Posted by: danielfee | October 19, 2011

2012: Will be a Watershed Year – Part 4

 Part 4: The Choice Confronting Voters

It is difficult to see how the two parties will be able to work together and reach any compromises to solve the big problems that the country faces between now and the 2012 elections. The TEA/Republicans hold as a core principal that government cannot solve problems and that it should get out of the way with more deregulating in order to allow the “free market” private sector to address the country’s economical and societal problems. Democrats hold as a core principal that government must step in and help solve the country’s big problems and that it must regulate the private sector to protect consumers and society as a whole. There appears to be little room for compromise in the middle. Boiled down to the core, the Republican philosophy is as Reagan said, “government is not the solution to the problem, government is the problem”. The Democratic philosophy is “government can and must be a force for good to solve problems” So it appears that it will be left to the voters in 2012 to decide in which direction the country goes for the next couple of generations.

The Republican primary will be the first of the 2012 watershed events. There is a significant divide within the Republican party between the fundamentalist TEA party wing and the corporate Wall Street wing. On one side is Mitt Romney, the presumed Republican front runner, who made his position crystal clear at an event at the Iowa State Fair. When being challenged by a voter about protecting Medicare and Social Security, Romney’s response was that he would not raise taxes. When someone shouted to raise them on corporations, Romney exposed his and the Wall Street wing of Republican party’s core belief. He replied “Corporations are people too, my friends”. Mr. Romney’s historical positions on social issues do not align with the socially conservative, small government TEA Party wing of the party. Although he has flip-flopped on all issues to appeal to this wing of the party, the conservatives don’t trust him. Rush Limbaugh said on his show recently that Romney is a decent man but is no conservative. This explains why Mitt Romney’s poll numbers cannot get out of the low 20’s.

On the other side of the party, Rick Perry is the strongest challenger who is more in tune with the TEA Party fundamentalist wing. His proclamation that Social Security is unconstitutional and a Ponzi scheme are prime examples of the core belief of this wing that believes government should not have any role in the life of its citizens, even if that means that more of the elderly will live in poverty and die off sooner for lack of heath care or even food. Mr. Perry has also demonstrated that he is corporate friendly, although his support is more in the form of crony capitalism. As governor of Texas he has an extensive political record of pay-to-play; so much so that even Michelle Bachmann accused him of being a crony capitalist. There are others in the Republican primary who are also more in tune with the TEA Party wing, such as Bachmann, Herman Cain, and Rick Santorum, but none appear to have the money or political organization to make it through a long and expensive primary process. So it appears that it will ultimately come down to a Perry versus Romney battle for the nomination.

The outcome of the Republican primary will determine how sharp the contrast will be between the two parties in the 2012 general election. Mr. Romney will, on the surface, be a lesser contrast because of many of the positions he has held in the past that he has now flip-flopped on in order to attempt to win the Republican nomination. Mr. Perry has a more consistent hard-line record in opposition to government action, except when it seems to benefit one of his big political donors.

But whether it is a sharp or somewhat fuzzy contrast, the 2012 elections will be all about corporations versus people. Voters will need to decide if they want to privatize all of the government services and have them provided by a corporation looking to make a profit and just use the government as a funding mechanism to funnel taxpayer dollars to these private corporations. Or do they want our taxpayer funded services to be provided directly from governmental agencies without a profit motive? So one of the questions every voter will need to ask themselves is if they want their elected representatives to solve big issues facing the country or stand aside and let private corporations do the work of government, thereby limiting their role to deciding which corporation to funnel the tax dollars to? Over the past 30 years we have been shifting from the former to the latter. Do we want this trend to continue or do we reverse direction?

Once the Republicans have selected their nominee, there are five broadly defined voting groups who have the potential to swing the election. They are: the hard-core fundamentalist TEA Party wing of the Republican party, the more moderate corporatist (aka country club) wing of the Republican party, the hard-core liberal/progressive wing of the Democratic party, the moderate socially liberal and more economically conservative wing of the Democratic party, and the truly independent votes who will switch parties from election to election.

The fundamentalist TEA party wing will show up and vote enthusiastically if Rick Perry is the Republican nominee. They will be motivated and work hard on behalf of the Perry campaign. However, if Romney is the nominee, they will be demotivated and much less enthusiastic. Some will still be motivated to go out and vote against Obama because anybody would be better in their opinion, but they will not work hard on behalf of a Romney campaign. There will be a certain segment of this group, primarily the southern Christian right, that cannot bring themselves to vote for Mr. Romney on religious grounds, so they will just stay home. How big this group is could be the difference in the election.

The more moderate country club Republican will show up and vote for Mr. Romney, although they will not be as enthusiastic as the TEA party wing would be with Perry as the nominee. This is to be expected since the moderate wing of either party is much more subdued than the more extreme wings. The turnout from moderate Republicans will be depressed if Mr. Perry is the nominee. His extreme positions when it comes to issues like Social Security and Medicare tend to turn off the moderate portions of the Republican party just as much as it fires up the TEA party wing. A friend of mine who fits this category of Republican summed it up best when he told me “if Romney is the nominee I will vote for him, if Perry is the nominee I won’t vote, and if Bachmann is the nominee, I am voting for Obama.”

The moderate wing of the Democratic party will show up and vote for Mr. Obama. He has shown them enough progress in the first two years of his presidency. Although very little progress is being made in the last two years of his first term, they will attribute this to the obstruction of the Republican party. They may not be as enthusiastic as they were in 2008, but they will believe he deserves four more years.

The hard-core liberal wing of the Democratic party will be the key to President Obama winning a second term. These liberals like to whine that Obama did not fight hard enough on health care (i.e. he gave up the public option), did not move fast enough (i.e. he took too long to repeal don’t ask don’t tell) or is too much of a corporate sellout (i.e. he backs the free trade deals). But they will have to decide if it is better for them to have a moderate pragmatist as president or if they are willing to accept the results of a full out corporate agenda if the Republican nominee should win. The 2010 mid-term elections should have been a wake-up call to this group when they see what is now happening at the state levels where Republicans have gained full control of the legislative and executive branches of government.

The Independents are a much harder group to gauge because you can never tell what issue will motivate them to vote. Will it be fear about an economic collapse, an outside event like a terrorist attack, or maybe the fear they will lose their Social Security or Medicare? Will it be hope that things appear to be improving and they want to continue along the same path? Or fear that things are getting worse and going the wrong direction so they will want to change course again? Or it may as simple as they like one person and don’t like another. As a whole, the Independent voters tend to make their choice based on emotions generated by events that are occurring around election time and are much less ideologically driven. 2008 was a good example, when Independents went strongly in favor of Obama based on fears of the economic collapse that was occurring in September-October 2008 and the hope message and historical uniqueness of Obama’s campaign. The uniqueness will be gone this election and another economic collapse will most likely work against Obama this time. We are still too far away from the general election to make a useful evaluation of what Independents might do in 2012.

But what may be as critical, if not more so than the presidential election, is what will happen with the elections in the House and Senate. Will the extreme positions that the TEA party has pushed to the front of the Republican agenda result in the Democrats regaining control of the House and maintaining the Senate? If this is the case, then you can expect that a lot of the Democratic agenda, outlined in Part 3 of this series, will be implemented with some level of obstruction occurring in the Senate since a 60 vote majority seems to be the new normal to pass anything. But with a second term secured, the Senate Republicans will lose one of their major motivating factors of making Obama a one-term president, so maybe the number of filibusters will be reduced. If the Republicans hold the House and gain control of the Senate and Presidency, then you should expect a swift and full-out push for the Republican agenda outlined in Part 2 of this series. The Democrats will still have enough seats in the Senate to filibuster, but they are not very good at holding their caucus together and there will be a full-out assault on any effort to filibuster by accusing the Democrats of blocking the will of the American people. And if that still doesn’t work, they will go back to the “nuclear option” and eliminate the filibuster rule. If we end up with a divided government with one party controlling the legislative branch and the other the White House, we will likely be in for four more years of partisan divide and a country with no overall direction that jumps from one crisis to the next. If this is the case, then the pivotal turning point for the country will be postponed until the 2016 election. By that point, the entire county should recognize that we need to decide to go one direction or the other and the only way that will occur is if one party has control of both the executive and legislative branches of government, like in 1932.

I anticipate that the events that will occur between now and election day 2012 will bring the realization that we cannot continue four more years with divided government, which is why I believe 2012 will be the watershed year. Also, the Supreme Court’s ruling in the Citizens United case provided corporations with the ability to anonymously spend unlimited sums of money to influence elections. The 2012 elections will be the first general election under these new rules and you will see ridiculous amounts of money spent in an effort to influence votes. The Occupy Wall Street movement, that is in the early stage of development, appears to be a small “d” democratic movement that could grow into a large mass movement before election day and provide a push back against this corporate influence in politics. From my perspective, we are seeing the beginning of the people versus corporations battle that will carry right through to the election.

As important as the two party’s agendas are for voters in making their decision, there is one more very important factor that everyone must consider. The next President will likely appoint two or three new justices to the Supreme Court. Right now there is a 5 to 4 conservative majority that have made decisions like Citizens United. A Republican president would appoint more conservative justices thereby pushing the court further to the right since a few of the more liberal justices are likely to retire. If Obama is re-elected, then there is a chance that the court would shift to a 5 to 4 more liberal majority. If the court were to switch from conservative to liberal, then a decision like Citizens United might be reversed.

The people versus corporation aspects of this election will be played out on many levels. As an individual you are restricted to donating $2500 to any one candidate and you cannot do it anonymously. But thanks to the Supreme Court, corporations have no limitations and don’t even have to disclose their contributions. The court has decided that money is speech when it comes to both individuals and corporations, but the corporate voice will be much louder. The only advantage you as the individual voter have left is your vote. As of yet the corporations do not have the right to vote, so if you want to be heard over the special interests and corporations, then you must pay close attention and study the issues even though you will be disgusted by all of the negative advertising and want to just tune it out. Just remember, discouraging voter turnout is a goal of the special interests who now control our political system. They don’t want you participating. So prepare yourself to vote in 2012. Make sure you are registered and meet all of the new requirements in your state since many of them have passed new laws to make it more difficult to vote. Then show up on election day 2012 and vote. But use your vote wisely. It will affect the rest of your life because you will not live long enough to see the next election in the Fourth Turning of the next historical generational cycle. This is the pivotal moment that only comes around once in a lifetime.

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