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Altered Consciousness: Romney Clinch Sets Up Long General Campaign

Published: April 20, 2012
Section: Opinions

Well, it seems as if the general election has already begun.

It was not like the outcome was really much of a surprise since former Governor Mitt Romney’s primary competition included your wacky conspiratorial Uncle Ron, Newt the two-time divorcee and Rick Santorum, who lost his last election in his home state by 18 points. But now, Willard finally has his shot at the presidency, having been designated next-in-line because of his runner-up status in the 2008 Republican primary behind John McCain.

This election will not be inspirational. Barack Obama is no longer the messiah embodying hope, change and promise, as opposed to the eight long dark years of George W. Bush. Instead, voters are going to be faced with a simple question: Who is the lesser of two evils? As a result, instead of running on positive, uplifting themes, the candidates will do everything in their power to tear each other down personally and politically.

On one hand you have a president who, quite frankly, cannot run on his record. Eight percent unemployment; $16 trillion debt; enormous deficits; record foreclosures; credit downgrading; lack of sustained economic growth—these are not positive signs.

Furthermore, Obama’s signature policies have been a bust. Depending on your outlook, the stimulus package was too small, filled with pork or generally ineffective. The health care plan is arguably unconstitutional, will add trillions to the debt, encourage employers to drop their employees’ coverage in favor of the health exchanges, and slash Medicare and raise taxes while creating a new, unaffordable entitlement program. Dodd-Frank does not address the too-big-to-fail problem or Fannie and Freddie. Obama’s only major foreign policy success has been the assassination of Osama Bin Laden.

In contrast, we all know Romney’s flaws: He is out of touch, awkward, pandering, lacking convictions and someone who drove his car with his dog attached to the roof. To the left, he is a combination of a late 19th-century robber baron, such as John D. Rockefeller, and a right-wing extremist in the image of Barry Goldwater. To the right, he is the next in line in a string of candidates, such as Bob Dole and John McCain, who, because of their moderation, cannot distinguish themselves in a meaningful way from their opponents. To everyone else, he is an enigma.

This election will also simply be typical. Romney will accuse Obama of being a tax-raising, European-style socialist who does not believe in American exceptionalism. Obama will attack Romney as a vulture capitalist plutocrat who also is a weird Mormon, by the way. War on women, the Buffett rule, tax-and-spend liberal—all of these catch phrases, slogans, and symbolic gestures and policies will be heard constantly.

In other words, this election will not rise in any way above the usual left-right-divide. We won’t learn anything original or gain any insight into fresh ideas. Big government, small government; high taxes, low taxes; free trade, fair trade; pro-life, pro-choice—nothing new to see here.

Although I am jaded, I will still keep track of what happens for its sheer entertainment value. And heck, I do look forward to seeing who Romney picks for his vice presidential nominee. It’s hard to do worse than Sarah Palin. Marco Rubio, Rob Portman, Paul Ryan, Chris Christie—who will be the lucky man or woman for the job?

I do wish that elections were more substantive and issue-oriented, and less divisive. But ultimately, this is our democracy, warts and all. So let’s go watch as our favorite former constitutional law professor and private-equity leader duel with rhetoric until we head to the polls come this November.