By JOE GANDELMAN – Syndicated Columnist
The 2012 campaign season shapes up as a possible "transformational" election, but not the kind that President Obama and many Democrats had in mind. It’s a year when, if Democrats don’t get their act together ASAP, they could suffer a trifecta of losses that will trigger further erosion of threatened New Deal and Great Society legacies and fulfill many conservatives’ longtime dreams.
Many Democrats still seem smugly assured that, in the end, voters would never, ever give GOPers control of all three branches of government given the rhetorical overkill of the party’s talk show political culture, Congressional Republicans’ political obstructionism, the continued enabling of Twilight Zone-like birtherism, plus Republicans’ alienation of Latinos, many women voters, gays – and seeming disdain for moderates and America’s "sensible center."
Democratic political maven James Carville almost seemed pleading on CNN when he told Democrats to wake up:
"You think that Democrats around the country are going to win – as I hear time and time again from people on the street. … I ask: What are you smoking? What are you drinking? What are you snorting or just what … are you thinking? Look around the world – do you see any governments or incumbents winning any elections out there?"
Among the many questions posed about the 2013 there are these three:
Two are a) whether the center is still "sensible" (centrists, moderates and some independents will ask) or b) whether the center was ever sensible (liberals and conservatives who consider the center mushy, unrealistic, lacking principles, and uninformed will ask). Polls vary, but most find that in terms of party identification the electorate is largely tied between Democrats and Republicans who need swing "undecided" voters to win.
The election takes place in a political landscape where political news now often seems to parallel TV show titles. For instance: "Mad Men" (Mitt Romney best political bud, birther Donald Trump; and Arizona birther Maricopa County Sheriff Joe Arpaio), "Missing" (George W. Bush’s absence from the Romney campaign trial), "Criminal Minds" (writers of demonizing and falsity-crammed Super PAC campaign ads), "House of Lies" (Congress), "Curb Your Enthusiasm" (Republicans endorsing Romney) and "The Big Bang Theory" (the John Edwards Trial).
A third question is whether 2008 will prove to be a fluke, merely a single Democratic Party volume wedged between two Republican Party bookends, a victory largely due to multiple-level Bush administration failures and the financial meltdown. If so, it means GOPers are destined for complete political control of the Supreme Court and that the mostly Republican dominance of presidential elections since LBJ’s exit continues.
The National Journal’s Naureen Khan writes: "Part of the Obama campaign’s success in 2008 can be attributed to effectively recognizing those [demographic] shifts and wooing new constituencies. The question in 2012 remains whether the president can stitch together those constituencies again or whether those blocs will defect to Romney in the wake of protracted post-recession misery."
The conventional wisdom has been zigzagging and now seems to have settled on middle ground.
As Investor’s Business Daily’s Andrew Malcolm puts it: "No one knows, of course, but conventional wisdom today holds the Nov. 6 outcome will be close. Unless it isn’t. And then we’ll hear all about why it wasn’t."
Right now some analysts say Obama could become another Truman. Some Republicans say he’s another Jimmy Carter. But Obama may generate a – "another Obama" – that pundits and historians will use in the future. Exactly what "another Obama" means will emerge on Election Day.
So will the Democrats win despite themselves? Will some liberals really stay home because there was no public option in Obamacare? Will they forget about the Supreme Court (again)? Which party will swing voters hate the least, and hold their noses and vote for? Will Republican Party unity combined with Super PAC bankrolling support make America’s first African-American President just one more, fired one – term president?
If so, it will another instance of life again seemingly imitating TV art as the Democrats on election day would wake up to see the New Deal and Great Society more on the way out than ever, and find themselves epitomizing the name of another TV show: "The Biggest Loser."
Joe Gandelman is a veteran journalist who wrote for newspapers overseas and in the United States. He has appeared on cable news show political panels and is Editor-in-Chief of The Moderate Voice, an Internet hub for independents, centrists and moderates. He can be reached at [email protected].