2012: An Election Already Lost?

(Article first published as 2012: An Election To Lose on Blogcritics.) The election chatter among political pundits these days centers on their belief that, come 2012, the White House is Obama’s to lose. These opinions are hardly surprising. Elections with an incumbent running are typically all about the officeholder’s performance. Opponents are often bystanders, their fortunes rising or failing on how voters feel about the state of their lives during the incumbent’s term. So, according to the experts, Republicans in 2012 can run the elephant and hardly anyone will notice because attention’s spotlight is focused on Obama.

Under that theory, if the election were held today, the elephant would win because the state of our economy makes most of us very cranky. And, according to the prevailing wisdom, people vote their wallets first and foremost. How bad is it? In the first quarter of this year, GDP fell to an anemic 1.8% from 3.1% in the previous quarter. Unemployment in April rose again to 9% while the number of people who gave up looking or settled for part-time work climbed to 15.9%. The housing market remains unstable. The huge government debt hangs like Damocles’ Sword over everything.

Of course, today is not November 6, 2012 and things can change between now and then. But, by enough? Probably not. Twenty eight months into Obama’s presidency, we’re still wallowing deep in the doldrums caused by the Great Recession. The recovery, to the extent it exists, is “uneven”. Robust is not a word on anyone’s lips, not even Obama’s. The remedies he has tried since January 2009 have not turned things around as he promised they would. In fact, things got worse than he claimed they would ever get. What he’s likely to do in the next 18 months has virtually no chance of making a significant improvement for a couple of reasons. It’s obvious by now that he doesn’t know how to jump-start a capitalist economy. And his record shows that even his instincts are wrong.

What we can expect to get from him is a lot of pious rhetoric, and taunting and mocking, of course. But, what we won’t get is a detailed plan for a return to economic prosperity. He never comes up with the specifics of anything. All he seems to do is hand wave his way through speeches loaded with emotional trigger words and pointless platitudes. Analyzing that for anything substantive is like catching grains of sand pouring through your fingers. Try as hard as you might, you’re not going to come up with anything solid.

The economy is much more likely to show signs of a real recovery before November 2012 if Obama gets out of the way. He just has to stop trying to raise killer taxes and over-regulate businesses. Give them breathing room and see what they can do. At least then all we’d have to contend with is his taking credit for the efforts of others. But, even if a sustained upturn begins later this year or next, is it enough to get Obama re-elected? I don’t think so. He turns too many people off with his leading-from-behind style, his government-can’t-get-big-enough expansion and his class warfare battle strategy.

Obama’s a politician, not a leader. He’d rather sit on the sidelines, ridiculing and jeering, than take the initiative in charting a course through hard times. He plays waiting games, baiting others to offer detailed solutions so he can attack them based on the current political wind speed and direction. Rather than facing up to difficult choices, he spews counterproductive rhetoric that divides when unity is sorely needed. Our President simply is not up to the commander-in-chief task.

His years of day-in-and-day-out failings are difficult to escape. Voters are unlikely to forget the difference between the promise of Obama in 2008 and the reality of his performance by 2012. Even now good feelings about him are less enthusiastic and fade faster than those enjoyed by other White House occupants. In the latest example, the bounce he got from bin Laden’s assassination earlier this month has evaporated. This week his Presidential Approval Index hit minus ten.

It is true that people vote their wallets. In this case, they can’t afford more of what Obama has been trying to sell. Rejecting his pitch is something to vote for. That, and the large gray circus animal.

See you on the left-side.