I have written, read and listened to others who have said our presidential election of 2012 may be the defining election of our nation in the 21st century. Each day and week that passes we are provided with a glimpse of the potential magnitude of just how "defining" the challenge to President Obama's re-election will be.
This presidential election is re-opening and re-examining fundamental questions about the role of government under the Constitution and the Bill of Rights. It is revisiting and re-asserting the political proposition that the best government is the least government. A companion theme is also that a government to be celebrated is one that assures that every citizen has the right, almost an implied duty under the 2nd Amendment, to maintain a gun in their home or to "stand their ground" with a gun if they feel threatened outside their home.
The centuries-old religious precept of we are all our brothers' keeper has been become suspect and obsolete. A new alliteration of the doctrine of Ayn Rand social Darwinism of the survival of the fittest and the strongest is being advocated and celebrated.
Get rid of or substantially role back Social Security and Medicare in favor of vouchers and coupons for the use of senior citizens. Dismantle or financially starve our public education system, since to maintain it cost too much money. Although constituting only 5% of the world's population, create and maintain an "incarcerated state" of persons behind bars, constituting almost 25% of the total of those imprisoned in various countries in the world.
The principal components of the Romney campaign theme to defeat President Obama's re-election have now emerged in our national political landscape. They are that:
The Republican presidential campaign seeks to tap into and exploit the electorate's anxiety, uncertainty, and disappointment voters have experienced during the past four years. President Obama's focus on tax fairness with the proposed Buffet Rule requiring the wealthiest taxpayers to pay at least 30 percent of their income in federal taxes, raising some $47 billion toward reducing the deficit over 10 years is not sufficiently responsive to this electorate anxiety.
An editorial in the New York Times Sunday Review on April 15 summed up the challenges in our domestic economy and suggestions that President Obama should consider as he seeks reelection, while acknowledging likely Congressional Republican opposition:
"As for the broader economy, the Congressional Budget Office analyzed 13 policies last year for their potential impact on economic growth and job creation in 2012 and 2013. The option of a business tax cut along the lines of the Cantor bill ranked next to last in bang for the buck. More effective options include fiscal aid to states and increased safety net spending, which create jobs by bolstering consumer demand -- and which Republicans fiercely oppose.
Another immediate step Congress could take to create demand and jobs would be for House Republicans to drop their objections and reauthorize the highway bill, at least for two years, as the Senate has done. That would help private-sector contractors and suppliers, as well as government workers, boosting local businesses in areas where jobs are created. Extending the research and development tax credit would also help some businesses, but Senate Republicans have blocked that."
Underlying the Romney challenge is the question that every incumbent faces: Is the electorate better off today than they were four years ago?
A recitation by the White House of an objective record of President Obama's accomplishments during his first term does not effectively answer that question, unless the majority of the people who vote this time, actually feel they are better off. Or, in the alternative, such voters have a clear unambiguous understanding as to what steps congressional Republicans have taken to prevent the implementation of programs by the president that, had they been enacted, would have enabled them to, in fact, feel better than they did four years ago.
Voters need to be reminded of exactly what did the Republicans do to facilitate or block President Obama's efforts to address their issues of jobs, housing, mortgage payments, monthly costs of health care, concern about aging parents, high gasoline prices, deteriorating educational facilities, public safety and reducing the cost of our military involvement around the world?
The landscape of the forthcoming 2012 presidential election is formidable and treacherous for President Obama. Among other things, it consists of:
1. Romney, his wife, and family being stronger media opponents than Senator John McCain and Sarah Palin, (even though, as of this blog, we don't know who Romney will pick as his VP); and
2. The effect of the Citizens United Supreme Court decision that will enable a 24/7 campaign of negative advertising against Obama equivalent to the Allies bombing of Dresden Germany in World War II;
3. A national political environment of greater racial polarization during a presidential campaign than at any time in recent memory since possibly the presidential campaigns of Richard Nixon or Abraham Lincoln's re-election in 1864 during our Civil War. The fallout from the Trayvon Martin case, particularly the scurrilous and venomous tweets and emails sent especially to African-American media persons reporting and commenting about the case;
4. By the efforts of the political Right to use Romney's candidacy as the last great "white white hope" opportunity or vehicle to defeat Obama at all costs. Republican Congressional and Tea Party leadership said repeatedly that their single most important domestic objective was to prevent President Obama from exercising his elected presidential power. The Secret Service reported 400-fold increase in the threats against the president during his term is office is only another index of the magnitude of potentially actionable right wing hostility toward Obama;
5. A possible Israeli preemptive military action against Iran and our logistical or other direct involvement, risk inflaming divisions among significant segments of Obama's voting base, causing some potential Obama voters to possibly sit on their hands, stay at home and not vote;
6. A significant part of the electorate, (how significant remains to be seen) exemplified by the Occupy Wall Street movement, who believe that both the Democratic (including the Obama administration) and the Republican parties are responsible or at least complicit in fostering policies that have severely and disproportionately resulted in income inequality;
7. The uncertainty surrounding the political consequences on the electorate if the United States Supreme Court in June or later before election day declares all or part the Obama health care bill unconstitutional.
When the election contest becomes more contentious, and it will, the issue of the ratio of percentage of taxes needed to raise revenues to the amount of spending cuts, especially the amount that the public debt that should be reduced is likely to become the center piece of the Presidential election. The National Commission on Fiscal Responsibility and Reform, (aka the Bowles-Simpson deficit-reduction plan) may ultimately prove to be the best resolution of this issue.
While political courage and will is required determine what ratio of revenues to spending reduction is appropriate, at the end of the day, this is not fundamentally a political issue. It is primarily a question of mathematics, after political courage and realism has been exercised to explain to the electorate that we can no longer postpone reducing the rising costs of Medicare, Medicaid or afford the lost revenues from various tax subsidies and the monthly cost of our continued presence in Afghanistan.
It may be that President Obama's efforts to focus national attention on preventing the cost of student loans from increasing as a result of a doubling of interest rates on the loans and his recent appearance on the Late Night With Jimmy Fallon TV show will reinvigorate young people to support his re-election. It is too soon to know.
Ironically, the 2012 presidential election should be a positive defining election in the American experience. Potentially, it could be a proud moment of reflection of the best of our nation's core values as enshrined in our Declaration of Independence and Bill of Rights to our Constitution:
An election contest between an African-American president of humble origins and a Mormon man of privilege, both deeply committed to their respective religious beliefs.
Obama and Romney must both confront the potential consequences of the "dreams deferred" by many voters today.
On November 6th, 2012 the election results will answer that question poetically presented many years ago by the African-American writer Langston Hughes who asked:
"What happens to a dream deferred? Does it dry up like a raisin in the sun? Or fester like a sore -- And then run?"