Things are looking woeful for Mr. Obama. The economy has people gagging. The country’s credit rating was just reduced to AA. Jimmy Carter references are in the air. So why don’t I think the President is vulnerable?
All a Republican candidate can bring to the table is the promise of fiscal austerity. Couldn’t be a worse time for such a platform. Unemployment is high. Do you really think a majority of voters is going to get psyched about someone they think might snip their unemployment benefits?
The insolvency of Social Security/Medicare is finally being examined openly. Seniors are a serious voting bloc. Do you honestly expect those cash-strapped seniors, who don’t have a job market to fall back on, to come out in force for someone promising to “make the tough choices” on entitlements?
Sure, the recent Republican momentum has been built on the promise of smaller government. Trying to make that translate at the Executive level is a quick campaign bus ride to defeat. It wasn’t even effective enough to lock up the Senate.
Yes you say, but the debt downgrade has made everyone aware that we need fiscal austerity. Won't that be attractive to voters? No. Since when are voters rational? These adjustments have been needed for decades, yet Americans have continued voting for promises that can't be kept. What is going to make them forward-thinking now? Nothing. It is not "different this time."
Of course government is out of control. It always is. That doesn’t mean small government is going to capture voters’ imaginations. The average voter has never heard of Henry Hazlitt. He isn’t familiar with the idea of the public sector crowding out the private one. Even if he is and is concerned about it, if he thinks he is one missed unemployment check away from the Grapes of Wrath, he isn’t going to buckle down and vote for the long term. In the worst job market since World War II, talk of “boot straps” and “rugged individualism” is going to nudge more than enough people to the blue side of the aisle.
The other usual Republican plank is foreign policy. The country isn’t too excited about war these days. Even the attempts to incite people against Iran are being drowned out by the horrible economic headlines. And now that America's banana republic budgets are being discussed around dinner tables across the nation, highlighting the cost of war is no longer taboo, so if it becomes a choice between someone promising to spend on war or someone promising to spend on Medicare, war guy loses. The only foreign bogeyman that might be suitable for tricking voters is China, because the China bogeyman would be easy to scapegoat for America's rotting economy. I don’t see the Republican nominee pushing that one too far however, because unlike Afghanistan or Iran, China can actually fight back.
You ask: Why couldn’t a Republican just run on a more “moderate” platform? Because if he did, then he would be too similar to Obama, so who would rally behind him? No one. “Moderate” Republicans fail every time. Romney, who inspires no one, is being groomed for the nomination. The American electoral system is a zero sum game where turnout is king, and no one stampedes to vote for centrists. Someone like Michele Bachmann might alienate more people, but she would at least generate a high turnout. The same can’t be said of Romney (am I the only one who thinks Mitt is doing a Frank Drebin impression?).
Speaking of turnout, in '08 the young went for Obama in a big way. They might be less gaga for him this time, but c'mon, are they suddenly going to become zealots for Romney?
Obviously, not one promise made by either candidate is going to be kept. That has nothing to do with this discussion. We’re talking about whose lies are going to be the most persuasive.
Someone might ask me, “Okay then, who are you going to vote for?”
I don’t believe in voting.
Oh no, don’t tell me you’re one of those people!
I feel the same way about you.