Election Day 2012: America prepares to vote
Nearly everyone is relieved that the marathon ordeal of campaign 2012 (which actually began in 2010) is just about over. What they don't realize is that campaign 2014 will begin within a few days after all the results from this election are compiled and analyzed.
Most of the national polls show it's a virtual dead heat between Romney and Obama. Comedy Central's Stephen Colbert ran clips of at least half a dozen TV pundits who repeated the cliche "razor tight." The challenger's momentum seemed to falter in the last week of the campaign, perhaps due to Hurricane Sandy and President Obama's efforts to deal with the disaster. New Jersey Governor Chris Christie caught flak for praising the President too effusively. The storm put the Romney campaign in an awkward position, not knowing whether to make speeches or do some kind of fund-raising relief program.
The map below is my prediction: 276 electoral votes for Obama and 262 for Romney. I wouldn't be surprised at all if Romney ends up with a bigger share of the popular vote nationwide, which I suppose would be poetic justice from the perspective of Democrats who still can't get over the 2000 election. I'm erring on the optimistic side (pro-Romney) in Virginia, Iowa, New Hampshire, and Colorado. Bear in mind that there is a wide margin for error between what the polls indicate and the actual vote count, and it is entirely possible that an undetected surge of Romney voters will carry him to victory in several key midwestern states. But based on what I have read, Romney needs to make up at least more three percentage points to win in Ohio. Without Ohio, I don't think Romney can make it.
Britain's The Economist magazine expressed in very apt terms the thinking of independent moderates: "America could do better than Barack Obama. Sadly, Mitt Romney doesn't fit the bill." The editorial went on to bemoan: "Indeed, the extremism of his party is Mr Romney's greatest handicap." They conclude that it is better to stick with the devil you know than take a chance on the devil you don't know.
From my personal point of view, I am dismayed that so many Americans accept at face value Obama's bland assurances that things are getting better. I don't think he has much of an idea what is needed to fix this economy, and anyone in the White House who does have such an idea apparently isn't being listened to. If the President is in fact reelected, it won't be the end of freedom as we know it, contrary to what some right-wingers claim. I think it will mean, however, a resumption toward a long-term erosion of our culture of freedom and individual responsibility. We are already so far along that "road to perdition" that many people have already lost any sense of what freedom is really about.
Economic policy: Dubya II?
I think Romney's biggest mistake was his failure to clearly differentiate himself from the last Republican President, George W. Bush. The question came up in the second debate, and he let the opportunity pass by. I would like to think that he has learned from the Bush Jr. administration that basing economic policy on no-tax pledges (Grover Norquist) and rosy forecasts of growth (supply-siders) is a recipe for failure. But voters could be forgiven for being skeptical, however. Here is a comment on a Facebook post by Bruce Bartlett along those lines:
One thing is for sure: If Romney loses, all those people who backed Bush's candidacy in 2000 and later hounded out of the party anyone they considered to be "disloyal" will be very busy rewriting recent Republican Party history. The fact that Romney has failed to clearly distinguish his agenda from that of Dubya is a discouraging sign that most people in the GOP have not really absorbed the lessons of the 2001-2008 period.
What about the 2016 election? Bruce Bartlett asked what qualities a sane, relatively moderate Republican candidate would need in order to win the GOP primaries, and I suggested:
Back to Bruce's original query, I think a viable 2016 GOP candidate needs to establish credentials as a serious policy-focused LEADER. To do that, he or she would need to minimize the usual closed-door suck-up sessions with wealthy donors and maximize public discussions in relatively neutral venues. Perhaps even on university campuses!
Foreign policy: "No, we can't?"
Four years ago, Barack Obama was a complete novice with regard to foreign policy, and it was a big joke when he was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize without having done anything to deserve it. Now the shoe is on the other foot, and the incumbent chief executive gets the benefit of the doubt. ("General Motors is alive and Osama bin Laden is dead.") In the third presidential debate, Mitt Romney tried to adopt a tough stance, appealing to Jewish voters and others who strongly support Israel. It wasn't entirely convincing, and Romney's close ties to the Neoconservatives who were prominent in the Bush II administration (see above) raise further doubts in my mind.
This in turn raises a broader issue. A few months ago, Bruce Bartlett called attention on Facebook to the declining number of Republican leaders with foreign policy solid credentials. For example, long-time Indiana Senator Dick Lugar was ousted in the GOP primary election last spring, which means one less pragmatic, national-security-conscious senator.* foreignpolicy.com My response to that article:
The article makes a very good point, lamenting the passage of realist-pragmatists such as Sen. Lugar, but I see no indication that Romney is of the simplistic "by jingo!" mindset. Foreign policy is obviously a lower priority this year, in part (ironically) because Obama continued most elements of the Bush foreign policy, as new presidents usually do. Foreign policy is inherently too complex for most people to understand, and therefore not suitable for debate in polarized democracies, so it's just as well that Romney doesn't make a big deal about it.
* I should note that the winner of that primary, Richard Mourdock, is facing an uphill battle, and it's quite possible the Republicans will lose that Senate seat. If so, prospects for getting a GOP majority in the Senate, so as to repeal Obamacare, will drop to almost zero. Mourdock was a Tea Party-endorsed candidate and recently created a stir by saying that if a woman gets pregnant as the result of rape, it must be God's will. See cbsnews.com. I think the lessons from Indiana ought to be obvious to everyone. Same goes for Missouri, where Todd Akin's incomprehensible gaffe about rape not causing pregnancy squandered what should have been an easy chance to unseat incumbent Democrat Sen. Claire McCaskill.
Fast & Furious scandal
Relative to some of Obama's other scandals, such as the Benghazi terrorist attack, or the wasted millions of dollars on the Solyndra "green energy" company, Operation Fast and Furious hasn't seemed to catch on in the American news media. It did get the notice of Spanish-language journalists, however, and Univision reporter Jorge Ramos really put the heat on President Obama back in September, asking whether Attorney General Eric Holder should be fired. Obama tried to dodge the question by falsely claiming that Fast and Furious had started under the Bush Administration. In reality, Fast and Furious was initiated in September 2009 and was carried out starting in October 2009, well into President Obama's first term. (How does he get away with that stuff?) You can read extended transcripts of the Univision interview at townhall.com.
Sebelius vs. the Hatch Act
Secretary of Health and Human Services Kathleen Sebelius violated federal law when she appeared at an event to promote President Obama's re-election Charlotte, N.C., on February 25, 2012. She was acting in her official capacity as a Cabinet official when making the keynote speech in support of rights for lesbians, gays, etc. Some of her remarks were quite political, and she urged the audience, "it's hugely important to make sure that we re-elect the president and elect a Democratic governor here in North Carolina." Under the Hatch Act of 1939, which was passed to thwart FDR's attempt to use civil servants to promote his governing agenda, Federal employees and officials cannot take an active role in political campaigns, or else we would end up with a hyper-politicized government like they have in Venezuela. See the washingtonexaminer.com.
Excess presidential power
Finally, here is my response to Cindy Corell's upbeat call on Facebook on people of both parties to leave behind their partisanship after the election, here is my general observation about the reasons why presidential campaigns are getting fiercer and more vicious every election cycle:
The guy in the White House, regardless of party, has way too much power, which is one reason why modern presidential elections are turning into apocalyptic battles between "good" and "evil." I fully appreciate your sentiments, but whoever wins will face bitter distrust and opposition from the losing party. If we abided more faithfully by the Constitution, it wouldn't be that way.