We’re in a holding pattern today. Republicans and Democrats have little to do between now and the first Presidential debate on October 3rd but examine the ancient entrails of sacrificial birds for signs of the future. They’ll pour over recent polls, review their probable wins and losses, do a little campaigning, or simply hide out.
We hear that some candidates are increasingly shy about admitting they are Republican Congressmen, lest the disdain in which the public holds them grow. Now they run as themselves, or even as independents. Who knows whether this will help them?
As evidence that campaign life has slowed temporarily, the venerable New York Times even had a few kind words to say about Mr. Romney’s recently unveiled foreign policy thoughts.
So now, while we have the time, let us consider the future. Not necessarily the electoral future, but the conditions under which Americans can be expected to live for the next ten years. The future as revealed so far to us by the politicians themselves.
What will happen to us all if (a) President Obama gets his second term?
What will happen to us all if (b) Romney should pull a Harry Truman?
What will happen © if the Republicans hold onto the House? If the Republicans in the Senate (d) continue their embargo of common sense and what’s best for the nation?
What will happen (e) should the Democrats sweep both the Senate and the House?
What will happen if (f) one or two vacancies on the Supreme Court open in the next four years?
Note, please. We’re not talking economics here. We are talking about the conditions under which the economy will thrive or dive.
And we are not holding in our hot little hands a crystal ball. Given what we know of our players upon the American stage, to what realistically do we have to look forward?
Mr. Obama first. Should he overcome his own evident distaste for the hard knocks and maneuvering of politics, can we expect him to get tougher or stay the same? We can hope that he will have learned some lessons about governing, about working with Congress, about when to say yes and when to say no and mean it. We can also hope that his modus operandi will change. It is not enough to come up with an idea and then throw it to Congress for drafting, passing, and coming up roses.
Will Congress be anymore cooperative with the President should he win his second term? Some think it might, insofar as in order to remain a viable alternative to the Democrats, the Republicans need desperately to get their house in order for 2016. And to do that, they will, it seems to us, have to pay attention to the needs and necessary programs that they can point to proudly as having forwarded. Having produced the least effective Congress in history, the Republicans may well have to throw overboard some of their more athletic swimmers to lighten their load and to prove to America that they believe in the country, want the country healthy, want the economy revived, the tax structure fairer, and accept what the President proposes as jobs programs.
Without compromise and common sense, The Republicans are finished. Startlingly, this might be good for the country.
Should Mister Romney pull a Harry Truman and win, we’ve got an entirely different set of problems ahead of us. We’ve seen Romney bow and bend to his right wing: on abortion, on taxes, on foreign wars, on 47 per cent of the populace whom the Republicans find beneath notice. The oft-cited possibility that should Romney win he becomes a puppet of the right wing is just as likely today as it has ever been. Say goodbye to electoral equality, say goodbye to Planned Parenthood, say goodbye to social safety nets of all kinds. Say goodbye for concern for the least among us in favor of the most blessed. And say hello to another war somewhere in the Middle East, say hello to tax increases for all but the very rich. Say goodbye to increasing employment, to better education, to cleaner water, air, and the environment, but say hello to oil spills and massive carbon footprints and “arbitrage” in international trade, which means off-shoring at its very finest.
If the Republicans hold both houses of Congress, say goodbye to reason and hello to ideology. We can all expect, if this happens, another embarrassing, ineffective stab at managing the debt ceiling, cutting the deficit, threatening a government shut-down and a default on the obligation of the United States at home and abroad.
If the Democrats should surprise and grab back both houses, we can expect pay-back big time. Some of this will be healthy for the country; a lot will be vengeance for its own sake. What we need is governance for the sake of the nation and the Democrats know this. The question is, can they stop being angry long enough to actually produce for the country what it needs? A healthier economy, a smaller deficit, a tighter Defense Department, a renewed sense of American purpose?
Will the Supreme Court, realizing its errors, accept for adjudication a case that edges into the Citizens United realm and reverses the curse of big money and big lies in politics? Not, as the British say, bloody likely.
With a slightly different make-up, could the court return to the center of the spectrum and keep in mind that its decisions really and truly do affect the lives of everyday Americans? Could it realize that Citizens United may change forever the future of politics in our country? (A sidebar: we think they already knew that, and they didn’t give a damn.)
What are the chances for a constitutional amendment overturning Citizens United? Democrats believe it can be done. We think it can’t.
Clearly where we are right now, today, while we wait for the Presidential debates to take place, is in the middle of a tropical depression, where all we can do is tread water and pray.
This week has been a sort of time out for President Obama, who rockets around the countryside promoting the promises and goals of four years ago. For Mr. Romney on the other hand, it’s a little tougher. Ann Romney is losing patience with her party. And her husband, talking about his plans for changing the tax structure of the country, says first that he won’t raise taxes on the middle class, but for the middle class not to expect to have more money in their pockets since he plans to close certain unspecified loopholes. Talk about striking terror in the hearts of his listeners. A tax, Mitt, is a tax.
With early voting beginning in various states, even the daily polls begin to lose their importance, if such they ever had, since guesswork about how the country plans to vote gives way to trying to understand how the country is voting.
Unless something unforeseen occurs this weekend, life in these United States may seem almost normal for a few days: the NFL has a big problem to solve, Syria will keep killing its own citizens, Europe will continue to try to find a satisfactory balance between bankruptsy and bailout.
There will still be neighborhood or community fund-raisers, but for the weekend we can look forward to pancake breakfasts, concerts, yard-work.
And then Mr. Romney will have what most consider his do-or-die moment during the first debate. It is the first that most people see and remember, that sets the viewing audience for the remaining two debates. People will make up their minds after Tuesday’s set-to, and not many of them will wait for the others to modify their feelings about the candidates and the future. We would even venture to suggest that the stock markets will, from today through Tuesday, amble along, going up or down a few points just to prove it’s still relevant.
In effect, this first quiet weekend of the autumn mirrors the September of 1939, when war had already been declared but yet not a shot had been fired. “The phony war,” it was called, which erupted in the following months to become a massive slaughter with millions of men on both sides of the English Channel slated to die to keep their homelands free.
May all the saints in heaven protect us from that.