Pages Menu
Categories Menu

Posted by on Sep 24, 2012 in 2012 Elections, Economy, Politics, Society, USA Presidential Election 2012 | 2 comments

Can This Election Settle Anything?

WASHINGTON — The most important issue in the 2012 campaign barely gets discussed: How will we govern ourselves after the election is over?

Elections are supposed to decide things. The voters render a verdict on what direction they want the country to take and set the framework within which both parties work.

President Obama’s time in office, however, has given rise to a new approach. Republicans decided to do all they could to make the president unsuccessful. Their not-so-subliminal message has been: We will make the country ungovernable unless you hand us every bit of legislative, executive and judicial power so we can do what we want.

Judging by the current polls, this approach hasn’t worked. Mitt Romney is suffering not only from his own mistakes but also because a fundamentally moderate country has come to realize that today’s GOP is far more extreme than Republicans were in the past. Romney’s makers-not-takers 47 percent remarks made clear that the current GOP worldview is more Ayn Rand than Adam Smith, more Rush Limbaugh than Bill Buckley, more Rick Perry than Abe Lincoln.

Yet can one election turn the country around and make Washington work again?

Let’s start by saying that if the election takes an abrupt turn and Romney wins, he would probably get a Republican House and Senate. Then the country would get the GOP Full Monty, a complete dose of what it has to offer.

Somewhat more possible, given the current polls, is unified Democratic government. If Obama winds up with something like 53 percent of the popular vote or more, the Democrats have a real chance of winning both House and Senate majorities.

But what if the current conventional wisdom is right in foreseeing an Obama win coupled with continued, narrow Democratic control of the Senate and a House Republican majority depleted but still in charge? Will Republicans give up on obstruction and the reckless use of the filibuster? Will they be open to compromise on the budget?

This depends partly on a debate already going on inside the Republican Party and the conservative movement about why Romney is losing. It’s a precursor to what would be the post-election “why Romney lost” lollapalooza.

The right-wing contention is simple: Romney was a lousy candidate, a closet moderate who didn’t offer the detailed conservative program in all its splendor and who “muzzled” Paul Ryan, an idea some Ryan partisans are leaking. If this side wins, the GOP will stick with obstruction and wait for the next election.

But Romney’s 47 percent remarks finally unshackled the more moderate conservatives who know how destructive the Ayn Rand/tea party approach to politics has been. Some are talking about a Republican organization, similar to the old Democratic Leadership Council, to pull the party closer to the center.

This debate is important, but the more moderate view is unlikely to get any serious foothold among House Republicans and has only limited reach in the Senate GOP. That’s why the future of governance hangs largely on how Obama chooses to run the rest of his campaign.

Brand Obama has always been resistant to partisanship. Yet the president’s current case against Romney is really a case against the entire right-wing approach. Obama’s ability to govern in a second term thus depends not simply on his own triumph but also on the decisive defeat of those who have been obstructing him. If he wins but they win, is there much chance that the obstruction will stop?

Obama’s aides have been telling congressional Democrats that if he earns re-election by defending tax increases on the wealthy, the current structure of the Medicare program and investments in education, job training and infrastructure, he will have a mandate for a sensible compromise in future budget talks. And these arguments do dovetail with Democratic Senate and House campaigns.

But most Republicans in the House and Senate, given their current views, are unlikely to accept any claim of a mandate, especially since, if things don’t change soon, it will be easy for them to blame a Romney defeat on Romney himself.

If Obama wants to do more than survive, he has to fight a bigger and broader campaign that targets not only Romney but also a GOP congressional apparatus that has moved the party far to the right. And, paradoxically, Republicans who want to bring their party to a more sensible place have as much of an interest as do down-ballot Democrats in the president choosing this course. It will take real toughness to produce more peaceable politics.

E.J. Dionne’s email address is [email protected] (c) 2012, Washington Post Writers Group

Click here for reuse options!
Copyright 2012 The Moderate Voice
  • epiphyte

    Here’s my prediction; regardless of which party prevails, the post-election lame-duck session will be heralded by pundits of all flavors as a triumph of the moderate voice of reason over the partisan childishnes of the left and right wing. It will also effect policies which will further impoverish just about anyone who relies on earned income for their livelihood, to the benefit of those with significant capital.

    The most important factor will be not only ignored, but actively suppressed. It is this; the only policies that congressional partisan ideologues ever agree upon are those that their common patrons seek to advance. Do not mistake this for moderation, it is not. Rather, it is corruption, pure and simple.

    The Wizard of Id was right; the golden rule is: “He that has the gold, makes the rules.”

  • slamfu

    “Yet can one election turn the country around and make Washington work again?”

    Lol no. Not even if one party gets both the Oval Office and a Super Majority in Congress. Life’s just more complicated than that. The elections are just one step on the road to getting things fixed. I don’t think either party getting to rubberstamp its entire agenda fixes things, as neither party has all the answers. I feel what applies to physics applies to politics. All the good stuff happens at the interface of opposing forces, and despite the gridlock we have seen, there is a way of having two parties conflict, compromise, and actually move this nation forward, if they start acting like adults again.

Twitter Auto Publish Powered By :