THE NARRATIVE

It doesn't take an expensive survey or a tremendous amount of insight to realize that as a campaign Obama 2012 is going to lack the unprecedented wave of enthusiasm that carried Obama 2008 to victory. Regardless, we might be on the verge of a historical anomaly: a sitting President with an approval rating under 50% who, Palin-esque momentary surge of interest in Paul Ryan during Convention week aside, appears to be on the way to a comfortable (if not exactly overwhelming) victory in the Electoral College.

In 2008 and 2009 I taught classes about the 2008 election at one of my previous institutions, and I was often asked what the long term forecast held for 2012. I said that for a president elected in a recession, such predictions are not exactly rocket science: either the economy would get better and 2012 would be Obama's coronation, or the economy wouldn't get better and he'd be in real trouble. The wild card, which was apparent even back in 2008, was the GOP's lack of an obvious quality challenger. Their best hope at that time appeared to be the emergence of some heretofore unknown superstar between then (2008/2009) and now. It didn't happen, and they were left to choose a candidate from a pool of old, recycled losers. They had to spend months seriously considering nominating Rick Santorum or Newt Gingrich; if that doesn't scream "We've scraped clear through the bottom of the barrel into the foul-smelling swamp beneath it" then I don't know what does.

I'm generally pretty bad at predictions but this was an easy one. Here we are four years later with an economy that, some tout-able statistics aside, is still mired in a recession with high unemployment. Obama is predictably suffering on account of that (along with his general lack of effective leadership and his baffling decision to pay a stratospheric price for the pitiful wages of moderation and centrism) and by historical standards appears ripe to go down in flames after one term. But the best candidate the Republicans could find is a guy that even they can't stand. Much as in 2004 when the Democrats nominated their own "Yeah, there's no one else so I guess the rich guy with name recognition will do" candidate, there is no such thing as Romney Supporters right now. His "support" is merely people who hate Obama so much that they literally will vote for anyone but.

This is setting up one hell of an amusing post-election narrative on the right. If Obama wins – certainly no slam dunk, but if you had to bet your life savings on the race right now you'd probably put your money on him – we might expect a right wing meltdown that will put the shitshow that was November of 2008 to shame. I think we will be disappointed, however. The narrative is already being constructed: There's nothing wrong with our ideology. It was all Romney's fault. It's painfully obvious that conservative newspapers, magazines, and bobbleheads are laying the groundwork for countless post-election "None of us actually liked this guy, and you didn't either" pieces. The funny thing is that they will actually have a point; nobody likes this guy. When bastions of communist agitprop like the Wall Street Journal and The Economist are opining that, you know, we want to like this guy but we really can't find a reason, it's fair to say that the candidate was a big part of the problem.

The likely result is a Republican Party that once again doubles down on its entire platform and if anything moves even farther to the right in preparation for 2014 and 2016. That worries me, especially considering that they have a potential 2016 candidate (Marco Rubio) who legitimately has the charisma, personality, and self-presentation to do very well in our modern media-driven elections. The Democratic opponent, conversely, either will be a recycled name from the Oldies but Goodies pile (you know who) or a still-to-be-discovered superstar who will emerge over the next few years. I'm not so sure that the latter exists.

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40 Responses to “THE NARRATIVE”

  1. argh Says:

    "a recycled name from the Oldies but Goodies pile (you know who)"
    hmm… Jimmy Carter? :P

  2. J. Dryden Says:

    So strange to think of what's around the corner. That the response of the GOP base will be to double-down yet again, like Soviets responding to mass starvation with further food seizures. And what infuriates me about Romney's candidacy is its inherent cowardice. Nobody wants Romney, but the party doesn't have the guts to pick the guy whom they actually want to see in office. They have the courage to shriek and moan and wail for the cameras, but they don't have enough to actually put the guy (or woman) forward who truly represents what they believe. Such people exist–we saw them during the primary debates. Why, in short, aren't they putting forward what they *really* want to see in the White House–the Santorum/Bachmann ticket? Can it be because on some level even *they* realize that that would be a nightmare?

    No. It cannot.

    At a certain point, we–and by "we" I mean people who aren't current members of the guiding wing of the GOP–have to ask: how much further to the right do we have to go?

    Realizing that the U.S. will at no point in any rationally imagined future be like Iran or North Korea (for which we can all be grateful), I've become increasingly baffled as to the question: What do these people want to see happen?

    English as the national language? Christianity as the state-sanctified religion (in which case, what *kind* of Christianity–will Presbyterians and Episcopalians be invited to the table)? Elimination of public education? Mandatory military service? Elimination of all forms of taxation? Abortion rendered universally illegal? Prosecution/imprisonment of LGBTs for *being* LGB and Ts? Public executions? Flogging? A return to slavery in the form of "indentured servitude" designed to punish illegal immigrants while allowing them to "earn" citizenship?

    Name me one thing I've listed here that wouldn't get a round of applause at the convention.

    Seriously–when is it enough?

  3. Drivebyposter Says:

    ^ It will never be enough. There will always be screaming and ranting and purges of the not pure enough. It will be like freepers. That website has been slo-mo imploding for months because any disagreement becomes proof to both sides of the disagreement that the others are plants or secret librulls.

    This post has me worried about 2016. I really see repubs winning that one. Unless a lot of the morons currently driving the party of ignorance and oppression die off, it will probably be the worst time to live here within my lifetime.

  4. Middle Seaman Says:

    I wouldn't say anything about 2016. According to most prediction models Obama wins. His campaign however is weak quite reflective of his dysfunctional four years. I find it difficult to understand the GOP. Can they be even more extreme? Now they are 18th century. Will they go back to flat earth? I give them 50%.

  5. wetcasements Says:

    "There's nothing wrong with our ideology. It was all Romney's fault."

    Hell, they've already done this with 2000-2006, when they had complete control of everything. Conservatism never fails, it can only be failed.

    That said, Martin O'malley seems to be the up-and-comer some Dems are excited about. I like the guy myself but, similar to you, am not willing to make any predictions about 2016.

    Well, maybe a small one — it's crucial that Obama wins this one, because four years of dreaded socialist Obamacare (people actually getting affordable health-care and not being dropped by their HMO's) is going to change a lot of people's minds. The GOP has known all along that a step towards universal health-care, even a flawed one, can't be put back in the bottle.

    So please Firebaggers, realize that not voting BHO is a de facto vote for Paul Ryan.

    Also, SCOTUS nominees who think of women only in terms of how they can control their vaginas.

  6. c u n d gulag Says:

    I'm not worried about 2016 yet.
    I'm still worried about this year.
    Never ever discount peope's inner racism.
    That's where Mitt's campaign is now – stoking people's hatreds and fears.
    They're in the process of trying to out Lee Atwater, Lee Atwater.

    And I don't think the Republicans will start to get rational anytime soon. They'll continue to double-down on 'Teh Stoopid.'
    Here are their current core consituencies, aka – "The Base:"
    The Evangelical Chrisitans.
    The Racist Misogynistic Homophobes.
    The John Birch Loony-tunes.

    Do you see any rational thoughts coming out of any one of them, or any combinations?

    Right now, the Corporatist wing of the party is trying to hold all three of these tigers by the tail. And each one of those tigers is pulling them further and further to the right.

    And if Mitt loses, HE'LL be held responsible.
    Not Paul Ryan.
    As someone already said above, 'Conservatism can't fail. It can only BE failed.'

    Paul Ryan will be their heir-apparent for 2016.
    I can definitely see a Ryan-Rubio ticket, in yet another election when their parties candidates for Presiden begin with R & R.
    After all, "R & R" is the sound pirates make, before making people walk the plank.

  7. Sarah Says:

    Mitt Romney is a racist shitbag.

    Paul Ryan is a misogynist shitbag.

    Since the modern Republican Party is the party of racist, misogynist shitbags, they should be having wet dreams over both of these guys.

  8. Middle Seaman Says:

    GOP infighting shouldn't be a concern. After all, the war between the states, i.e. the Southerns name for the Civil War, was lost by the Union. We got to keep the South. It's way too late now.

    The Democrats, in addition to becoming Rockefeller Republicans, have an amazing talent to choose the worst candidate for potential president. In 2004, we had Dean but we selected the Romney-like Kerry. In 1976, we got the racist Carter. In 1988, we had Dokakis and to top it off, in 2008, we chose the worst of the three people running. Only Big Dawg sneaked in and most Democrats hated his guts ever since.

    As they all say: American Exceptionalism.

  9. Lit3Bolt Says:

    Ed, you totally predicted David Brooks' new column on Tuesday.

  10. c u n d gulag Says:

    OOOOOOOH!

    MUST READ!!!

    HOKEY SMOKES, BULLWINKLE!
    Mitt Romney must have done something that really, really, REALLY, pissed David Brooks off!

    http://www.nytimes.com/2012/08/28/opinion/brooks-the-real-romney.html?_r=2&adxnnl=1&seid=auto&smid=tw-nytdavidbrooks&adxnnlx=1346133710-59a/PRvl8/CxgyVvAiZ6QQ

    Either that, or Paul Krugman must have found a way to send in a column with Brooks’ name on in.

    Or maybe Bobo got tired of Charles Pierce tearing him a new arse-hole after every column, and pounding on him like a red-headed piñata.

    This is the first ROFLMAO column I’ve ever read by the previously ever-insipid Brooks.
    He be ‘insipid’ no longer.

  11. anotherbozo Says:

    I was falling all over myself worrying over this election with its superpacs, voter suppression in swing states, etc., feeling cynical about the country, unwilling to look, along with Ed, to the future, so I erased my confused remarks here and moved on.

    Fortunately John Hodgman, of all people, was there to help:

    http://www.huffingtonpost.com/john-hodgman/how-i-learned-to-be-a-winner_b_1834692.html

    Stick with it; it turns substantive. Hodgman doesn't have Ed's pedigree, but he spoke to me.

  12. Anonymouse Says:

    Do not underestimate Fox "news" and their role in this. I was away on a business trip and came back to the sad news that a neighbor (someone I barely knew) had stage 4 cancer and had shot himself while I was away. The person telling me the news insisted it was because he was a victim of Obamacare (you know, the program that won't start for another 2 years?). He was a victim of the death panels, you see.

    No amount of factual information I could introduce made a dent in the thick layer of Fox-stupid. What's even more terrifying is that there's an entire population out there that believes these lies.

  13. Major Kong Says:

    Another election cycle or two and we'll be wistfully looking back at W as a "moderate".

  14. Anonymouse Says:

    @Wetcasements; O'Malley is my local guy; he was a decent mayor and is a good governor. The Democratic party could certainly do worse.

  15. acer Says:

    @gulag:
    I think Obama's got this one, and progressive attention is better focused on the local level. The Bradley Effect couldn't help an authentic bigoted rube like Palin. It's not going to do shit for Mittens.

    The 2004 parallels are striking. The preference for dancing with the half-assed, dysfunctional incumbent that brung us is stronger than anything Disposable Rich Jerk 604406 could possibly bring to the table.

    Things are bad and getting worse, and we know the incumbent is going to reap the whirlwind in the next four years. The GOP appears to be punting again, while lining up a formidable bench for 2016, when, if these shadows remain unchanged, they'll be extremely hard to beat.

    Yes, Rush is going to spend four years spinning this as Romney Wasn't Crazy or "Full Throated" enough. Fuck him.

    I'll once again pull the donkey lever out of spite, but I think the big fights this time are in our neighborhoods. The DNC should be focused on finding an EXTREMELY powerful newcomer for next time.

  16. acer Says:

    @gulag:
    Holy shit! Who the FUCK pissed in D-Bo's cornflakes?

    This is amazing.

    Do I have to start liking him now?

  17. Sarah Says:

    Remember the election reform which we all know is intended to decrease Democratic voting while increasing Republican voting? The proof is in the pudding.

    http://jacksonville.com/news/florida/2012-08-27/story/democratic-registration-all-dries-new-florida-laws

  18. Sluggo Says:

    Mark Warner.

    Current Senator and former Governor of Virginia. There was a bit of discussion in 2006-2007 of him running for the Presidency but he did not want to because his kids were still young.

    He has aggressively gone after rural voters and has won those areas. He is a very inspirational speaker, and can really light up a room.

    Let's face it, what we look for in a President is that they can be "Preacher in Chief". Every election since 1976 was won by the guy who could delivery the best 'sermon'….Carter was better than Ford, Reagan better than Carter and Mondale, Dukakis was so bad that even GHW Bush could beat him……Clinton, Bush, Obama……

    Mark Warner 2016.

  19. acer Says:

    Warner or O'Malley might be the best hope. I didn't think of either, which makes me wonder if the DNC will.

    Hillary has been a good Secretary of State and arguably would have been a more effective Chief Exec than Obama. But I can't say I wouldn't mind watching her lose in the primaries again.

  20. Beleck Says:

    lol, loved the line about agitprop, Economist, WSJ. the depth of hte stupidity is 40 some odd years in the making. Bush will look like a moderate, indeed.

    this is, i gather what the USSR went through in its' decline. we are at the beginning of the political whirlpool down into our dear "Leader" time. we need a "savior", after all these fundies have set the tone for our country now. a Good Daddy. after all Father Knows Best. lol.

    watch for Rubio, Jeb Bush to come to the aid of the Republicans/ the right wing. right now Obama is the center Right wing. and Obama ain't doing enough to advance the Right wing as the Elites had hoped.

    expect Obama to double down on Social Security and Medicare, hurry up at cutting it for the "national" good. such histronics is good PR. we have all those "enemies foreign and domestic" that SS and Medicare are wasteful, inefficient Gov program. the only Goverment programs allowed are those for Defense spending. notice it won't be for Veterans though. that's the real "point" if you want to see where the Right's priorities are.

    the Left side of the Republican Party, the Democrats, are a fall back position for the Right. One Party, one and a half talking points.

    when i think/found out about Carter being the first at cutting taxes for the rich, the first sucking up to the Elitesat, i was astounded. here i thought was a good ole boy for the poor, Good Marketing, and Clinton, the Republican's go to boy, for cutting welfare, gutting unions through NAFTA, PR my friends, this is all PR.

    or as Goebbels said, repeat the line often enough. i especially like the line about "everyone failing at doing conservatism "right,". lol that's one of my favorites.

    as if there is a difference enough to make a difference, some of the Democrats use lube, the Republicans never do. that is the only real difference. lol. and we better get used to it. Batten down the hatches, thar she blows. lol

  21. Dave Dell Says:

    "If God had wanted us to have a democracy he would have given us better candidates."

    I don't know who said that in that exact form (there's other variations out there with Jay Leno listed first) but I know I didn't make it up. I've been pondering this for a while…

    I've decided that we have great candidates. They, through their consultants, stalking horses, spin doctors, PACs and Super Pacs, etc are able to campaign the bulk of electorate into a contradictory state of hysteria, and numbness.

    I've come to the conclusion that while we have great candidates, we lack great elected officials. It's much easier to run for office than to govern once in power.

    For instance, I feel those qualities that made Bill Clinton a great candidate weren't apparent as a the President. Signing some horrendous bills (repeal of Glass-Steagall and DOMA come to mind) and floundering in putting a coherent vision of his own into our national debate come to mind.

    All this leaves me once again to holding my nose when I vote. The only comfort I have is that by myself I'm outvoting all the non-voters.

    One further thought… Do the Republicans not have good candidates for national office because there's no money in it? As an over-generalization, all the Dem's seem to make their money after they are out of office while the Republicans only seem to run for office once they've made their pile.

  22. c u n d gulag Says:

    acer,
    Maybe Mitt's people forgot to call back Bobo's people, after he requested a solo interview with The Great Tax Dodger.

    And don't worry, Bobo will be back to licking the anuses clean, and putting talcum on their clanging ball sacks – even the women – in his next column.

    He must have gotten into Krugman's stash, and didn't realize how potent that sh*t was.

  23. Mo Says:

    Ed called it – Brooks's antennae are merely detecting the wafting stink of defeat and further GOP putrefaction as the money starts to swirl around Ryan.

    "It's painfully obvious that conservative newspapers, magazines, and bobbleheads are laying the groundwork for countless post-election "None of us actually liked this guy, and you didn't either" pieces."

  24. Lacking Moral Fiber aka Useless Muthfucka frmly Nemesis Says:

    Color me skeptical.

    How, after all these years and all those wordy word thingies, could Bobo pen such eloquent, snarkalicious prose? It hardly seems possible. Was he recently dropped on his head? A near death experience? A pink slip?

  25. Matt Says:

    Julian Castro could make a 2016 race against Rubio very interesting.

  26. mothra Says:

    Name me one thing I've listed here that wouldn't get a round of applause at the convention.

    Mandatory military service. That would mean their children would have to be cannon fodder. Not possible.

  27. JazzBumpa Says:

    Shorter Beleck, via a vintage 1962 quote from my long since departed father:

    "Sometimes, if a crumb falls off the plate, the Democrats will let you keep it. The Republicans won't even do that."

    And that was when the phrase 'liberal Republican' was not an incomprehensible oxymoron.

    The wild card in this year's election is voter suppression.

    I am very, very afraid.

    JzB

  28. JazzBumpa Says:

    There's no way Krugman could ever have written anything even remotely resembling the Brooks article. Stylistic differences aside, PK is far, far too polite.

    JzB

  29. JohnR Says:

    @Anonymouse: "The Democratic party could certainly do worse."

    Don't worry; they will. Ben Nelson/Joe Lieberman 2016? Can't get much more centrist than that unless it's Ben Nelson/Sarah Palin.

  30. Doomed, we are Says:

    Demographically, how long can the R party remain relevant if it keeps tacking right? Seems attrition would take its toll soon unless voter suppression turns into outright disenfranchisement for all who aren't white landowning men (which I'm not discounting as a possibility).

  31. mothra Says:

    HOKEY SMOKES, BULLWINKLE!
    Mitt Romney must have done something that really, really, REALLY, pissed David Brooks off!

    No. Brooksie is being a little snot and writing Romney's bio as if a "liberal" or Dem would write it. The joke is on him, however, because it really does describe Romney.

  32. J. Dryden Says:

    @ mothra–Ah, but it would still get applause. Because everyone at that convention would assume (rightly) that they themselves will be exempt from the legislation they feed to the masses. (Witness the fact that any wealthy/powerful GOP father who does not want his daughter to carry her illegitimate child to term will never have any trouble finding a safe and secret means of terminating the pregnancy.) And mandatory military service isn't nearly as difficult to sell as might be imagined–in a period of high unemployment and bitter class/racial resentment, one never has to do much to get young men to put on a brown shirt. (Yeah, I know: Godwin's law and all that. Still, though.)

  33. Xynzee Says:

    As I've said there seems to be some kind of competition to see who can say the craziest thing and still get elected. Challenging the electorate's resolve to wake up and call them them out on this.

    Frighteningly, their electorate has been stewed in a soup of insane rhetoric and constant diet of Limpbough and Faux News for so long that they've lost control of it. Your fear shouldn't be who the next leader of crazy will be, but a mutinous military. I don't think that anti-Govt militia they nailed is the only one. What the hell is a Sgt doing taking orders from a Pvt even in civilian life?

  34. bb in GA Says:

    @xynzee

    I think your 'haint is less scary than you imagine:

    Limbaugh has a weekly audience of 15-20E06 and the way they are counted there are repeats. And about 10-20% of his audience consider themselves to be Liberals. This came from Sen Tom Daschle's (D) experts back in about 2003.

    Fox News best ratings are for their opinion shows that draw in the single digit millions.

    The US has what – about 125 – 150 million adults?

    I think you are assigning more horsepower here than is deserved.

    The future is Red (not as in Red State)

    //bb

  35. acer Says:

    @bb:

    Good points, but would you please stop conflating American progressivism and Soviet communism? They just aren't the same thing, at all.

  36. Stone Riley Says:

    I am VERY surprised no one here has mentioned the possibility / inevitability of the two party system breaking. Why not? Surely astonishingly low voter turnout – plus so much more evidence – makes this an obvious topic for discussion. The elites have fallen into criminal incompetence and proven with evidence heaped upon evidence that they have nothing to offer. On the other hand, Occupy has streaked across the sky and landed somewhere out of sight beyond our media horizon.

    Our current moment seems to bear comparison with the election cycle of 1856 – 1860 when the party of Lincoln sprang out of nowhere.

    I'm currently reading Chris Hedges' closing chapter in "Days of Destruction, Days of Revolt". Magnificent. Very large perspective. Also re Christopher Hay's new book "Twilight of the Elites" which is on my reading list.

  37. Stone Riley Says:

    "Twilight of the Elites" is by Chris Hayes.

  38. bb in GA Says:

    @acer

    I 'll try to do better. It is mostly a depth perception problem on my part.

    For the record, I don't want much of neither…but I think the future belongs to y'all on the Left (is that better?)

    //bb

  39. Fezzik Says:

    In lieu of the two-party system breaking (which would be awesome):

    Mark Warner, Brian Schweitzer, John Hickenlooper. These are all Dem governors from batttleground states who are know how to "govern from the middle" (in both practice and appearance). This is not who I'd necessarily want. But they fit the bill in that they're new blood, and they've got "experience".

    Personally, I like Hickenlooper the best, aside from his goofy name.

  40. Beleck Says:

    lol the country is so screwed after 40 years of the Right effing it up so completely, as they say on the right, "failed Conservatism" will be repeated on the left. if the Left gets lucky enough to even resurface.

    the Right always seems to think there is some coordinated, concentrated body of power on the Left. a herd of cats, as Will Rogers once described it.

    the left is so inept and has been nothing but the lesser party willing to help the Republicans destroy America, quite ineffectively, at that. when i see Blue Dogs, i see Left trying to be Right while wanting to be called Left. the stupidity,incompetence of the Blue Dogs and traitorous behavior of the Blue Dogs/Left just assumes to much. where does the Rigth get these "ideas" about the Left. if only some of them were true. lol.

    but that is what i gather the Right thinks about the Left. One gigantic organized socialistic group of people working to overthrow the Right.

    boy, i wish. too bad the Right has effed it up so completely. i do wish there was some group to counter the damage of the Right. NOt in America though. the rot is complete. the revolution if it ever occurs will have to start from scratch.. funny how scratch could also be the Devil's name.

    if only there was some way to educate the Right. way too late for that now.