Campaign on Cruise Control
In the wake of the furor over the
Either way, the debate amounts to whether government should jump in to level the economic playing field or get out of the way and let the engine of private enterprise generate sufficient wealth for all. The yardstick for success seems to be the rate of unemployment, currently at an unacceptable 8.2 percent.
Neither side is offering much new to the dialogue.
Meanwhile, Obama pursues that Romney vulnerability while accurately if ineffectively harkening back to the economic mess
With more than a month to go before the party national conventions, the campaign gives the impression of being on cruise control. Or maybe it's more like a pair of prizefighters carefully circling each other, neither willing nor able to land a knockout punch.
Perhaps some unforeseen event, or a major gaffe by one of the candidates, will shake up the current waltz before convention time. But the lull ought not to obscure the significance of the basic clash in political philosophy over the direction of the country that will carry on after November.
The background music over at least the last year, from the anti-government tea party movement on one hand and the
Unfortunately for clarity in the clash, most voters probably don't fall squarely into either camp. They just want the government we have, which right now is impossibly stalemated, to function, addressing commonly perceived public needs. So the two parties tug and pull with methods fair and foul to bring the undecided to their side.
The Democrats had the advantage in this debate from the days of FDR's New Deal through the
Through the Nixon, Reagan and both Bush presidencies, earlier working-class solidarity for the
The Bill Clinton years deftly took much of the divisive political clout out of it with more emphasis on centrist appeals and policies. But Obama's efforts to reach across party lines in his first presidential years got nowhere, as Republican leaders set as their prime political focus getting rid of him. His first-term concentration on health care reform, seen as excessively intrusive by the opposition, guaranteed the head-butting that continues to today.
So, as uninspiring as the clash may seem to voters in this summer lull, it remains at the core of the ideological battle that defines the 2012 election.
Inevitably, the fight is being waged increasingly in the terms of the two men -- Who are they really? And do we as voters like them and trust them? And so the negative campaigning on each sides goes about its job of tearing the other down. In this sense, Obama personifies the use of government to level the playing field, Romney the defender of the private enterprise in which he thrived. The choice for working-class Americans used to be clear. No longer today.
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