Where Is The Center In 2012?

With about 4 weeks to go, the 2012 Presidential race is again neck and neck.  From what was once seen as a comfortable lead, President Obama has fallen back to a virtual tie.  Why?  What does it mean?

The fingers point to last week’s Presidential debate when Mitt Romney showed an assertiveness coupled with a complete denial of facts and a wholesale change in positions he had held since be began running for President.  No one, however, seemed to pay attention to whether what he said was accurate.  Instead voters seemed to conclude Romney was a viable alternative to someone they were only lukewarm about.

President Obama had built his lead by getting voters to worry about Romney’s far right of center views and what they could mean to the average American.  With Romney appearing to speak as if he had never said anything so conservative in the past, voters seemed only to see an energetic candidate spouting a relatively reasonable positions.  President Obama failed to call Romney on any of his flip flops and Romney scored an impressive win among undecided voters.

Interestingly nothing has really changed.  Neither candidate has outlined steps to reduce the deficit and balance the budget.  Neither candidate has addressed the US health care crisis, its out of control cost.  Neither candidate has proposed any believable quick fix to unemployment and the weak economy.  And on issues such as immigration, women’s rights, and recognition of gays and lesbians, both candidates have skirted direct discussion of these social values issues.

The President has said he will protect Medicare, Medicaid, and Social Security.  He has, however, not described how he would pay for them.  Without funding, these programs are on a path for bankruptcy.

Mitt Romney has hinted that he would use vouchers and block grants to States to deal with these entitlements.  He has also maintained that his plan will look after older and poorer citizens while at the same time reducing taxes.  It is difficult to know what that means in practice and why these programs won’t go bankrupt under Romney’s watch.

With respect to the Affordable Care Act, Romney says he will keep the good parts (which voters like), and replace the rest of ACA with something else (undefined).  What seems to be the likely outcome is that Romney’s health care will be fine if you have or can afford insurance, but very problematic for those unemployed, without insurance, and a disaster waiting to happen if someone has a “pre-existing” condition.

Foreign policy is another quandary.  Romney says he will increase the Defense Department budget (while lowering taxes and reducing the deficit) and will put the US back into a world leadership position “shaping” world events, not reacting to them.  These are bold statements which seem incongruent.

What is most worrisome about Romney’s statements is the possibility he will resort to neoconservative foreign policy advisors as did former President George W Bush.  While there is no guaranty that President Obama’s foreign policy will serve the US well in the next four years, it should be clear that a return to “W” world views is not in America’s best interest.

So again, where is the center?

I would propose that both candidates are homing in on the center.  I would further say that if Romney’s first debate statements represent what he will really do, he will not be far from the center.  I also think that President Obama is already at the center and political realities will keep him there if he is reelected.

Voters must decide who is the real Mitt Romney?  Is he the “severely conservative” candidate he said he was, or is he the far more compassionate Mitt Romney of the first debate?

The potentisl Achilles Heal of the GOP campaign is the logical inconsistencies associated not increasing taxes (let alone proposing to reduce them).  There is no math that lowers taxes, protects those retired or poverty bound, maintains national strength, and balanced the budget.  In soccer, Romney would be about to receive his second “yellow card”.

The problems facing the US are not easy ones, nor are they ones which the Obama Administration have caused.  Romney without his no tax pledge and promise of no action on social issues probably is as good a choice as another four years with President Obama.  The suspicion, however, is that Romney is serious about lower taxes, increasing Defense spending, and will support social values driven legislations unfavorable to women’s rights, immigrants, and recognition of gays and lesbians.

In this light, Romney is too far right and not a centrist.

 

 

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