After Iowa but before New Hampshire, my computer crashed. Thus, no posts about New Hampshire. No posts about Jon Huntsman. No posts about Mitt Romney. Frankly, it was a convenient time to lost my computer. Because…
THERE WAS NOTHING TO SAY. Breaking news (with apologies to CNN, Fox News and MSNBC) – there’s still nothing to say. Yet when you turn on cable news, there’s still an awful lot of “breaking news.” Breaking news: Romney stops for coffee shakes hand, seems semi-sincere. Breaking news: Gingrich still snarky. Breaking news: Rick Perry unlikely to say anything interesting anymore.
I get it. 2012 is an election year. But come on. Let’s take this opportunity to dive into more substantive issues. Instead of covering the so-called “horse race” of winning delegates, that Romney has already won. Let’s take this opportunity to understand the modern GOP. Let’s look at what the wealth gap really means and who’s serious about addressing it. Let’s see whether Democrats are paying any attention to politics yet. I don’t know. But to me, there’s a real opportunity here to use Romney’s comfortable lead to open up the discussion and coverage.
The two most interesting “story lines” for 2012 in politics aren’t the candidates, per se, but the changing way Americans interact with political and social questions.
1). The more electoral of the two issues is the “pickle” that the GOP voters currently find themselves. It’s a classic. As long as there have been elections, and most especially since the rise of the two-party (only) system, Americans have had to balance principles with electability. This year is no different. And even though this is always the case in primaries, I still find it interesting. My parents are solid social conservative voters. The GOP would have to work incredibly hard to lose my parents’ votes. Also, my parents are reasonably attentive to politics. They are not active in the party or anything but they pay attention, watch the news and are above-average when it comes to being informed.
The other day they asked me – “What’s the deal with Ron Paul? How come he won so many votes in Iowa and New Hampshire?”
My response = The pickle! Voters are in a pickle and when push came to shove especially in a primary where many voters were looking for an alternative to Romney, voters went with principle over practical. Ron Paul is not a practical candidate. He’s older. He’s abstract. He’s extreme in a few policy areas.
Yet, Ron Paul is right.
Granted, Ron Paul’s campaign is totally unrealistic and he isn’t electable. At all. But in terms of political theory. He’s great. He speaks an ideological language straight out of an undergraduate political science class. He tells you the way many people wish the country functioned. He forgets to mention the other 50%+ of the population who think they should have a say in how laws are made and policy is formed. If given a clean slate and no opposition, would all his policies work? Would a Ron Paul experiment improve the American quality of life? WHO KNOWS? But its interesting to think about. And given the fact that Romney is quite comfortable in his role as anointed-nominee, many voters decided to send a message. They voted for interesting over safe.
The best part is – this is just one, small example of the Party’s dilemma. Or trilemma. The GOP has two or three warring factions, ideologically, and its becoming increasing difficult for them to “play nice.” This is interesting to me. I don’t have much more to say on the topic, unless we’re all ok with this post lasting 1500 words and taking up more of your time than you’ve already graciously offered me. I’d like to believe we have a candidate or party strong enough to capture some of the nuances and dynamics of this facture in the party and strike out on their own. I’ve shied away from rooting for a legitimate third party because it just seems so damned unlikely. But something has to give. The fact that Ron Paul, Jon Huntsman, Mitt Romney and Rick Santorum are all working the same votes under the same title is becoming increasingly unrealistic.
Enough of that.
2). There’s something going on with the gap between rich and poor in both parties. Someone outta pay attention. The funny thing is that it might not be what we originally thought. The original storyline went something like this – the unemployed under 40 crowd is getting the poor, working class and middle class riled up over taxes and big business and the 1% are all super conservative, hoard their money and find loopholes everywhere to screw the rest of us.
According to an article in today’s New York Times, perhaps not. This article explores the diversity of the 1% and paints a more understanding and agreeable picture (for the most part). At the same time, politicians cannot see the big picture (as usual). They need to start crafting a message and long-range plan to deal with these voters.
Not because there’s a strategic advantage to exploiting socio-economic classes for votes. But because American is starting to represent and stand for values that aren’t in keeping with what we’ve always thought it meant to be American and we should make sure everyone’s ok with that. Otherwise, we’re gonna wake up one day and be disfunction, scared and irrelevant.
Some might say that’s already happening. I disagree.
But that’s doesn’t mean we don’t have serious question regarding capitalism, social welfare safety net and government intervention in every industry that need to be answered. Between now and the two parties national conventions is the perfect time to start working on this. Slate, NYT, WashPo, DailyBeast, New Yorker and columnists of substance combine forces and let’s dig into this! What’s Friedman up to? Can we get him back here looking into this? If he needs help, David Brooks and someone like Joe Scarborough might be interesting too.
I’m not sure if the solution is political, economic or cultural but it feels like we’re headed down the wrong road and picking up steam. Just me? I might be over-selling this particular topic but I think there’s more to say/write/discover and we need more real journalists looking into it.
Wow. How’s that for a rambling opened ended post about all the work other people should do? I’m about to graduate law school in May, so if anyone wants to give me a job looking into these or any other political, legal or social issues – I’m all yours! I just need enough to pay my loan payment and perhaps have a cup of coffee once or twice a day.
And please, in closing, let’s stop pretending like Romney might not be the nominee. Barring a crazy scandal, this thing was over with his incredibly strong showing among social conservatives in Iowa. He’ll lose with dignity and won’t concede a landslide.
There, now let’s get on to something more interesting.