On Friday night, we will once again mark the autumnal equinox, officially kicking off the most beautiful season in much of the United States (and the first day of Spring for those of us in the Southern Hemisphere).
Not only does Fall mean changing leaves and a crispness in the air, but it is high tide for Pop Culture. The new season begins on television; prestige movies fill the theaters; the King of American sports eclipses events that would rule any other time of the year; the 2012 election moves into a matter of months; bands try to cash in on the iTunes gift certificate redemption season. Three months of Fall normally hold more goodies than the other three seasons combined.
So this week, we’ll examine the menu and whet our appetite for what’s to come.
Depending on one’s tolerance for posturing and bullshit, we’re heading into either a magical or horrific time in the political cycle. At the New Year, Iowa and New Hampshire are only about a month away. While it would be hard to recreate the Obama/Clinton classic of four years ago (with the added spice of saucy John Edwards), any battle featuring Michelle Bachmann, Ron Paul, Rick Perry and Newt Gingrich will undoubtedly bring much laughter (with the added sedative of the boring-off between Romney and Huntsman).
But, as usual when superstars are involved, this all really comes down to the headliner. It’s still Obama’s to win or lose… which way it goes is mostly up to him. While there will undoubtedly be ups and downs in 2012, three questions from this fall will set it all up.
Will Obama avoid a primary challenge?
One of the most popular political games going is finding the killer statistical indicator. Obama can’t win because of unemployment. Obama can’t lose because of the stock market. And on and on and back and forth.
But the only historical barometer that matters is probably this… since the rise of the primary system, every President that has failed to be re-elected has faced a serious primary challenger. Every President that has been re-elected hasn’t. Eisenhower, Nixon, Reagan, Clinton and W. all had a wide-open walk to the re-nomination. LBJ had McCarthy, Ford had Reagan, Carter had Kennedy, and H.W. had Buchanan. JFK got shot, so there are worse possibilities, I guess.
Obviously, the rise of a primary challenger ties into bad economic indicators… the weaker a President appears, the higher the chance a reasonable alternative will decide to take their shot. But it causes other problems other than showcasing the incumbents’ weakness. It forces the President out of the middle. It leaves a chunk of the base of the party disillusioned when their candidate inevitably loses. It makes the President use up bullets and money better saved for the general election.
Already, fringe groups are making noise about running somebody. If that turns out to be a sacrificial lamb like Ralph Nadar, no problem. But Obama needs to make sure he hasn’t alienated the left enough for somebody real to take a shot.
Will Obama grow a pair of fucking balls?
Obviously, the answer to this has to be yes to ensure the answer is no to the previous question. Ever since he passed health care, Obama has acted like he didn’t want to put anybody out. When faced with a Republican Congress that cares about nothing except opposing anything he says, he continued to dream of a bipartisan utopia. While he’s passed enough initiatives to stand on with the left (health care, the consumer agency, repeal of don’t ask, etc.), he’s left a general impression that he’s unable or unwilling to put his foot down.
Lately, it seems that he’s finally starting to get the message. The “millionaires tax” is not only good politics, but good policy. Given the Republicans’ intransigence, especially regarding taxes, Obama has plenty of room to paint them into a corner with palatable proposals. Let them cry “class warfare”… whatever. The Tea Party grew so big so fast because it was the only outlet for people’s understandable anger. It’s time for Obama to redirect some of that energy toward the champions of corporations and the wealthy.
This is obviously against Obama’s conciliatory nature… it remains to be seen whether he’ll be able to incorporate some new moves in time.
Does all this matter with the field of Republican fucktards?
Anybody who lived through the 1992 election has a moment of pause when it comes to writing off a primary field. Because of the Gulf War, most strong Democrats took a pass, leaving a field that conventional wisdom said couldn’t beat a strong sitting President. One recession later, Bill Clinton was in the Oval Office.
Of course, Clinton was a flawed political superstar… he was a six-term sitting Southern Governor, and had given the keynote address at the 1988 Democratic Convention (as Obama did in ’04, except Clinton’s was boring as shit). It was just assumed that his pig fucking would doom him… the American people decided they didn’t really care.
The Republicans, on the other hand, had their underbrush cleared out by the Democratic landslides of ’06 and ’08… plenty of promising sitting legislators found themselves starting over. That, coupled with the decision of several middle-of-the-road candidates not to face Obama and the Tea Party, left the current bunch of fucktards.
Herman Cain is a nice candidate for a future failed CNN talk show. Newt Gingrich isn’t holy enough for evangelicals, or crazy enough for Tea Partiers, or sane enough for the rest of us. Gary Johnson makes Jon Huntsman look like he has a high profile. Nobody who looks like his mother still cuts his hair like Rick Santorum is going to be elected President of anything except a Bible college. Ron Paul is the Republican Dennis Kucinich. Michelle Bachmann makes Sarah Palin look consistent and trustworthy.
The media is ga-ga for Rick Perry, the current flavor-of-the-month. Obama should fucking get on his knees every night and pray that Republicans are that stupid. To face a shoot-from-the-hip smirky Texas Governor, one that makes W. look like the voice of moderation… ahhh. This guy was talking about seceding from the Union last year, for fuck’s sake.
Which leaves the two middle-of-the-road Mormons. Romney is like a mutant mix of Al Gore and John Kerry, although he may not have their raw charisma. Like Gore, he’s overeager, coming off like a nerdy kid who hopes becoming Student Body President will make him popular. Like Kerry, he’s unable to credibly attack the President on the issue his party cares about the most because he supported it (Kerry-The Iraq War; Romney-Health Care Reform). Kerry ultimately lost because he couldn’t draw a contrast to Bush on the biggest issue of the day… Romney has the same handicap.
On paper, the most dangerous Republican candidate is Jon Huntsman. He was a popular Western Governor, he has CEO experience, he’s conservative but not crazy, he put country ahead of personal political interest, he’s squeaky clean. However, thus far, the Republicans have seemed to prefer crazy over competent. Unless that changes by New Hampshire, it might not matter much what Obama does.