Image by david_shankbone via Flickr
There are many people who believe Obama is in deep trouble when it comes to the 2012 election. They point to his low approval ratings, a tanking economy and an inability to get anything serious past the Republican congress. While this is largely true, you have to look at what the GOP is offering up as opposition for the general election. Simply put, it isn’t pretty. The combination of extraordinary dullness (Romney/Gingrich), extreme craziness (Bachmann/Perry/Paul) and overwhelming negativity (see all of the above), is a recipe for electoral disaster, especially when facing one of the most charasmatic campaigners in history.
The Republican candidates are doing a fantastic job of whipping up fear amongst poor and lower middle class white people, but as George H. Bush found out in his loss to Bill Clinton, you need ‘the vision thing’ to win a general election. The rhetoric used by the GOP field isn’t just negative though, it is positively apocalyptic. And as Matt Taibbi points out, the doom and gloom merchants can only hold the public’s attention for so long:
As we’ve seen with the career of Glenn Beck, there’s a built-in problem with building a following upon fear of imminent catastrophe. In order to succeed and keep people interested, you need to constantly up the ante, with warnings that are more and more desperate and future nightmare scenarios that are more and more graphic. Even the most brilliantly nutty rhetoricians, and Beck is one of the best ever, ultimately run out of ways to keep twisting the nightmare plot forward while keeping at least a little toe of credibility in the real world.
This slate of Republican candidates is very passionate when it comes to warnings and predictions of doom and yearning for the days before antibiotics and universal suffrage, but not nearly as eloquent when it comes to expressing ideas like hope, reassurance, enthusiasm and forward-thinking, which is ultimately what the majority of voters tend to go for. I’m as worried about the future as anyone, but if your message for the next generation is buy gold, stock up on canned food, and duck, I don’t see how you can win a general election.
Obama began his journey to the Presidency as the overwhelmingly hopeful candidate – he was offering a renewed vision of the American dream, and the public bought into it despite taking on some of Washington’s most etablished political powerhouses in history. Whether or not Obama’s ‘vision thing’ was realistic, at least he had one. The Clinton team relied on tactical battles and negative campaigning, while the McCain campaign relied on subtle racism and electoral gimmicks. Neither worked, and Obama thrashed the veteran politicians in breathtaking style.
The thought of Rick Perry or Michele Bachmann bringing their garbled vision of a capitalist theocracy to the American public is completely laughable – Obama will wipe the floor with them, and the brains in the GOP know this. That’s why Karl Rove and Fox News are busy distancing themselves from the lunatic Right that they largely created.
They are monsters who can’t win no matter how loudly they kick and scream.
Ben Cohen is the editor and founder of The Daily Banter. He lives in Washington DC where he does podcasts, teaches Martial Arts, and tries to be a good father. He would be extremely disturbed if you took him too seriously.