Saturday, September 8, 2012
Obama vs. Romney is more than just Obama vs. Romney.
Surprise, some on the right are confused that polling results don't show Romney ahead of Obama by leaps and bounds. For example, Powerline's John Hinderaker comes very close to saying it's inconceivable:
On paper, given Obamaís record, this election should be a cakewalk for the Republicans. Why isnít it? I am afraid the answer may be that the country is closer to the point of no return than most of us believed. With over 100 million Americans receiving federal welfare benefits, millions more going on Social Security disability, and many millions on top of that living on entitlement programs--not to mention enormous numbers of public employees--we may have gotten to the point where the government economy is more important, in the short term, than the real economy. My father, the least cynical of men, used to quote a political philosopher to the effect that democracy will work until people figure out they can vote themselves money. I fear that time may have come.
In addition to impugning America, Hinderaker seems to be working on the assumption that people will be voting as a referendum on Obama instead of as a choice between two candidates. Or as one between two parties' positions. For example, GOP voters were in the difficult position of having to choose between the candidates who ran, and Romney's only advantage was that he was among the uncrazies. But even with that having been said, Romney has shown a strong degree of craziness. When asked in a Republican debate if they would be willing to take a budget compromise that was ten parts spending cuts and only one part tax increase, every candidate turned it down. Everyone of them, including Romney. Now, a lot of Americans remember the debt ceiling debacle, Republican intransigence, the subsequent downgrading of our credit rating, and the concerns expressed about brinkmanship. (America remembers all the talk about "playing chicken.") And America's opinions of Congress plummeted since then.
Why would America leap to Romney, if what he promises is more of the same?
As for Obama, Hinderaker also assumes that Americans can't put their feelings about the economy in the context of how it got this way and how Republicans have done all they can to work against Obama's success. Maybe, as our cars have gotten bigger, our brains have become better able to think beyond what can be captured in a bumper sticker?
I'm reading Michael Grunwald's The New New Deal, and while I have yet to see a passage where a Republican says "let's gut the economy for the sake of power," power does seem to be the primary interest; and I have yet to see an instance where a Republican has concerned him or herself with what would be best. They don't even voice their political ideology: a PowerPoint slide said their primary strategic objective was not to govern but to regain power. (On top of that, their negotiations were disingenuous.)
So that was the broader context in which America waded into these two conventions. At the same time, the GOP had the whole Todd Akin albatross hanging around its neck, compounded by the adoption of a platform which was against abortion in all cases and taking hard lines against marriage equality.
Why would anyone expect Romney and the Republicans to be ahead? They cowed all the decent candidates out of the race a long time ago.
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(DISCLOSURE: I work for Abt SRBI. My company does polling. My opinions should not be construed as representing those of my employer.)