Forum's pretty slow today. Allow me to speed things up with a super-wide view of the current political landscape.
You can thank me later.
I never like the idea of saying "this is the most important election of my lifetime" because it feels to hyperbolic. The only time I actually felt that way was during 2004 in the middle of the Bush presidency, but the Bush presidency gave way to the Obama administration, which is starting to unwind a bunch of the things I considered the Bush administration to have screwed up (the wars, the recession, the Bush tax cuts for the wealthy, Medicare's financial unsustainability). So it's pretty clear I overreacted in 2004. If only I had been a ChiefsPlanet poster then so you all could mock me for it.
All the other elections just seemed to be very important, because you can do a lot of things in 4 years when you've got the White House on your side.
The reason I think this election is so important, however, is because I don't think this election is about the next four years. I think the next decade
of policy rests on this election's shoulders.
Obama was and is a game changer, politically. He represents the nation's fresh breath of anti-neoconservativism that the nation felt it needed in 2008 after Bush. Obama is unabashedly liberal, but incredibly charismatic and likeable (hardcore conservatives don't feel this way, but I assure you the polling has always suggested that everybody else does). The moment we elected him to was huge, as well, putting him right behind the 8 ball with the wars and the economy, a situation which clearly set him up for an extremely difficult four years.
If he is able to win reelection, it's possible that this country could face a true electoral realignment of Reagan proportions (or maybe even greater) within the next decade, the realignment that Rove so desperately wanted for Bush in 2004 but failed to achieve. I'm talking about a realignment that fundamentally changes the way the vast majority of the population views these two political parties.
I've written about this a lot on this forum, but I predict that no matter who wins the election in 2012, unemployment will drop like a rock in 2014 as the job openings/job applicant mismatches start to vanish and the pool of applicants adapt to all the job openings. Again, this is despite Obama or Romney being President.
But assume it is Obama. Then you're talking about, at the conclusion of 2016, a presidency that would have presided over a gradual but successful recovery from the worst recession in our and our parents' lifetimes, withdrawals from both wars in the Middle East, the killing of OBL, the passing and now implementation of full healthcare reform, and at least three SCOTUS judges... Even without Republican cooperation in Obama's second term, all these things would happen, with the only significant question mark being the unemployment situation, which I do believe will recover like gangbusters in a couple years.
If all these things happen, the contrast of the past two decades will be unbelievably stark in 2016: you can do it the Democratic way, like the charistmatic and successful Obama and Clinton admistrations did, and preside over successful economies and sane foreign policy, or you can do it the Republican way, like... George W. Bush.
Combine that with the demographic changes this country will be going over the next decade (Texas could genuinely become a swing state by 2020, for starters), and I believe we could be facing a realignment.
I think this would be especially likely if Hillary were to run in 2016. Barring a complete shitfit, she couldn't lose, running on the records of Obama and Clinton, who would both extensively campaign for her, giving her a 3-to-1 advantage over whomever the Republicans trot out. Thinking of what she could accomplish in the wakes of what these two Presidents have laid for her in terms of policy foundations, is mind boggling.
The Republican Party, in the face of this, would absolutely have to evolve from their current exclusivity, their current regressive tax policies, and embrace something more inclusive, more moderate, and less reactionary. More conservative
, less reactionary regressive. And then you'd finally have the post-Boomer conversation about the true value of liberalism and conservativism that this nation has lost since the Vietnam war embedded the Boomer population in a decades-long culture war. This development would change the entire dynamic, and provide those weird things like "hope" and "change" that we've ridiculed for five years.
On the other hand, what if the Republicans win? Romney/Ryan '12.
Most of Obama's accomplishments would obviously be trashed. Healthcare reform would either be outright repealed, or simply not enforced and de-fanged until it could no longer accomplish much of anything. The Democratic goal of bringing back the Clinton tax rates for the wealthy would be a thing of the past; in fact, Romney and Ryan would move the offensive forward, attempting to bring their tax rates down even lower. The landmark regulations for the financial industry passed under Obama would almost certainly be neutered to the point of irrelevancy, in particular Consumer Protection.
But even more than his policies, the idea
of what Obama represented
would be defeated. The idea of providing more for the less fortunate, for collectivism and the social safety net, would suffer irreperable harm as Romney and Ryan get to benefit from an employment boom in 2014, something they will understandably take credit for and the public will understandably reward them for, embedding in the public psyche the idea that regressive policies somehow accounted for all of this, and cementing trickle-down economics as vindicated once and for all.
And while Ryan seems very green now, assuming Romney wins reelection, Ryan would be a powerful candidate under this philosophy in 2020 running against whomever the Democrats could put up. By then, barring any huge screwups or scandals by the Romney administration, the conversation between conservativism and liberalism would almost certainly vanish, and instead be between conservativism and libertarian regressivism.
You're talking about two radically different futures for the next decade-plus, one with generational realignment possibilities in my opinion.
All of it sparked from one election.
That's why I think this could be the most important election in our lifetimes.