by Joyce L. Arnold, Liberally Independent, Queer Talk, equality activist, writer.
Whatever campaign trail stories make headlines this week, it seems one major piece will remain in place: the WH race is close. And as usual, I wonder about how this fits within our electoral politics, our we-don’t-need-more-than-two-parties system. I guess a close race shows that the system is working, as long as “working” means more of the same.
From Real Clear Politics, national polling regarding Obama vs. Romney:
Average, 5/29 – 6/15: Obama – 45.7%; Romney – 44.9%. Spread: Obama +0.8
Rasmussen, 6/13 – 6/15: Obama – 45%; Romney – 47%. Spread: Romney +2
Gallup, 6/9 – 6/15: Obama – 45%; Romney – 46%. Spread: Romney +1
Reuters/Ipsos, 6/7 – 6/11: Obama – 45%; Romney – 44%. Spread: Obama +1
CSM/TIPP, 6/1 – 6/8: Obama – 46%; Romney- 42%. Spread: Obama +4
Monmouth/SurveyUSA/Braun, 6/3 – 6/6: Obama – 46%; Romney – 46%. Spread: +1
FOX News, 6/3 – 6/5: Obama – 43%; Romney – 43%. Tie
CNN/Opinion Research, 5/29 – 5/31: Obama – 49%; Romney – 46% Spread: Obama +3
What kind of argument will the Dem party make if – as certainly seems likely at this point – the presidential race remains close? Surely it can’t be that the Republicans have chosen a strong candidate. They can argue, accurately, that the Repubs in Congress have been obstructionist, and the party in general obviously more interested in making Obama a one termer than the silly needs and concerns of We the Electorate … concerns about things like jobs and houses and health care and fracking and wars and comprehensive immigration policy and the militarization of law enforcement and other peripheral “issues.”
Of course, the Democrats seem most interested in Obama getting a second term, though that does bring us to how a close election can lead to some evolving, dreaming attention to actual issues.
Thus far, the predictable presidential election year Republican shift another step or dozen to the Right helps make Obama look better to his supporters and to some leaning toward him. Of course, Obama (and the Dem party in general) have consistently followed to the Right of center, too, but Obama is on the Left of Romney. That the center itself keeps sliding Right doesn’t prevent the Dems from staying between it and the Repub ever Rightward position. And as I’ve written before Obama is definitely doing his part to push the Repubs further into the radical realm of Rightness, from Gitmo to drones to deep sea drilling to Wall Street coziness – what can Romney do but “prove” he’s the real conservative by moving ever further Rightward?
One thing we can count on is that a WH incumbent running for a second term and a challenger will both make promises that won’t be kept and policy statements that will morph into decisions contrary to the statements. One very big, very obvious difference between the two presidential hopefuls is that the incumbent can use the last several months of the campaign actually doing some of the things he (still the accurate pronoun, unfortunately, related to the WH) promised as a campaigner. There’s nothing like a close election to encourage evolution and dreaming.
At various points in an election, the arguments will be made that some of We the Electorate are being entirely unreasonable, and clearly don’t understand how things work, when making demands of our candidate which are unpopular with other segments of We the Electorate. For example, the pressure on Obama to, as Joe Sudbay put it, “evolve already” regarding marriage equality was consistent, loud and strong, well into 2012. Some argued that it was unfair and unreasonable to keep the pressure on in an election year. Obviously those folks didn’t prevail, and while Obama’s eventual “evolution” was on the personal level, as he carefully included stating his position that the actual decisions regarding marriage equality should be made by states; and while it’s always been highly unlikely that he’d lose votes by, as it turns out, a personal but not policy evolution, the announcement of his personal evolution had the effect the Obama campaign no doubt wanted: lots of praise, and lots of gay money (more about that in an upcoming post).
The argument about when it’s okay to pressure an Elected usually continues throughout her / his time in office. The predictable arguments that it’s too soon in a term, too late in a term, too controversial, too big, too little, etc., are always accompanied by “but hey, re-elect me and then you’ll see some action.” Occasionally, like in times of a close election, “not now, later” issues suddenly and strategically become a priority, and there’s some specific-to-a-segment-of-your-base action. All of this, of course, is bipartisan in nature. Both Left and Right sides of the Duopoly play the game.
If We the Electorate are largely content, or just resigned, to continuing to play by the Two Party Front for the Oligarchy rules, then I hope there will at least be more of the kind of pushing that resulted in some presidential evolving and dreaming. Neither side of the Duopoly is going to push itself. Well, maybe they will … to the Right.