Call him lucky, call him smart, call him a consummate pol but whatever noun you choose to define him with, the potential for the current White House incumbent to face an opponent with broad appeal to the opposition party has not emerged and, with only 30 days left for someone to surface, the prospects for one appear dwindles. Mitch McConnell’s much ballyhooed statement that Job No. 1 for the GOP is to relegate President Obama to a single term – and the strategy that the Republicans have employed to achieve that goal – may nearly guarantee a second shot for Obama.
Indeed, it may even be too late for any dark horse GOP candidate to appear, given the incredible work of putting a nationwide campaign together: a 50-state staff, gobs of cash, and the need for a clearly defined set of planks on which to build viable campaign.
There are important signs - not the least of which is this current incredible national pushback at Wall St., the banksters and the richest 1% of Americans, whom the GOP leadership call “job creators,” (the folks who are enjoying the fruits of 30 years of business deregulation and unneeded tax breaks) - that a new grassroots movement may be emerging at precisely the right time. Indeed this may give definition to a movement which will appeal to conservative commoners as well as to Democrats across their own spectrum of opinions.
The current GOP lineup: a circular firing squad?
The biggest mistake the GOP national leadership made in the last three years was lining up with the Tea Party types. Yes, it got them the House back, the cost was certainly considerably higher than the return. Yet, not one of the bills initiated in the Boehner/Cantor House of Representatives has gotten anywhere other than to demonstrate the Republican Party’s willingness to fresh lower and middle class meat to the financial wolves. Moreover, the strategy has led to an explosion of goofball personalities who seek the nomination. Like roman candles, they have each all burned brightly for a while and then fizzled when they either opened their mouths too wide or when scandalous factoids, surfaced which exposed clay feet. And the factoids themselves seem to emanate from within the GOP itself.
It isn’t necessary to go into detail, other to note that current polling show the frontrunner for the GOP nomination, Mitt Romney, commands just 25% of Republican voters nationwide, which could rise a bit with Christie’s final-final-final exit from any run for the presidency. And, to make matters worse, Romney’s voters are soft in their enthusiasm; which explains the now-expired love affair with Chris Christie. It isn’t exactly “anybody but Romney” but to this writer, it shows that the party is not coalescing at a time when the Republican primaries should be all but decided. (Palin’s declaration to not run was not even worth the airtime. She was never serious about running to begin with. This writer has been saying for three years that she’s just cashing in on her notoriety. Her 15 minutes has come and gone, but Sister Sarah certainly made good use of it!)
Romney will carry the GOP banner
Christie wisely chose not to run for the presidency. Like every one of the current GOP hopefuls, he carries a lot of baggage, in addition to his weight, which he simply didn’t want to deal with. And so, Romney, with his 25%, looks to be the nominee.
The irony of Romney, of course, is his flip-flopping on a range of issues near and dear to the hearts of the tea party mob: abortion (he was “pro-choice” as a candidate for the senate. Now he’s “pro-life”); health care, the role of government ("Corporations are people, too, my friend!"). In all the key issues by which Republicans define themselves, Romney has staked out more or less liberal positions as both a candidate for the senate and as governor of Massachusetts. He is viewed with more than a little suspicion by the true believers on the right and by what few moderates are left in the GOP. Mr. Romney is caught in the big squeeze because with the Republican Party, there is not such thing a staking out a centrist position.
The Progressives recovering their mojo?
The amorphous eruption of disgust for Wall St. and the banksters which has shown up on news shows and the front pages may be a sign of a coalescing of opinion of a much broader base of voters than anyone could have predicted just a few weeks ago. When 20,000 New Yorkers gather to register their disgust for the corporate takeover of government and the three decade takedown of the middle class while just 1 or 2 percent of the population have enjoyed spectacular increases in net wealth, Democratic politicians will have to pay attention. Moreover, in other cities – Los Angeles, San Francisco, Chicago – similar demonstrations are going on. (There is new one today in my home turf of
Portland, OR!) The whole phenomenon is on the verge of becoming a pure movement for reform. Nobel Prize laureates like economist Joe Stieglitz and Paul Krugman have publicly joined in the marches, giving this ongoing event real legitimacy. The timing couldn’t be better for Democrats as we head into the campaign season. This groundswell could morph into a real movement for tax, finance and banking reform.
Despite the role and influence of money in the politics of both parties, it remains for Democratic politicians – including the President - to catch the wave rather than to sit out beyond the surf line, as they have been doing for the last three years. The President’s newfound populism in his current campaign to get his jobs bill passed may also signal that the Democrats finally may be willing to fight for their traditional values. The president will certainly remind voters how GOP obstructionism has kept him from achieving more than he has. It is time for him to be more like Harry Truman than as a college professor who talks about non-existent bipartisanship.
It is going to be a real catfight over some very basic issues. There is no question that Big Business and great wealth have achieved a level of governmental control unheard of since before Franklin Roosevelt, and this election will decide where we want to go as a nation, in terms of how we conduct ourselves. It remains for the voter to decide for himself whether 30 years of Republican stewardship have benefitted the country or hurt it.