Is it 2012 already? I thought it felt a little vitriolic in here.
It is indeed 2012, and the election for the presidency of the United States looms on the horizon. The stage is set. Little-hope and little change versus fed-up and cantankerous. Let the games begin.
While the presidential election of 2012 cannot hope to promise the cheap sentiment and vaudeville of 2008, that is not to say that this election cycle will want for drama. A lot is at stake. Many are upset, and few are hopeful.
Will Americans give President Barack Obama another four years to see his policies to fruition just as results start to show, or will they cut their losses and throw in with the other crowd before it’s too late?
At the moment, it is impossible to say. But then, that in itself speaks volumes.
What ever happened to the astronomical approval ratings? The glorious oratory? The voice of hope and change? The promise of bringing sensibility back to the presidency and hoisting Washington out of the dark ages? When did Obama’s reelection go from inevitability to tossup?
Perhaps this was not the change he had hoped for.
The real question is: Does Obama stand a realistic chance of losing the presidency in 2012?
He certainly has a tough fight. The president has numerous disadvantages now that he didn’t in 2008. For one, his candidacy is no longer a historic one. Drama and theatrics aside, he cannot depend on the lucrative youth voter turnout he enjoyed four years ago, when a vote for Obama was effectively a vote against the establishment. (Those were the days, weren’t they?) Those days are gone now. Like it or not, he is a part of that establishment now.
Of course, that is an advantage in and of itself. Now that he’s run the country for four solid years, he can no longer be attacked for lack of experience. It is still true that each remaining Republican candidate has more years in government than he; some by decades. But that is irrelevant. Only one knows exactly, through experience, what it means to be president.
Though Republican discontent is high, few are satisfied with the current selection of candidates. Mitt Romney is wooden, lofty and amorphous. Newt Gingrich can’t seem to decide whether to be an independent, stalwart pragmatist or mean-spirited blowhard. Ron Paul is on the right track, but has a nasty habit of taking everything one tiny yet crucial step too far. And Rick Santorum,plain and simple, just isn’t perfect enough.
Competent and electable Republicans like Chris Christie, Marco Rubio, Mitch Daniels and Bobby Jindal are conspicuously absent. Instead, we’ve gotten raving ideologues like Michelle Bachmann and Rick Santorum. And let’s not forget the bizarre spectacle of the Herman Cain candidacy.
None of this is out of the ordinary. This is the simple nature of elections involving incumbent presidents. Statistically, the odds of unseating a sitting president are slim (only two of the last seven have managed to do so).
As such, shrewder candidates tend to bide their time for a more level playing field. This is especially true of younger party personalities like Paul Ryan or 2008’s Senator Obama, who have little interest in crippling promising political careers with early defeat.
The question is: is Barack Obama beatable? Judging from his performance at the State of the Union, this election season may be a little wanting on the “hope” front.
While the address may have been reassuring to those who support him, to his opponents, and to the growing number of ‘unsures,’ it failed to inspire. It failed because, no matter what small successes his administration has seen, no matter what grand plans he has yet in store, 13 million Americans remain jobless. Rhetoric, even as strong as Obama’s, will not convince the unemployed to whistle a happy tune in spite of it all.
It is important to keep in mind that, in delivering his State of the Union, the president was stuck between a rock and a hard place. He knows that he stands little chance of losing Democratic votes to someone like Newt Gingrich, or even Mitt Romney.
It is only natural that he would use this address to reach out to conservatives (hint, the plentiful praise of the military) and independents. Some of this fell flat, or at least on deaf ears (the dramatic coughing fit at the mention of gays in the armed forces?).
The economy was, as usual, the dominating aspect of the State of the Union address. The president touted some of his financial accomplishments—job creation, ending the Iraq war, etc—and promised further action. While it is dubious to claim that all of these wonderful things are solely indebted to the actions of the administration, he can give himself a fair amount of credit. Crisis has been averted, and things appear to be (very gradually) getting better.
This is all well and good, but few have the patience for optimism in this day and age. Private sector employment is indeed on the rise, but it will be a long time before the numbers reach anything like what they were before the recession.
Obama’s plans for future legislative goals are amusing, but unlikely to pass. As long as Republicans maintain control of the House of Representatives, we can expect all but the most basic of these proposals to dwindle away in the Capitol Hill ether.
The race will truly become interesting once the GOP decides on a nominee and the focus shifts from securing the support of the party to support of the country. At present, Independents gravitate toward the Republican camp. Independents will often side with the opposition in the run-up to an election. The battle to win their hearts will ultimately rely one one question: who can be trusted to deliver the jobs we all so desperately need?
The hope has run dry—is change the only option?