courtesy NJ.com and Advanced Media
It’s very early in the morning, Monday, May 4, 2015. As I’m writing this, the sun is just beginning to peek out from night’s solemnity. But with it’s rising, the political silly season – better known as our quadrennial national election cycle – begins anew.
This one, for both seasoned political observer and novice alike, portends a change in the American political landscape. For a generation now, the Republican party has essentially conducted their primary schedule as a drawn-out coronation. The Democratic Party, in contrast, has conducted not only a search for a candidate but for a national identity. Excluding incumbents, the last time Republicans engaged in the type of soul-searching Democrats routinely embrace was 1980. The last time Democrats engaged in a slow ascendancy to the Presidency was before the Wilson administration. On the surface, the 2016 election looks as if the roles are reversed, with perhaps two dozen Republican candidates jumping into the fray and the megalith known as Hillary Clinton dominating the Democrat primary season. But I suspect the surface is just the glimmering reflection of political reporters unable to look past the Beltway. Hillary may be a formidable candidate – but the undercurrents in her party belie a certain uncertainty in her or the direction she wants to lead both her party and the nation.
As I’m writing this, there are six declared candidates, 4 Republican (Sens. Ted Cruz, Marco Rubio and Rand Paul, former Sen. Rick Santorum) and 2 Democrats (former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, Sen. Bernie Sanders). By the time you’re reading this, two more Republicans (Dr. Ben Carson, former CEO Carly Fiorina) are likely to have announced their candidacies. Here’s the potential roster of candidates, broken down by party:
Republican (21): Sen. Ted Cruz (TX), Sen. Marco Rubio (FL), Sen. Rand Paul (KY), Sen. Lindsay Graham (SC), former Sen. Rick Santorum (PA), Gov. Bobby Jindal (LA), Gov. Scott Walker (WI), Gov. Chris Christie (NJ), Gov. John Kasich (OH), Gov. Mike Pence (IN), Gov. Rick Snyder (MI), former Gov. Jeb Bush (FL), former Gov. George Pataki (NY), former Gov. Mike Huckabee (AK), former Gov. Rick Perry (TX), former Gov. Bob Ehrlich (MD), Congressman Peter King (NY), former Ambassador John Bolton, Dr. Ben Carson, CEO Carly Fiorina, CEO Donald Trump.
Democrat (6): Vice President Joe Biden, former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, Sen. Bernie Sanders (VT), former Gov. Martin O’Malley (MD), former Gov. Jim Webb (VA), former Gov. Lincoln Chaffee (RI).
I’ll be delving further into the dynamics of the race as the months roll along. I hope you’ve brought your airsick bags.
This is going to be a bumpy ride over the next 18 months.
Ok, color me confused, but I fail to see a problem with the premise that the Republican party is dedicated to ending President Obama’s tenure after four years. This must make me some sort of space alien, since according to the media and my “moderate” friends I should. As for liberals, they’ve already consigned me to a fate worse than a heretic’s during the Spanish Inquisition, so they really don’t get any say here. (Sorry, but you can go back to your corner and wait for your next handout).
For those of you uninitiated, Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) made the title statement a year ago today. McConnell was immediately excoriated by the press as being an obstructionist – and almost on cue from Team Obama – disparaged as not caring about the real problems facing the nation. I didn’t understand the diatribes then, and I still don’t see the issue now. If the Republican party’s true aim is to fix what’s ailing the country, shouldn’t they start by fixing the biggest problem we have?
I’ve probably lost more than half my readership by this point, but for those who’ve stuck around, let’s look into that mission statement in a little more detail. Why should the singular aim of the Republicans be to make Barack Obama a one-termer?
First, there are unbridgeable policy differences between the liberal (er, progressive) wing of the Democratic party, led by Barack Obama and the conservative wing of the Republican party. In both parties, there are some self-described moderates, but the last two election cycles reduced their ranks and influence considerably. The few moderates left are an endangered species and most are retiring. As a result, the philosophical divide between the two major parties is greater than at any time since Reconstruction. The partisanship currently displayed in Washington and in state houses in everywhere is symptomatic. Now, don’t get me wrong: there are plenty of issues where I do not agree with either party. I’m a Libertarian, so the headlong rush to continue things like the Patriot Act, ratify SOPA and generally undercut our civil liberties I find particularly offensive. But hey, that seems to be the only thing both parties agree on, so whatever. The point is, the Republicans and Democrats agree on almost nothing else. Why should Republicans want to have the person in charge of the Executive Branch be a man who is personally opposed to their policy objectives?
Second, this is a two-way war. Congressional Republicans are not the only ones refusing to co-operate. In the past three years, the White House released executive orders and regulations that undermine the policies conservative Republicans support. From the unilateral decision not to enforce DOMA or immigration statutes to threatening social security payments, the President and his minions have declared war on conservative policies, past and present. Obama signaled his intention to work with Congressional Republicans early in his administration when he announced to Eric Cantor, “Elections have consequences.” Barack Obama claims to be a bible-reading Christian; perhaps he should open to Galatians 6:7 (“Be not deceived; God is not mocked: for what a man soweth, that shall he also reap”). He asked for this fight on day 1; that he’s surprised it came is a startling admission of how little he understands.
Finally, McConnell was not stating that the Republican goal is simply to prevent the President from having any success. He could have phrased it better, probably. But the goal of conservatives everywhere (and of Libertarians) is to prevent the President or his party from growing the government even larger – and to do that, it means getting him out of office. Government currently has a larger share of the economy than at any time in history, accounting for 41% of GDP, a 6% growth rate over the past three years. Once Obamacare fully kicks in (unless repealed), that percentage projects to rise to 69%. And at that point, you can kiss whatever freedoms you had good-bye. Once you’ve lost economic freedom, the civil liberties you take for granted are quick to follow. Don’t think so?
Consider your job. Your boss comes in one day and says you have to stop reading that loony guy over at Political Baseballs because it upsets upper management. Are you going to quit your job or say so long to my little blog? And don’t pretend it doesn’t happen – it happens all the time. He who controls the purse strings eventually controls every aspect of your life – unless you’re willing to follow the example of the Founding Fathers and pledge your fortune and your life to throw off the yoke of slavery.
So, yes. There are some very real reasons that Republicans – and freedom loving Americans – should want to ensure the President is a one-termer. Anyone who finds that offensive is either a sycophant (you can put your hand back down; I don’t give hand outs) or living in a fairy-tale world where nothing bad can ever come of a government program.
I don’t live in a fairy-tale. I live in the world that will be much better off once Barry O is sent back to Chicago.
First off, I’d like to welcome everyone back from their Fourth of July vacations. I know I enjoyed mine and I hope you enjoyed yours.
As we head into the languid, steamy summer months most of us aren’t paying particular attention to the Presidential campaign. Both candidates, as is typical for the 6 weeks or so leading up Labor Day, are concentrating on fundraising and polishing their message. Unless either commits a gaffe of historic proportions (something the Romney family is well acquainted with), don’t expect either to make much news.
This presents both a challenge and an opportunity for Mitt Romney. Unlike his opponent, he is relatively unknown to the American voting public. If he uses these next few weeks wisely, he can create the underpinnings of a successful candidacy. If not, he will get crushed in November.
A little historical perspective is in order. In 1980, Ronald Reagan won the Republican nomination and faced off against an incumbent with a high personal favorability rating. The incumbent, Jimmy Carter, presided over a nation seemingly in decline. The “stagflation” of the late 1970’s – marked by persistent underemployment, inflation and low economic growth rates – had taken its toll on the American labor force. Combined with what seemed like capitulation to the Soviet Union in Afghanistan and an inability to deal with the rise of Islamic extremism in Iran, the 39th President had few policy successes to point to, other than the Israeli-Egyptian peace accord. The future 40th President was known by the country primarily as a former “B” movie actor and Governor of California. That July, Carter made his now infamous “malaise” speech, in which he laid out his vision of an emaciated America, impotent in foreign relations and incapable of robust economic growth. “It is a crisis of confidence. It is a crisis that strikes at the very heart and soul and spirit of our national will. We can see this crisis in the growing doubt about the meaning of our own lives and in the loss of a unity of purpose for our Nation,” said Carter in that speech.
Although initial polling indicated the speech gave Carter an 11% boost in approval and most operatives thought he was crazy to do it, Reagan sensed the opening Carter’s opinion of the American People presented. He countered with an approach that said the problems the nation faced were not from ordinary people, but rather from an intrusive government that seeked to micromanage the American Dream. When he unleashed “Are you better off today than you were four years ago?” during the October 28 debate, the nation responded with a heartfelt “NO!” Reagan, of course, went on to win the Presidency with an overwhelming mandate, carrying 44 states and besting Carter by 10 points in the popular vote. Reagan, despite national polls showing him trailing by as much as 8 points a mere week before the election, had stayed on message, trusting in his instincts. His aplomb – and characteristic belief in the American people and their belief in him – had carried the day, the same as it would for the next eight years.
Fast forward 32 years: President Obama could just as easily have delivered the speech Carter gave in July 1980. (In fact, Obama has delivered at least three similarly-themed speeches in the past year). Consider these talking points – can you guess which President delivered them?
“What you see too often in Washington and elsewhere around the country is a system of government that seems incapable of action. You see a Congress twisted and pulled in every direction by hundreds of well financed and powerful special interests. You see every extreme position defended to the last vote, almost to the last breath by one unyielding group or another. You often see a balanced and a fair approach that demands sacrifice, a little sacrifice from everyone, abandoned like an orphan without support and without friends…All the traditions of our past, all the lessons of our heritage, all the promises of our future point to another path, the path of common purpose and the restoration of American values.”*
Like Carter two generations ago, Obama is preaching a gospel of government dependence, of sacrifice and demonization of “special Interests.” Of course, we know from our history that when Reagan forced a Democratic Congress to accept much of his program, unleashing the private sector to grow and innovate in ways it hadn’t been able to since the 1950’s, growth exploded and America went back to work. “Morning in America” became the central theme of Reagan’s reelection campaign in 1984, and a proud President was able to speak to a proud nation about the accomplishments we achieved over the previous four years. He did not have to fear anyone asking if the nation was better off. We were, and we knew it.
The central question of the 2012 campaign is not whether the economy will rebound in time for President Obama to win reelection, or if PPACA will fire up a coalition of conservatives and libertarians that leads to his ouster. No, the biggest question in this election is whether Mitt Romney can emulate the Gipper. Like Reagan, Romney faces off against an incumbent that’s generally well liked as a person, but whose executive ability is met with ambivalence. In terms of policy positions, Romney is as far from Obama as Reagan was from Carter. But as anyone who has followed politics knows, personality matters. If Romney wants to win, he needs to do more than hammer the President on his failings. He needs to demonstrate some of the same optimism about the USA’s future that exemplified Reagan’s campaign style. He needs to show that he can and will lead. He needs to ditch the handlers and speak from the heart about his vision for what America looks like in four years.
Can he overcome what has been a wooden personality and achieve a similar result? Certainly, the opportunity is ripe. Despite his personal favorability ratings, President Obama consistently polls under 50% on policy – in fact, his poll numbers mirror those of Carter at similar points in their respective Presidencies (actually, Gallup had Carter with a bigger lead over Reagan than the one enjoyed by the current incumbent). The American People, much as they were in 1980, are looking for a real leader; someone who believes in the future as much (if not more) than they do. If Romney can project the same confidence as Reagan, Obama will suffer a similar electoral fate as Carter. If not…well, that is the end of the American Dream, isn’t it?
*Delivered by Jimmy Carter during National Address, July 15, 1980.
So, here I was winding down my little vacation and getting ready to enjoy the weekend when I opened up my email and immediately got pummeled with the headlines about the June Jobs Report. Of all the ones I saw, though, this one about sums up the employment situation best:
- Wall Street
- Some combo of all the above
He’ll express some sentiment about how terrible all of this unemployment is and how, of course, he’s blameless. But hey, if I could tour closed and shuttered places of business from a tank-proof, taxpayer funded tour bus, shout out “This sucks!” to a few hundred folks and revel in the glory of being the Rock Star President – who’s to say I wouldn’t do the same?
Ok, well – back to my vaca. See you on Monday. After looking over these numbers, it looks like there’s a lot of you who’ll be able to join me for coffee without worrying you’ll be late for work. And yeah, that sucks…