Our long national nightmare is over. Mitt Romney has won the Republican nomination for president. Let the etch-a-sketching begin.

Romney was officially put over the top by the Texas primary last month, although in truth his victory had been a foregone conclusion ever since Rick Santorum (remember him?) packed it in weeks before.

His task now is to persuade moderates and independents that he’s not as crazy as he’s sounded so far, while simultaneously convincing the Republican right wing that he is. It’s not an easy task, but it’s one he’s well suited to.

Pick your issue — health care, abortion, gay rights, immigration, gun control, Planned Parenthood, Libya — and at one time or another Romney has been on two sides of it. Sometimes three.

Geoff Walsh/Flickr

Geoff Walsh/Flickr

It’s likely, however, that he’ll try to finesse the question of what he’s for in favor of attacking the incumbent. President Barack Obama just can’t seem to do anything right, according to Mitt. He’s too soft on Russia and China, too hard on Israel, too mean to business, and too nice to unions. Romney admits the economy is getting better, but he thinks that’s despite Obama’s policies rather than because of them.

“Obamacare” is a terrible idea. Romney would get rid of it on “Day One” of his presidency. Oh yes, he would also cut the deficit and lower the price of gas, all the while spending more on the military without raising taxes.

In other words, Romney isn’t running for president. He’s running for Magician-in-Chief.

So far it seems to be working pretty well for him. He’s nearly even with Obama in the polls and the election is five months away. Anything can happen.

I must admit, I don’t quite get it. The Republican Party has turned its back on immigrants, gays, blacks, Latinos, unions, and women. Who’s left? Most white guys, I suppose. Homophobes, women threatened by feminism, people who don’t believe in the separation of church and state, and those who don’t believe in evolution or global warming. Rich people.

It puts me in mind of the passage from Huckleberry Finn where one con man says to the other:

“Hain’t we got all the fools in town on our side? And ain’t that a big enough majority in any town?”

I suppose both candidates will, at some point or other, announce that this is the most important election of our lifetime. Presidential candidates always say that.

It’s not. Campaign rhetoric always overstates the power of the president, who is hostage to events beyond his control. If the European Union goes down, for example, we go down with it, regardless of who’s residing in the White House.

And that doesn’t even factor in the dangers of Marxism embraced by Republicans in Congress. I mean the philosophy Groucho espoused, of course.

Our Republican legislators resemble nothing so much as the faculty of Huxley College in the 1932 Marx brothers film Horse Feathers.

The opening scene features Groucho Marx as Quincy Adams Wagstaff, the school’s newly installed president, bouncing around in his academic robes singing:

I don’t know what they have to say,
It makes no difference anyway —
Whatever it is, I’m against it!
No matter what it is or who commenced it,
I’m against it.
Your proposition may be good,
but let’s have one thing understood —
whatever it is, I’m against it!
And even when you’ve changed it or condensed it,
I’m against it.

Now we know where Mitch McConnell and John Boehner get their material.

This could be an historic election if the electorate were to rise up and throw the Republicans out into the middle of the street, but I can’t see it happening.

And even then, we’d still be left with Democrats, who look good only when compared to Republicans.

The election is less than five months away. A new nightmare begins.

OtherWords columnist Donald Kaul lives in Ann Arbor, Michigan. otherwords.org

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