That does it. I’m finally throwing in the towel on speaking of timely political claptrap. But I’m doing so with a big caveat, which is sheer amusement. I’m not here to bicker and argue and join in the cacophony of disingenuous bullshit that dominates National politics. One, I’m no expert. Two, 99% of the things we talk about when we talk about national politics do not affect our lives in the slightest, and, frankly, it is embarrassing to even associate myself and waste both your energies and mine analyzing the 2012 Presidential Election because not a goddamn thing about our ordinary lives is going to change whether we see Obama or Romney take office. People forget that the office of the President of the United States of America is not one of dictatorship. For better or worse, we have a thing known as the Separation of Powers (or trias politica) and if you know what’s good for you, you’ll start caring a whole lot more about your local and state politicians than who occupies the White House. Perhaps you need more persuading and because I cannot point you to the allegory of my novel Supercenter for at least a few more months, I can at least provide a telling example.
The reason why national politics matter not to your ordinary life is because this country is controlled through and through by Corporations. While esteemed journalists such as Christopher Hedges and Matt Taibbi have laid out evidence on a weekly basis for the past decade, the majority of American people are completely unaware of this fact and pretend like paying attention to the 2012 Presidential campaign is somehow worth their time and energy.
If you would like a brief piece of evidence of just how obvious it is that our government is not only controlled by corporations, but literally usurped by them, check out this little gem by The Young Turks. In sum, when it comes to the Affordable Care Act, the insurance companies are already collaborating together to “self regulate” themselves in the event of overturn. In other words, this shows that corporations can collude together in order to create institutional change in a manner that should be regulated by government, all by themselves, without government regulation. Don’t worry about creating policy, America, we’ll just do it for you. The only function you need for your government to serve is as a massive opinion-generating machine, we’ll do what reform we care to do on our own.
Putting all this doom and gloom aside, I now invite you to read this long blog post asking you to pay attention to the 2012 Presidential Campaign. BUT FOR FUN! I’m here to share some of my amusement at the upcoming 2012 Presidential elections from a perspective that merely marvels at just how utterly strange it will be.
You simply can’t underestimate the American voting public. Because the Republican Party candidate will be running against an incumbent, this election will have everything to do with Barack Obama and whether the average American “swing” voter will wish to maintain the status quo or choose the policy platforms and promises (should they believe them) of the alternative.
Of course, by the time we arrive at the Republican National Convention at the end of August, the GOP will have come to terms with Romney as their candidate (despite a mini-rebellion staged by Ron Paul) and will have begun the process of creating a narrative for him, not unlike GW Bush’s key 2000 election bumper-sticker platform: The “Compassionate Conservative,” which did little more, in my mind, than underscore exactly what conservatives lacked and every reason not to elect one. But in the minds of many voters, this assuaged their one concern and convinced them that they would not be thrown to the wolves of Ayn-Randian social Darwinism, and I contend this was a significant image-related innovation of the 2000 campaign. As of right now, Romney has no “Compassionate Conservative” mantra, no significant policy distinctions from Obama, scant willingness to answer questions by actual journalists instead of Fox News sycophants, and no widespread appeal to voters who literally aren’t going to give a shit about any of this up until the last few weeks before the election. Does that mean the election could then swing in his favor at the very last minute if he gets his act together? Absolutely it does. However, it is entirely possible that the GOP is its own worst enemy, and without the name-recognition GW Bush had, plus the cowboy swagger, no amount of Rovian turd-blossom inspired bumper-sticker mantras will save him.
Essentially, a hollow GW Bush was enough to beat out Al Gore, but a hollow candidate will not beat an incumbent. Steven Erikson, in a recent article on The American Prospect, summed this up nicely, stating that “voters will take a leap of faith, but not blind faith.”
The article is a worthy read, because it makes a strong case that should Mitt Romney attempt to prevaricate on every single issue that comes his way, thinking in his own mind that this is somehow what makes him skillful and canny, that this is “what Presidential candidates do,” he will not persuade the American people to chose “whatever” over the status quo.
So if we just throw policy right out the window and reduce this election even further, Obama obviously wins in the category of charisma. Arguably, like some ridiculous Beauty Pageant, this could be the only thing the American voter really cares about. The presidential election has for time immemorial been a popularity contest, a gut-shot reaction from spending all of ten seconds considering a candidate. GW Bush was a rough-and-tumble cowboy hardass and John Kerry (and Al Gore) was a rich dick. Bill Clinton was a happy-go-lucky party guy and Bob Dole was an old fuddy-duddy. Bill Clinton was as smooth-talkin’ sax-playin’ son-of-a-gun and G HW Bush was pencil-necked nerd (yes, I’m aware of the irony of this statement). Ronald Reagan was steeped in the talents of a film actor (Republicans take note: you will always win with a photogenic ex-actor, sorry Fred Thompson) and Jimmy Carter was the Jimmy Carter of Presidential candidates. Game over. Obama wins.
What makes this election so interesting, however, is that Obama has every reason to lose.
He has neither defined nor defended his key policy initiatives. Take Healthcare Reform. Do people truly understand it? I can rattle off a positive–something-something about fixing pre-existing conditions, lifetime limits. And a major negative—Mandate—forcing Americans to pay Health Insurance companies. Something that is not the progressive aim of Single Payer. In other words, even progressives see healthcare reforms as an overall disappointment.
Obama was elected as not only an alternative to the misery imposed on the American people by eight years of Republican hegemony, but as an alternative to the past liberal institution, Hilary Clinton, simply because the American people, at least the progressive wing of Democratic primary voters, wanted in place a liberal as radical as they presumed Barack Obama would be, and as radical as the Conservative Propaganda Machine continues to portray him. The American people were ready for “Hope and Change,” for Single Payer healthcare, even if twenty years late. For the overdue end to the War in Iraq and the War on Drugs, for a total ousting of Wall Street investment banking in government. And while Obama has had his share of policy successes, despite Republican stonewalling, it is fair to say the vast majority of politically savvy progressives feel betrayed and do not expect a radical transformation of Obama during his second term.
So while I feel that Obama has every reason to be remembered as a single term President, all signs point to his reelection and will most likely continue to well beyond this last week of June. Mitt Romney is just that terrible of a candidate, having quite literally won the nomination by “default” because the Republican party’s primary process allowed for only two types of candidates—crazy people and rich people. Unfortunately, the crazy people could not survive outside their own crazy enclaves, and once it came time for casual Republican voters to examine these people on a national stage…well, there was a period of enthusiasm, à la Sarah Palin, but this quickly receded. Long story short, Mitt Romney wound up being the only non-crazy person left standing, perhaps due to his already extant campaign infrastructure, having attempted the nomination so many times before. This, despite candidates like Gary Johnson and John Huntsman embracing everything the Republican Party would probably appreciate in a candidate, should it part ways with the crazies. In the end, Romney will be the rich dick that Kerry was in 2004. Nothing can change who Romney is, the only thing that can change is the American pubic’s reception of him. Mitt Romney can’t convince Americans he is one of them, he can only hope to convince them they wish to be ruled by somebody who is a corporate Aristocrat. Were Mitt Romney a Steve Jobs, rather than a vulture capitalist, this might happen, but Bain Capital is just too tainted of a financial Cinderella story.
The only silver lining that we can possible gain from an Obama victory this fall, and it is a mixed-victory, is proof that the floodgate of money cast into politics as a result of the Citizens United Supreme Court decision is not guaranteed to buy an election. That’s the good news. The bad news is that it will make a whole lot of people think that this makes Citizens United and our regression of campaign finance reform copacetic.