The 2012 US election is Bush-Kerry in reverse

So here’s the situation. Sitting US president is an incredibly divisive figure. The challenger is pushing a single big policy issue, in which he believes he’s at unassailable advantage. And the opposition are so fired up with loathing for the president they’ve convinced themselves they can nominate a gaffe-prone plank of wood from Massachusetts and still walk home to a win. If all this is starting to feel eerily familiar to you, it might be because we’ve been here before. Back then, the parties were the other way around, of course, and killer-issue-that-wasn’t was defence policy, not economy. But all the same, some aspects of this election cycle are starting to feel a lot like 2004 all over again. Back then, when our biggest economic problem was how to pay for the Iraq War, the Democrats hated Bush. Hated him. And that hatred was shared by vast swathes of the world, so much so that most of British left spent the autumn of 2004 repeatedly clicking refresh on various US polling websites. “Kerry’s gaining!” we’d tell each other, ignoring the fact he’d been trailing since the conventions, convincing ourselves that, okay, he’s behind now, but he has to win because, well, look at the other guy. Obviously they couldn’t re-elect George W. Bush. Obviously. What we hadn’t counted on was that much of Democratic Party was feeling much the same way. They were so convinced of their own righteousness that they’d chosen a candidate who was just, well, there. John Kerry wasn’t bad exactly; there just seemed to be little reason to vote for him beyond “not being George W. Bush”. This, it transpired, wasn’t enough. Even Kerry’s killer argument, that he’d served in Vietnam, while Bush was passed out under a tractor or something, and was thus far better suited to being president at a time of national emergency, ended up being used against. Republican sympathisers who claimed to have served with him attacked his war record every 3 seconds for about six months, and ‘swiftboating’ ended up joining Watergate and McCarthyism in the US political lexicon. Compare that to the present. The Republicans are so consumed with loathing of Obama that they’ve lost sight of the fact it’s not shared by everybody else. All the moderates think they’re frothing at the mouth. The Dems have turned Romney’s business credentials against him, by making it an argument about private equity ethics, rather than state of the economy. And, like Kerry, he’s utterly unable to connect with voters. Plus there’s the plank of wood from Massachusetts thing. Elections don’t follow neat patterns, of course, and there’s still nearly two months to go. Anything could happen, and when we’re watching President Romney sworn in next January this might start feeling a lot more like 1980, or some other election, or like nothing that’s ever happened before. But to me, right now, it feels very 2004. The opposition have over-estimated their instinctive appeal to the voters and underestimated the size of the job ahead. (source: Jonn Elledge – New Statesman, UK – 14/09/2012)


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17 Responses to The 2012 US election is Bush-Kerry in reverse

  1. In the witches’ brew of fearmongering, unkeepable promises and poll-tested metaphors that both parties serve up to the electorate every four years, you can always find this predictable dash of inspiration: the image of Americans uniting and working together for the sake of the country. President Obama said in Charlotte, N.C. that America is “about what can be done by us, together.” In Tampa, Paul Ryan said, “Whatever your political party, let’s come together for the sake of our country.” And Mitt Romney closed his convention speech with three invocations of “That America, that united America.” But America is not united and it is getting less and less unitable with each passing decade. You can see us coming apart in three simple graphs (…..)

  2. Professor Uziel Nogueira says: The Great Divide in American politics is the Siamese twin of the Great Economic Decline. The US economic model faces a huge challenge: how to create decent and well paid jobs for millions of young Americans in the coming decades. While US based enterprises are becoming richer and more profitable for investors, middle class American workers are getting poor. As far as income distribution is concerned, the US today resembles Brazil of yesterday. This raises a fundamental question.

    Can the US political system evolve and adapt to the the new economic reality of the 21st. century?

    Mitt Romney is the LAST GOP candidate to run a political platform that clearly favors the 1% rich members of society. His public blunder on Obama’s voters is proof of that. Even in America, it is difficult to convince the majority to vote against their own interest. Romney will lose the election. Obama and the Democrats have a chance to become the party of the 99%.

    In sum, the great divide in American politics is the result of an exhausted economic system that stopped delivering prosperity for all.

    Democrats and Republicans have two alternatives: either adapt their political platform to the new economic reality or attempt to change the economic system. Perhaps, Germany is a good socio-economic model that deserves attention.

  3. (…..) But set aside the short-term politics for a moment. What does it say about our culture that the people funding presidential campaigns on both sides of the aisle seem to regard their downscale fellow countrymen as a kind of alien race, to be feared and condescended to in equal measure?What does it say that rich Republicans are unable to entertain the possibility that Americans who depend on government programs during the worst recession in generations might have legitimate economic grievances? What does it say that rich Democrats can’t fathom why working class Americans might look askance at an elite that’s presided over a long slow social breakdown and often regards their fundamental religious convictions as obstacles to progress? What does it say that our politicians, in settings where they’re at least pretending to open up and reveal their true perspective, feel comfortable embracing the most self-serving elite stereotypes about ordinary citizens who vote for the other party? Nothing good, I think. The current American story is one of polarization, with the two major parties sealed into their respective ideological bunkers, and stratification, with an elite that’s more isolated from the common life of the country it rules than at any time in recent history. Both the right and left have provocative intellectual takes on how this new world came to be: Charles Murray’s “Coming Apart” and Chris Hayes’s “Twilight of the Elites,” respectively, are this year’s prime examples. But both takes are longer on description than prescription, and neither has much purchase on our politics. However one tells the story, it’s an increasingly unhappy one. Yet on the evidence of what our leaders and would-be leaders say when we’re not supposed to be listening, there’s nobody in either party who cares enough to do anything to change it.

  4. Professor Uziel Nogueira says: After the shock and awe reading Romney’s comments I came to the following conclusion. Romney is the real thing, he is genuine. What he says is exactly what he intends to do if elected president. Namely, to resuscitate the winner takes all economic ideology much in vogue among the American elite since the 80s. Romney’s mistake? to present the old trickle down ideology during the worst economic recession and unemployment in modern times. The economic crisis has changed the US society. He is totally out of touch with the needs and feelings of the working American class, the 99%. He asks for the old entrepreneurship spirit while Americans seek job security in a complex and uncertain global economy.

    However, Mitt Romney still has a shot at the presidency. After all, the US is the only advanced country in the world in which citizens can be convinced to vote against their own interest. Reagan was the first GOP president to do that. Why not Mitt Romney?

  5. (…..) But here’s the question: Should we imagine that Mr. Romney and his party would think better of the 47 percent on learning that the great majority of them actually are or were hard workers, who very much have taken personal responsibility for their lives? And the answer is no (…..) Where does this disdain for workers come from? Some of it, obviously, reflects the influence of money in politics: big-money donors, like the ones Mr. Romney was speaking to when he went off on half the nation, don’t live paycheck to paycheck. But it also reflects the extent to which the G.O.P. has been taken over by an Ayn Rand-type vision of society, in which a handful of heroic businessmen are responsible for all economic good, while the rest of us are just along for the ride. In the eyes of those who share this vision, the wealthy deserve special treatment, and not just in the form of low taxes. They must also receive respect, indeed deference, at all times. That’s why even the slightest hint from the president that the rich might not be all that — that, say, some bankers may have behaved badly, or that even “job creators” depend on government-built infrastructure — elicits frantic cries that Mr. Obama is a socialist. Now, such sentiments aren’t new; “Atlas Shrugged” was, after all, published in 1957. In the past, however, even Republican politicians who privately shared the elite’s contempt for the masses knew enough to keep it to themselves and managed to fake some appreciation for ordinary workers. At this point, however, the party’s contempt for the working class is apparently too complete, too pervasive to hide. The point is that what people are now calling the Boca Moment wasn’t some trivial gaffe. It was a window into the true attitudes of what has become a party of the wealthy, by the wealthy, and for the wealthy, a party that considers the rest of us unworthy of even a pretense of respect.

  6. Professor Uziel Nogueira says: Election 2012 resembles a wining football team that, all of sudden, is losing each game played, What to do? The current DT believes in all of his players while his competitor wants to fire half of the team. According to him “they are a bunch of worthless losers.”

    Which DT will be chosen to rebuilt the team and start wining again?

  7. There are seven days until early voting begins in Iowa, less than two weeks until the first debate and 46 days left in the race for Mitt Romney to change the dynamic of a campaign that by many indicators is tilting against him. That, advisers to President Obama acknowledge, is plenty of time. But the burden rests to a remarkable degree directly on Mr. Romney and his ability to restore confidence to his campaign, become a more nimble candidate and clearly explain to voters why he would be the better choice to repair the economy and lead the nation in addressing its challenges at home and abroad. The state-by-state landscape facing Mr. Romney is more daunting than he expected by this stage in the contest. He anticipated, aides said, to be in a position of strength in at least some of the states that turned Democratic in 2008 for the first time in a generation, but few of them show signs of breaking decisively his way, and Mr. Obama still has more and clearer paths to 270 electoral votes. And as Mr. Romney works to move beyond one of the most turbulent periods of his candidacy, in a week dominated by the disclosure of remarks in which he said that 47 percent of Americans do not pay taxes and see themselves as victims, he is starting to confront criticism from some in his party who worry that his troubles will affect their own races. “The presidential thing is bound to have an impact on every election,” Tommy G. Thompson, the former Wisconsin governor who is the Republican candidate for the Senate there, said in an interview on Wednesday with a Madison television station. “If your standard-bearer for the presidency is not doing well, it’s going to reflect on the down ballot.” While Mr. Romney remains deadlocked with Mr. Obama in most national polls, anxiety among Republicans about the presidential race, the seeming lurching nature of Mr. Romney’s campaign and his own miscues have spread far beyond Washington. Republican strategists across the country said in interviews that their candidates were being asked about Mr. Romney’s remarks, creating an unwelcome potential trap for those in tough races (…..)

  8. Professor Uziel Nogueira says: Romney versus Obama 2012 is beginning to resemble some Super Bowl games. Fiercely fought in the first two quarters, ending in a disastrous rout at the end. Team Romney is beginning to lose momentum in the second quarter.

  9. Mitt Romney has a miraculous secret plan to fix immigration for good. It is miraculous because it somehow doesn’t involve deportation, even though 11 million people are living in the United States outside the law, and also because it will permanently solve a problem that has defied solution for two and a half decades. It is secret because Mr. Romney won’t tell us what it is. I long ago gave up trying to figure out what Mr. Romney means or believes when he moves his mouth about immigration. But at a forum in Miami on Wednesday night sponsored by Univision, the hosts, Jorge Ramos and Maria Elena Salinas, did their very best to get clear answers out of him. They failed. They asked Mr. Romney repeatedly what he would do about the 1.7 million so-called Dreamers, immigrant students who would gain legalization under the Dream Act — a bill that has not passed Congress and that Mr. Romney has promised to veto. Would he repeal Mr. Obama’s decision to halt their deportations? And what about the rest of the undocumented population? Mr. Romney would not answer — not in any way that made sense. Here are excerpts of the exchange. (The questions were asked in Spanish and are translated here. Mr. Romney, of course, spoke in English.) (…..)

  10. Professor Uziel Nogueira says: By now, Mitt Romney MUST be thinking: No one told me that I had to pretend to know so many complicated things, such as what to do with millions of Mexicans living illegally in the US! and to think that is the easy part, Romy. The game is just beginning…

  11. In his influential daily e-mail The Transom, which was excerpted yesterday on RealClearPolitics, Ben Domenech took note of the disagreements that have opened up between conservative pundits amid Romney’s post-convention difficulties: For the past several weeks, Mitt Romney has been surrounded by critics from the DC-Manhattan elite who’ve denounced him for a lackluster, unfocused campaign, teeing off on Team Romney in the wake of the 47 percent comments for a number of issues—but mostly, in my read, from failing to take their advice. Romney’s defenders, meanwhile, have been many of the same individuals who spent the primary season torching him in effigy as the encapsulation of everything they hate about the Republican ruling class. For months the elites bashed the base for failing to suck it up and see the big picture, to line up for Romney and come on in for the big win. But they got their wish! The Tea Party—once again proving its pragmatism once the general election season rolls around—lined up in the immediate aftermath of the Paul Ryan pick and has proven they can grow up. … Why is this happening? A number of reasons, but chief among them that the Tea Party just wants to beat Obama—they understand that as a necessary first step before continuing any of their internal battles on policy grounds. In contrast, while most insiders want to win, they value the importance of winning on their own terms. The Tea Party could be freaking out about any number of things from Romney … Heck, his re-endorsement of Romneycare in the past few weeks barely got a peep … They’ve largely sucked it up, making peace with the idea that they’ll have to keep him honest if he gets to the White House. But consider the criticism from those center-right elites over Romney’s failure to mention Afghanistan in his convention speech. Those who long for Bush III, dissatisfied with rise of a more libertarian base, took Romney for the block in the primary. Now it’s become evident that Romney isn’t running to be Bush III in most policy arenas—he has his own class of insiders, his own establishment, many of whom are his friends and colleagues from business, not from politics. The gripes from Bush-era foreign policy types is also an indication of how much they prioritize those issues over Romney’s own bias toward domestic policy fixes—his failure to mount a defense of the Freedom Agenda is a cause of significant frustration from those still fighting the last wars. There’s a bit of the spurned sweetheart effect here, too—the insider class and the opinion leaders view Romney as owing them to some extent for their willingness to line up quickly to pronounce Rick Perry unacceptable—but it’s now clear their support for Romney is mostly unrequited … (…..)

  12. Professor Uziel Nogueira says: Ross, reading your recent articles on the 2012 Pres election. Am I wrong or did the Romney campaign ALREADY reach a ‘Hail Mary’ moment?

  13. (…..) In a memo released Friday, David Axelrod, an Obama adviser, said, “Just as he was in the primaries, we expect Mitt Romney to be a prepared, disciplined and aggressive debater.” But, as is its wont, the Romney campaign overdid it. It released a memo Thursday hailing Obama as “a universally acclaimed public speaker” with “natural gifts and extensive seasoning” who “is widely regarded as one of the most talented political communicators in modern history.” All the calibrating of expectations aside, something dramatic must happen in the debates, or over the next few weeks, to alter the course of the race, and it must satisfy three criteria: it must be major, new and digestible. It can’t be subtle policy difference. It can’t be a rehash of a known negative. And it can’t be ambiguous. If you are a die-hard partisan, your support is unlikely to change. For instance, if you believe in the sovereignty of a person’s body — to make individual health care choices and have freedom in love and marriage — nothing would likely make you vote Republican. Conversely, if you believe that life begins at conception and every abortion is the murder of an innocent defenseless child, it is hard for you to vote Democratic. But if you are one of the people in the mushy middle, one of the undecided or switchable, you need a clear mind-changer or confidence-builder. I don’t think Romney can deliver this. He’s a profoundly clumsy campaigner. A Politico article on Friday about Romney’s problems contained this damning quote: “Lousy candidate; highly qualified to be president,” said a top Romney official. “The candidate suit fits him unnaturally. He is naturally an executive.” In fact, the more Romney talks, the more damage he does to himself. Romney’s only hope is that Obama slips up, makes a gaffe or some never-before known fact emerges that speaks negatively of the president’s character. All things are possible, but that scenario is becoming increasingly unlikely. If Obama doesn’t slip up, the next 40 days or so will be one long, dark night for Mitt Romney.

  14. Professor Uziel Nogueira says: Mitt Romney will lose the election, perhaps by a landslide. However, he is guaranteed to occupy a SPECIAL place in American politics.

    Romney is the first GOP candidate to LOSE an election for telling the TRUTH.

    That is, saying publicly that he gave up on convincing half of the electorate to vote for him. When this is over, Romney will certainly be remembered by friends and foes, particularly by Fox News.

  15. I am a corporate chief executive. I am a business owner. I am a private-equity fund manager. I am the misunderstood superhero of American capitalism, single-handedly creating wealth and prosperity despite all the obstacles put in my way by employees, government and the media. I am a job creator and I am entitled. I am entitled to complain about the economy even when my stock price, my portfolio and my profits are at record levels. I am entitled to a healthy and well-educated workforce, a modern and efficient transportation system and protection for my person and property, just as I am entitled to demonize the government workers who provide them. I am entitled to complain bitterly about taxes that are always too high, even when they are at record lows. I am entitled to a judicial system that efficiently enforces contracts and legal obligations on customers, suppliers and employees but does not afford them the same right in return. I am entitled to complain about the poor quality of service provided by government agencies even as I leave my own customers on hold for 35 minutes while repeatedly telling them how important their call is. I am entitled to a compensation package that is above average for my company’s size and industry, reflecting the company’s aspirations if not its performance (…..)

  16. As the Obama administration has cracked down on corporate fraud, lawyers representing whistle-blowers have reaped multimillion-dollar rewards. Now, as they seek to sustain these historic payouts, they are serving as generous donors to the president’s re-election campaign. Lawyers in the tight circle who specialize in filing fraud claims with the federal government on behalf of clients with evidence of wrongdoing have raised more than $3 million so far for President Obama. The administration, meanwhile, has paid out $1.6 billion to whistle-blowers during his tenure, with law firms taking a cut in some cases of up to 40 percent of the proceeds. The lawyers have contributed directly to Mr. Obama’s campaign, served as “bundlers” who solicit contributions from others, donated to the Democratic National Committee and written large checks to Priorities USA, the “super PAC” supporting Mr. Obama’s re-election efforts. They have also donated heavily to Congressional Democrats. Their support comes as Mitt Romney, the Republican presidential nominee, has called for repeal of the Dodd-Frank Act, which imposed new oversight of the financial services industry and expanded the government’s whistle-blower program to the Securities and Exchange Commission, which has set aside $430 million for payouts. Business groups have also pushed for legislation imposing a cap on payments to whistle-blowers, arguing that rewards reaching as high as $104 million, as happened in one case, have turned anti-fraud efforts into a lottery. “The risks are enormous there will be real pullback because of pressure from the industry that has paid billions in penalties,” said John R. Phillips, one of the nation’s top whistle-blower lawyers, who has raised more than $200,000 for Mr. Obama’s re-election from colleagues, after first working in 2008 to help Mr. Obama get elected. The fund-raising is already a flash point in Washington, where lawmakers have been divided along partisan lines over the administration’s efforts to regulate the financial industry and the political parties have long been at odds over trial lawyers and class-action suits. On the campaign trail, Mr. Romney has cast himself and fellow Republicans as champions of business and the president and Democrats as hostile to business interests (…..)

  17. Professor Uziel Nogueira says: “Still, the ranks of lawyers seeking to represent whistle-blowers has grown quickly in the last several years, as the value of the awards has skyrocketed. Lawyers at dozens of these law firms nationwide have contributed to Mr. Obama, campaign finance records show, while only a sprinkling of checks have been written from employees at the same firms to Mr. Romney.” says the NYT. No reason to be alarmed or upset about it. It is not class warfare waged though lawyers. It is income redistribution Obama style 2012.


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