On all fronts there are efforts to energize the Obama converts who have lost a little faith, or a lot, over the past three years. Despite the oft-repeated fact that no sitting president since Roosevelt has been re-elected with unemployment over 7.4 percent, it's also true that incumbents retain a huge advantage and that Obama's presidency has been unique from the day a black man won the election.
From now until next November his candidacy will be like a fragile patient who must be checked on every day. Or in the case of modern media, every hour. Bombarded by polls, statistics, and punditry, the forest is disappearing behind so many trees. But perhaps some major trends can be spotted, and when they are, a voter can decide which trend to back.
Reason vs. Unreason: This is the major contest, leaving all policy details aside. The New York Times pointed out that the various Republican hopefuls were outdoing themselves in extremism, making claims and charges against Obama "that would be laughable if they were not an insult to intelligence and the president." One can make light of seeing one right-winger after another bob up to challenge Romney's all but certain nomination. As one late-night comic said, "How many more clowns do you have in that car?" It has been a circus of irrationality.
Unreason tells a host of fabrications as part of its twisted narrative. There's the deportation of all illegals, for example, which has no chance of ever happening. But even the moderate alternative (moderate in this surreal landscape, that is) of Mitt Romney goes further into irrationality. Whether he means it or not, Romney vows to allow states to make abortion illegal, to lower taxes for the rich even further, to double the size of Guantanamo, reinstate torture, and gut both Obamacare and financial regulations.
Each voter must decide which trend to support. Even if, as suspected, Romney reverts to being a Massachusetts moderate Republican, he will have to contend with the ultra-ideologues in the House and Senate. There is a widespread shrug of the shoulders among many Democrats, taking the attitude that "Romney wouldn't be so bad." But this in essence is a silent vote for unreason and a kick in the teeth to President Obama and his complete loyalty to reasoned policies.
Futurism vs. Reaction: Obama has made clear that the best way out of the current stubborn recession is by envisioning a productive future; thus his policies on the environment, infrastructure, and alternative energy. The Republican candidates, to a man, hit the drumbeat of restoring America to its past greatness. They are trying to parrot Reagan's optimism, but in effect they are preaching the erasure of every progressive reform won over the past three years.
Globalism vs. Nationalism: The Republicans, having promoted two egregious, expensive wars over the past decade, have now retreated into isolationism and America first. They are hostile to globalism, a form of blindness that will undermine our future and every other country's as well. As difficult as the challenges are from China and Islamic extremism, Obama sees that partnership with China is inevitable and that terrorism can be dealt with absent a massive standing army.
Science vs. Prejudice: A host of issues, from stem cell research to global warming, finds the right wing playing the part of the ostrich with its head in the sand, pandering instead to religious dictates and assorted faith-based myths. There is an utter absence of respect for the facts, and even topics that should be settled, such as the right of privacy when it comes to sex acts and birth control, are insidiously attacked. Obama restored the government's position to one of respect for data and research in many areas; that needs to be upheld.
Tolerance vs. Intolerance: A democracy is upheld through mutual toleration. This includes tolerating people who are in favor of intolerance. Through thirty years of reactionary conditioning, we've allowed basic values to deteriorate. It's tragic that the very word "values" has been coopted by the most intolerant sector of society, but ever since Nixon's Southern strategy, the once admired Republican Party has decayed into a tent under which not just traditional conservatives but gun nuts, racists, religious fundamentalists, and the like find shelter. Obama has had only three years to try and counter such toxic conditioning; it will take more.
These major trends are worth mentioning in order to clear our vision. I join millions of others mourning the fact that Obama hasn't been able to pass the best kind of health care reform, that he lost several major battles on the Hill, and that the Republican minority in the Senate, using the threat of filibuster, has successfully opposed nominees for important offices, not to mention up to 80 percent of proposed legislation supported by the majority. Democracy is being sold down the river; partisan paralysis has become an incurable condition.
But none of that should be our excuse for losing heart, much less turning our backs on the upcoming election. Trends are unmistakable, and every vote is a voice saying yes to one side of the trend and no to the other.