Related: Economy, Politics, Social Issues

Let the Campaign Begin!


Circus seesawGood morning.  Today, Wednesday, November 3, 2010 is the first day of the 2012 Presidential Campaign.

Who just said, “UGH!”??  C’mon, now, the World Series may be over, but the Great American Past-time continues!   That would be the seesaw between the endlessly changing mind of the American voter and the politicians who rise and fall on that constantly shifting balance.

Let’s see.   How many times have we seen this ‘brand new day,’ this ‘morning in America,’ this ‘change we can believe in,’ this ‘bridge to the future’ and etc. etc. etc. ??  In just the last six years, the balance of power has shifted dramatically three times.  Americans clearly are sending a message, and it’s not about party loyalty.  In fact, party identity may be the most important victim of the electoral mood, and that’s not entirely bad.   People really do make decisions based on the issues they perceive to be most urgent for them.   Or, as Karen Tumulty wrote in this morning’s Washington Post, “This election was less a mandate for Republican ideas than a brake on Obama’s.”

Yes, this election will definitely put the brakes on the Obama agenda and just about anything else.  Congress is now officially divided, with the House now in Republican control while the Senate remains barely Democratic.   Some political seers believe that divided government actually can work better since it drives everyone to reach compromise somewhere in the middle.   But let’s not forget the government shutdowns after the Gingrich Revolution in 1994.   What really happened then was a shift in political strategy by President Clinton, who managed to win a second term as president even though he lost the House in the mid-term elections during his first term.

True students of political history know that yesterday’s election could actually help Barack Obama’s chances of winning in 2012 by forcing him to shift his agenda to those actions that voters actually want — focusing on the economy and jobs, and moving away from ideological reshaping of government mandates.   Consequently, the opposition will be more intensely focused on preventing such a shift in the White House agenda — and, therefore, progress will be even slower in solving the problems that are most urgent for most Americans.

So, what does all of this mean for 2012?  Who knows?  The economy will continue to be the prevailing issue — but so much of what happens in the economy is actually beyond the control of government.  The collapse of the banking industry that sparked the recession was a consequence of private corruption.  True, government might have intervened earlier with better regulatory controls, but in fact, too much government regulation is what has fueled a large part of voter antipathy.   It’s a real conundrum of political behavior that at the same time as voters are decrying the size and scope of government, they are also demanding solutions from government that will require even more control.

That paradox is one of the big reasons why no politician is ultimately safe from voter anger — voters can’t decide between wanting a great deal of protection or a great deal of freedom.   We can’t really have both.

Two years ago, millions of people flocked to the mall in Washington to witness the inauguration of Barack Obama.   Most likely, many of those people are now unhappy with the direction of the government.   The question today is who will stand on the mall two years from now — not only on the grass, but also on the podium.  Whether any progress can occur in improving the economy will determine who claims that ground in 2012.

Like it or not, the next election season is already underway!

See:  Ruth Marcus, Obama’s message for the day after

See:  EJ Dionne, The Next Battle

See:  New York Times Editorial, “will either side draw the right lessons from this mid-term election?”

What do YOU think?  Make your comments by clicking on “comments” below…

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Patricia A. McGuire, President, Trinity, 125 Michigan Ave. NE, Washington, DC 20017
Phone: 202.884.9050   Email: