“Are you better off than you were four years ago?” Why that doesn’t matter in the 2012 Election.

One would be hard-pressed to find an American that did not have a difficult time the last four years. America has suffered the worst economic collapse since the 1930’s. Understandably, Mitt Romney, Paul Ryan, and the Republicans want to hold President Obama accountable for the last four years. They are driving the point home by using an old line. It was October 28, 1980, when Ronald Regan recycled Franklin Roosevelt’s question “Are you better off now than you were four years ago?” Normally, a politician can get some traction with this question. Particularly if the past four years weren’t good ones. However, this time it is not relevant and this is why. Nothing is the same now as it was four years ago, and if trends continue we may hardly recognize what comes next in the years leading to 2016.

Economic problems are structural not cyclical.

It would be one thing if the current economic problems were a cyclical bump in the road. That is not the case, what America is experiencing is growing pains from a structural change driven by automation and constantly updating technology. This is a blessing for cost control and efficiency, yet from the employment side it is a curse. What are the employment options for folks who have a lower skill level, now that there is so much competition for coveted positions left in this shrinking job pool? In addition, though it is a good thing to think in ways that create a more environmentally sustainable future, this also causes economic growing pains. For generations, families have built their lives around the coalmines or the oil fields. The choice to move away from fossil fuels is a correct one, however leaders and policy makers need to consider those who are left behind by this fundamental change in how we look at Energy Policy and how that interacts with Labor Policy. These are but a few of the many complex challenges the US Economy faces. Not only domestic pressures, perhaps even more powerful, are the tremendous changes taking place outside of US borders and therefore outside of the President’s direct influence.

The world is not the same.

The world has gone through mind-blowing changes over the past four years. The tumultuous birth of Democracy in the Middle East and North Africa by way of the Arab Spring is one example. This opens up a completely new set of complex and delicate issues to maneuver going forward. Things will not go back to the way they were before. The old answers are irrelevant. In addition, the economic situation with the European Union and its members who are reshaping the relationships they have with one another. This has little in common with the way it was even fifteen years before. The past four years were incredibly tumultuous, creating many unknowns that will need answers.  Can the European Union be successful without sharing political power in order to set consistent  Economic policy? Will the European Union survive the recent economic crisis? The solutions the EU come up with will  impact the United States although the President will have limited, if any control over what happens. Again, this is a minute glimpse of the many issues happening all over the globe. The next President will need to be capable of deftly maneuvering through the historically critical window for as long as it is open during the next four years. This could set the tone in US foreign relations for the next century.

There is no turning back.

The greatest concern about the direction the Conservatives in the Republican Party are taking is that it seems to be going backward. Hearing many Conservatives speak, one wonders if they are in some sort of time machine stuck in 1950’s perhaps in some episode of Mad Men? The warrants that the party operates on seem to be from a bygone era that is no longer true. It is just not like that anymore. The minorities are becoming the majority. Poverty is due to many complex variables not just because people aren’t trying hard enough. Things like pensions, a living wage, and the ability to own a home, which give stability to the middle-class that is the backbone of the American culture and economy. Women’s issues are not just issues for women. Equal pay, affordable early childhood education, food security, and the ability for a woman to decide when and how many children she feels capable to care for are all issues that influence the society as a whole. Thinking in the past in ways that women are not the breadwinners for their homes and other such lost in the ‘50s delusions driving policy is not relevant in 2012 and beyond. The looming possibility of multiple Supreme Court appointments happening in this term add higher stakes to the polices of the candidates. It’s  important to pay attention to those who influence each man, especially those who don’t want to fight once more the vicious fight for women’s personal rights.

Voters will decide.

The “Are you better off than you were four years ago?” question may have worked before. However, we are not in the same world that we were in four years ago. We are not in the 1950’s. America needs to choose the candidate who acknowledges these changes and is able to navigate them. It is difficult for me to be confident in the Romney campaign because the Romney/Ryan Republicans are so intent on living in the past when directing us into the future is so important.  I have much more confidence from seeing Barack Obama’s performance thus far,  that he is the best choice to lead us through the next four years successfully. My confidence about the President’s future success would certainly increase if the Republicans lose big in the local and Congressional races.

Advertisements

Santorum rivals Romney in Iowa. Does it matter?

While experts sift through the results of last night’s completely over-analyzed Iowa caucus. Rick Santorum with a well-timed bump in popularity rivals Mitt Romney for first place in the first Republican contest to select their candidate. This caucus is an encapsulation of the Republican schizophrenia that is prevalent today. The establishment that wants a candidate who is not controversial . Someone who appeals to sensible middle-of-the-road folks that want to send someone competent and steady to the White House –without surprises.

Then they have the evangelical Christian wing who would like nothing more than to legislate their religion nationally, while at the same time balking at other governments who may be run by Islamist groups with similar goals in a different flavor. This is the Republican dilemma mixed in with a little Cult of Paul for spice. It’s not an enviable position and is one that weakens the party further going into the national campaign cycle.

Americans are worried about jobs and Republicans are worried about abortions. Something that might happen in a woman’s lifetime one time, for many not at all and yet listening to the Social Conservative Republicans you’d think callous women all over America go out for Starbucks and an abortion at their local Planned Parenthood every other weekend. The astonishing ridiculousness of that line of propaganda is completely absurd, and yet many really smart people buy into it. Enough to win the Election in 2012? I don’t think so. Coupled with the Libertarian Conservative line of pick yourself up by the bootstraps even if you don’t have boots, message that the GOP strategists have pulled from the 2008 files and are recycling once more comes off to many as a patronizing kick in the gut will come off at the polls with, I would imagine, the same results as 2008.

As I listen to the discussion, the first thing that comes to my mind is does it even matter who is chosen to be the candidate? I think it matters less than it has in the past. The strategists focus on that age old question “Were you better off than you were four years ago?”  They focus on individual policy platforms by each candidate and that worked before when the public was barely paying attention. In 2012 things are completely different. Party branding has burned into the public consciousness since 2010. The question in the voting booth on Election Day will not be “Are you better off than you were four years ago?”  The question will be “Who will protect you from them?”  And who is them, you may ask? Well if you are middle-class or lower them would mean the destructive corporate interests, bankers and Wall Street players that place their bottom line before all else. Starving children and choices between food and medicine are none of their concern. If you are one of these particular corporate interests mentioned, the them is everyone else. And from that question the decision will be made for the next President of the United States.

As such, barring any extremist craziness, it really doesn’t matter who the Republican party chooses as candidate. The next Election will be a referendum on destructive partisan politics, legislating religion, government tyranny on civil rights and regarding very personal private decisions such as how one will live their life and protect their health. People have to know how much you care, before they care how much you know. The Republicans have lost a significant portion of the public’s trust. One candidate alone will not be able to fix that.