Our bitter political partisanship actually has a silver lining as the 2012 presidential campaign approaches. If one can overcome the hyperbole and spin associated with either parties’ ideology as reported by the opposition and dismiss how the talking heads analyze every piece of polling data – the 2012 race will provide the most disparate choice of political philosophies as there has been in decades.
Unlike the 2008 campaign when the nation labored under Bush fatigue (to a certain degree, me included) and needed a fresh face, ideas and personality, the 2012 race will be a referendum on issues and challenges and not personas and images. In this instance there will be a stark difference between the parties, their candidate(s), and the way they will attack the problems we face.
Listening to democrat strategists, and even some conservative pundits grouse about how unimpressed they are with the Republican presidential candidates I have to scratch my head. It either shows an incredible arrogance on their part or the need for a little perspective by remembering exactly what the accomplishments and qualifications were for the successful candidate in 2008.
We now know Barack Obama a little better. 2012 will be an election that will pit two people with different views of America, virtually opposite perspectives of how the executive branch is administered, conflicting views of what the Constitution directs, how and from whom money is collected and spent, the size and scope of federal government, as well as how the US interacts with our allies and enemies.
Much blame has been cast on Congress with regard to obstructionism and one could easily make that case. But Barack Obama’s ominous 2009 retort to Congressman Eric Cantor that “elections have consequences” and “He won” came back to haunt him in the 2010 midterm elections. Once again, the Framers got it right and allowed the people and the ballot box to speak volumes about elections and consequences.
The voters have that chance again in 2012 as they will survey the previous four years and the CEO who led their country. They will remember where they were in 2008, where they are now, the prospects for their future and what has changed. It will and should be a direct referendum on whether the dividends of Hope, Change, and Transforming America have been enough to devote another 4 year investment.
On the other side of the ledger, say what you will about Romney, Perry, Gingrich, Paul, Cain, Bachman, Huntsman, and Santorum but all of them have a very public record of civic accomplishment and educational background, a sense of gravity, intellect, populist support, and big picture perspective to match up well against the incumbent who doesn’t look nearly as eloquent, historic and unstoppable as he did just 4 years ago. Already the public knows volumes more about each of the contenders than we ever knew about Candidate Obama in the 2008 campaign. In this regard the media has temporarily atoned for this past, self-interested dereliction of duty.
The Republican roster has historians, business leaders, politicians, academics, activists, and organizers. Lest you fit into the aforementioned category of pundit or strategist; there are no light weights.
All eight remaining candidates have their own personal issues of electability but each carries a unique niche making them attractive on many fronts. All of the attractions come from separating themselves from everything that has gone on in the Oval Office since 2009; with many – even further back.
Perry is a Texan (bad) with Texan bluntness (good).
Romney has a great business record except for that RomneyCare debacle.
Bachman is a strong, attractive, populist figure with a media implanted Palin-esque target on her back.
Ron Paul is either a great thinker if you’re a libertarian or a four star loon if you’re not.
Cain is the down-home, self made businessman with his feet firmly planted in clear, concise, common sense but has regrettably been relegated to afterthought status until those crazy, rabid Tea Party racists in Florida picked him as their straw poll winner.
Gingrich is the smartest, most eloquent – yet unelectable guy in the room because of his Biden sized gaffs, and his condescending tone. (Boy, would I love to see an Obama v. Gingrich issues debate; it’ll never happen)
Santorum appeals to the social conservatives and is the most likable but his strength doesn’t put fear in anybody’s eyes.
Jon Huntsman is the moderate republican’s choice as most of his agenda rests to the left of boundaries set by the other seven candidates.
Our country’s mounting challenges, the administration’s policies to attack them, and the lack of widely observable success are the reasons the incumbent is faced with an overly difficult task of retaining his job for another four years; no matter how much money his party raises in the effort. This thought alone is very good for the prospects of politics in our republic.
Let the debate, and not the pageant, begin.
Postscript: Ironically, all of this will be moot if a single personality enters the fray to resuscitate the party; Hillary Clinton. (Yes, it certainly could happen) It would then revert back to a horse race between people and not socio-political philosophies. That would be a shame.