Seamanship Quotation

“In political activity, then, men sail a boundless and bottomless sea; there is neither harbour for shelter nor floor for anchorage, neither starting-place nor appointed destination.”
— from Michael Oakeshott's
Political Education” (1951)

Tuesday, January 3, 2012

The US presidential election: a bore in the making

The election of 2012, like the elections of 1960 and 2000, may be desperately important historically, but not necessarily very exciting.

It’s conceivable that grassroots Republicans in Iowa tonight will find that reckless courage political junkies everywhere are counting on—and vote for an eccentric or an incompetent, and cripple middling Mitt Romney’s presidential campaign. That, unfortunately, would contradict what those voters have been doing for the last six months: seven times they’re picked a candidate with their feelings—and promptly retreated. Their hearts may be racing, but their heads keep telling them to take it easy.

The Tea Party and the Occupy Wall Street Movement made a lot of news in 2011, but will be sidelined in US politics in 2012. The amateurs made 2011 exciting. However, the professionals—and $billion Obama and Romney campaigns—may turn 2012 politics into an exhausting bore. Tens of thousands of Americans will participate, millions worldwide will watch. But endless calculation and the worried mood of America’s political center will likely subdue the drama.

What to do? For one thing, we should try to be equally as hard on the safe survivors as we are on the more spontaneous challengers. Maureen Dowd offered a nice start in her Sunday piece “She Made Me Run!”

“Ann Romney told CNN’s Wolf Blitzer that she insisted to her reluctant spouse: “You know what, Mitt, you’ve got to do this again.

“Mitt resisted, she said, because “he remembered how difficult it is and what the hurdles were going to be.” Mittens, as her not-so-cuddly mate is called by reporters, knew he was not a natural with voters.

“According to Mitt, their pillow talk sounded like a political ad. “She said, ‘Look, no one else can beat President Obama. No one else has the background to actually get the economy going, understand the economy in a very fundamental way.’ ”

Dowd reports that a top Republican strategist actually thinks that American voters can be talked into believing that Mitt Romney was persuaded to run for President by a self-sacrificing wife. Until otherwise advised, let’s stick with the evidence: Romney has turned himself inside out for most of his adult life to be a political success.

Romney will keep calling Obama too “European” and Obama will keep complaining that Republicans don’t like the “middle-class” until it sinks in that we all know that they are both talking nonsense.

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