Who needs TV with its bad acting when we can watch the Oval Office race between President Barack Obama and presumptive Republican nominee Mitt Romney? The overheated rhetoric and overdramatized outrage on each side is now in full gear. Suspense is injected by perpetually see-sawing polls: the latest two show them in a dead heat nationally and Obama losing ground in 12 key swing states.
Amid the suspense and question marks there are some certainties in this race. Here are a few:
The Republic will survive: although 21st century politics and its new and old media thrive on apocalyptic rhetoric, much of what’s predicted will never come to pass. Each Presidential election year our rhetoric seemingly goes further over the top.
On the other hand, some fears are realistic. Republicans fear a second-term Obama will not need to woo independent voters and could be more liberal (likely). Democrats fear that despite his moderate past Romney has not shown the political courage or convictions to resist demands from his party’s far right and will give them what they want (likely).
The Republican Party of Teddy Roosevelt, Dwight Eisenhower and Richard Nixon is dead. Thomas Wolfe had it right — “You Can’t Go Home Again.” Those expecting the GOP to shift more towards the center if polls this fall show a backlash against its 2012 conservative orientation will be disappointed. And if Romney loses, hardline conservatives won’t just hand Jeb Bush the keys to the party in 2016. The Tea Party movement and conservative talk show hosts will have “won” the battle for the Republican Party.
Centrists are being weeded out in both parties. Uh, oh, here come tiresome accusations of “false equivalency,” a phrase as grating as chalk on a blackboard. Several factors (including his residency) played a role in Indiana Republican Senator Dick Lugar’s political demise, but a big one was his being targeted by Tea Partiers for being too moderate. Utah’s Sen. Orrin Hatch will face a primary challenge due to his (gasp!) reaching across the aisle.
The Daily Beast’s John Avlon correctly points out that while hunting RINOs (Republicans in Name Only) is a popular GOP sport, “DINO hunting is starting to catch on in Democratic circles,” and two Democratic centrists were defeated in the recent primary in Pennsylvania. The trending is not towards moderation or non-lockstep partisans in Congress or in the country.
Expect a close election and dirty campaign: The wildcard of the uncertain economy adds volatility. Some GOPers are already trying to “Swift Boat” Obama on his role in the killing of Osama bin Laden, while Team Obama has made it known it has lots of material on Romney that’ll be released at key moments of the campaign.
Independents will be needed even if partisans continue to disparage them: The award for the silliest statement about independent voters goes to MSNBC’s Ed Schultz who recently suggested independent voters are not flocking to Obama because they don’t like Obama’s gun stand. If Democratic strategists are as insightful as Schultz, then get ready for President Romney. P.S. Independents aren’t monolithic.
Anything smug analysts predict could prove wrong: Who ever would have thought that the Oprah Winfrey Network would lose nearly $330 million? Or that in the end, New York Rep. Anthony Weiner would not only live up to his name but actually embody it? As I always say: beware of the conventional wisdom, because if it’s suddenly shattered all evidence of it will be discreetly swept under the rug.
But the odds are that after the votes are counted many certainties on this list will have held up. Just as there is this certainty: 2012 is unlikely to be an uplifting election that will leave the country more unified and informed on issues.
And if I’m wrong? There is a lot more room under that conventional wisdom rug.
Copyright 2012 Joe Gandelman’ distributed exclusively by Cagle Cartoons newspaper syndicate.
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.