September 28, 2010

Five Weeks Until the US Election

After the American Century

With the election only five weeks away, the polls have indicated a Republican resurgence. On the one hand, this is typical: the party that loses a presidential election usually makes inroads two years later. The reasons for this seem to be pretty much the same. Disillusionment with the new president sets in after two years, because the world remains stubbornly much the same. Changes take time, and two years is often not enough time for new policies to have much effect. The changes that Obama has brought to medical care in America are only now being implemented, and it will be several more years before the people will know whether they like the new system or not.

On the other hand, this is perhaps not a normal election. The anger on the Right, the selection of several truly incompetent Republican candidates for the Senate (notably in Delaware and Nevada), and the tone of the election, suggests that those who lost in 2008 are not playing by the ordinary political rules. Their rhetoric is often nasty and overheated, and the economic proposals they are making border on impossible nonsense. Instead of moving toward the center, to capture swing voters, Republicans are seeking to win by mobilizing the base of extremists that have emerged in the Tea Party movement. They have also brought back from the shadows of temporary retirement Karl Rove, the architect of Geroge W. Bush's campaigns. 

In short, this is not a chastened and repentant Republican Party eager to show it understands the errors of its ways. This is not a Republican Party that understands it almost destroyed the economy or that its policies have made the United States a weaker business competitor that is behind the curve on developing alternative energy or sustainable housing, This is not a Republican Party that has taken time to think of new policies or innovative approaches to problems. Rather, the Republicans are acting like "true believers" who keep insisting on their beliefs even when prophecy fails. They at times seem to be more a cult than a savvy political party, more concerned with ideological purity than pragmatic solutions or compromises. 

The swing voters will turn against the incumbents as they always do, and the fervent right wingers will be out in force. The danger is that Democrats may not turn out in November, feeling a little disillusioned. The passionate crowds calling for change in 2008 are not very visible, and the President is not as popular as his wife Michelle at the moment.
The Republicans are hungry and well financed, thanks to a Supreme Court decision to let corporations give unlimited amounts to campaigns. Can the Democrats rally?