Within a few weeks we’ll know officially most of the major candidates for president, A few may hold back for strategic reasons, but it’s time to begin the campaign in earnest and redirect the voters to the problems the nation faces (and what we might do to solve them).
In my view, there has been a bit too much “positioning” in the period leading up to the present by the various Republican hopefuls, and that’s a game in which the media and the political consultants hold sway. It has lead to distraction for distraction’s sake, and to poseurs claiming they are candidates for president of the United States. Positioning, or a preoccupation with the strategies of game-playing with issues, fills cable TV, assorted blogs, gossip columns and campaign strategist’s paychecks, but does not often inform voters about whom to vote for.
Let’s take social security reform as an example. There are only a few practical and worthy steps to take to make social security stable over the coming decades. Most political figures know what they are, and that eventually they will be applied to the problem. The game playing is somehow to gain advantage with certain voters by making it seem one’s opponent is for the unpopular solutions. One “unpopular” solution that will happen, sooner or later, is that the age at which a worker is eligible for payments will be extended from 65 to 70 or 72. This is inevitable, but a candidate might hope that if he or she can get an opponent or opponents to advocate this change, some voters will turn against him or her. Perhaps a few voters will be influenced by “scare” tactics on this issue, but most voters already understand that this kind of change is inevitable. I suggest key voters will be drawn to political candidates who are straight-forward about matters like this one, and do not play political games.
The evidence is that this is what the public wants more than anything else in these troubled economic times when traditional ideas and institutions have failed are understandable solutions that will work and are fair.
If a nascent presidential campaign became preoccupied by a birth certificate, it is because no one was really talking about the key issues on the voters’ minds. Of course, some issues are much less conclusive than social security reform, and a real debate is needed to clarify what can and should be done. But GOP candidates, it seems to me, risk becoming preoccupied with how narrow religious, ethnic and social issues will impact their chances in Iowa, New Hampshire and South Carolina. Let me say here that, with this potential field of candidates, the nomination is not likely to be decided in the early primaries and caucuses, conventional wisdom and past campaigns notwithstanding. In 2012, it is likely to be late primary-to-late primary combat, with the victor being the contestant who establishes himself or herself as the person most likely to provide a credible alternative to the incumbent. In the Democratic race in 2008, Mrs. Clinton almost caught up to Mr. Obama as voters in the late primaries reassessed the candidates. In the Republican race in 2012, there may be more than two finalists after the First Four primary/caucuses, and if this is so, the race may be undecided until the end of the campaign season or even at the convention in Tampa.
Most of the serious Republican candidates are going to agree generally about the largest issues. No pro-choice Republican is going to be nominated, nor is anyone who advocates raising taxes or enlarging government. Even in foreign affairs, no GOP nominee will favor U.S. isolationism or abandoning our strongest allies (including Great Britain and Israel).
There are several talented, capable and nominatable candidates in this field, and the campaign, as I have been suggested for months, will soon narrow down to them.
The Iowa Straw Ballot in August will be here before long, and a series of debates among the candidates. It’s probably going to be a protracted political show this time, so let’s get this show on the road.