Old Joe was mad as hell and not going to take it anymore. Visibly amused at The Kid's earnest chipmunk act, he sliced the air with his hand and jabbed away, every Ryan factoid met with a contrary factoid, so relentless the crowd could barely talk back to the screen.
What most fully aroused the RomRy fans was The Kid's charge that Dems bury "small business" with taxes. If they feel anything, it's anger. The GOP's local core -- those who gather in sports bars instead of barrier island McMansions -- are struggling shopkeepers and their employees (those who are not retired), and they seem bled out, battered by the forces of an economy and nation learning to share the planet with others.
That anger? Think stage two of the five stages of grief, for the passing of the White American Dream and the Greatest Generation's global dominance. Private Ryan, a heartland baby, raised on Reaganism, tried mightily, naively, to bolster the old myths. Old Joe Biden showed the greater grace -- beyond bargaining and depression to acceptance -- and the greater strength found in that.
Fire Ant, an invasive species, tinged bright red, with an annoying, sometimes fatal bite, covers Palm Beach County. Got feedback or a tip? Contact [email protected]