“Time? What time do you think we have?” – Saruman, The Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship of the Ring
There’s an old joke out there about an outgoing politician leaving two envelopes for his successor with instructions to open one each time he finds himself in an untenable political jam. As happens, trouble comes along and the new guy opens the first envelope to find a lone piece of paper containing the simple phrase “blame everything on me.” It works, and life goes on – until trouble crops up again. So, he opens the second envelope to find a lone piece of paper containing the less simple phrase “sit down, and get out two envelopes.”
It’s Bush’s Fault …
President Obama made a lot of headway early in his first campaign and then his presidency by blaming all of the economic woes on president Bush. In my mind he was right to do so – the Bush/Greenspan/Paulson/Bernanke policies that blew the housing bubble are directly responsible for the resultant crash. (Yes, I know, federal policies all the way back to the Carter administration had a hand in the problem; but the bubble doesn’t happen without the easy money at the Fed.)
Obama’s main fault in doing this was that he didn’t plan ahead. While he was blaming Bush for the bad economy (rightly) he was throwing every Keynesian concoction imaginable at the oncoming train hoping to slow it down. Now, much of the “stimulus” money was just kickbacks to supporters, which I fully understand (yes, it’s rabidly immoral, but it’s how these guys operate). Still, the stated purpose was economic rescue. It was bound to fail, or to under-perform expectations. The collapse was coming no matter what. All he succeeded in doing (besides providing massive kickbacks to supporters) was slowing the collapse – which turns out not to have been a good idea.
The reason for this is simple. Obama had no need to run for re-election in 2009, or 2010, or 2011. He didn’t need the economy to be in good shape at any of those points, he only needed the economy to be trending in the right direction (and trending strongly) by mid-2012. Better to have “ripped the band-aid off” and let things collapse, blame it on Bush, then take credit for the eventual rebound. Slash spending, no bailouts, reform the tax code to close loopholes – he had unstoppable majorities in both houses and could have made it happen without batting an eye and placed all the political pain squarely on George Bush’s shoulders. But, he didn’t.
He didn’t and the news these days is not good. I’m not saying his re-election chances are shot, but they’re not a slam dunk either and the more news we see the worse they get. And blaming it on Bush won’t work this time – we’re on to the second envelope.
Those Guaranteed Votes …
I’ve noted on several occasions that the guaranteed votes, the ones that will come your way no matter what, are the ones with the least political weight. You don’t have to placate those voters because because they’re not going anywhere. Much like Obama, who should have planned better for 2012, the guaranteed voters ought to think ahead one election. They ought to, en mass, vote against their traditional party (or not vote at all) and watch the scrambling that ensues to regain the votes.
This holds for African-Americans on the left, and pro-lifers on the right. The votes are taken for granted, and thus politicians never have any motivation to deal with the issues. Dealing with the issues would only free those voters up to leave … who wants that?
Obama versus Romney …
And that brings us to Obama versus Romney. Just as the guaranteed voters are not always better served by having the candidate who is slightly better (at least rhetorically) on their issues – sometimes conservatives or liberals are not always better served by the candidate who is slightly more conservative or slightly more liberal. It’s not at all clear to me that the country is better served 10 years from now by a Romney presidency versus an Obama presidency. Yes, Romney is likely to be less fascist and less destructive than Obama, but is sinking a ship slower really a good outcome? Is the country better off two years from now under Romney? Most likely. But 10 years or 20 years? It’s hard to say.
So far I don’t really find much to like in Romney. On the two most important policy issues, from a moral standpoint, he seems to be on the wrong side (that’s abortion and sound money, by the way). But he still has a chance, albeit a slim one, to attract my vote. He’d have to do something really out there – like pick a VP who does get those issues right. It might not be enough, but I’m holding the options open still. As of now though, I’m still a “protest vote” come November.