Healthcare, money in politics, unions, and Obama's unpopular positions lose the youth vote

Five observations on the state of National Politics

WASHINGTON, 14 June, 2012 — President Obama has not made a huge blunder in a few days, so the news has been relatively slow.

Nevertheless, several themes have emerged, clarifying themselves as of late.

In no particular order:

1. Mitt Romney and Healthcare

It seems that Mitt Romney is in the best position of all to argue the healthcare issue, no matter how the Supreme Court rules later this month on Obamacare. The conventional wisdom on the right is that the Affordable Care Act will be overturned, a wisdom that is bolstered by worry on the left.

If the Supremes declare it unconstitutional in whole or in part, Romney is in a comfortable positions, since he can fairly say that such was his argument all along. The Republican nominee-to-be will certainly make hay out of it, claiming that the law represented an overreach of the federal government, and that he would never test the limits of federal power the way Obama has.

You can believe it or not, but that’s what he’ll say, which is consistent with what he has been saying for the past three years.

Perhaps the Court will let the law stand, in which case Romney can make the argument that he, among all prominent politicians, is in the best position to craft a replacement to the overwhelmingly unpopular law, since he enacted a state version of a similar variety.   

Among independents, Romney will come off as pragmatic, since he was able to develop a bipartisan solution in his own, liberal state.

2. Money and Political Wins

Money signals enthusiasm in elections. Democrats are convulsing about the amount of money spent on Gov. Scott Walker’s behalf, trying desperately to cast their looming defeats as natural features of a newly sinister Citizens United landscape.

Hogwash.

The concept of money operating as political speech has a long tradition in American politics, and the Roberts Court rightly restored the freedom to contribute dollars to all associations, including corporations and unions.

That Wisconsin Democrats were unable to raise as much as Walker’s allies says a lot about why they are complaining, and even more about their viability. Money flows to winners, not as an access point to influence, but as a way to show support. “Put your money where your mouth is” means exactly that. Democrats didn’t.

In that light, monetary contributions are an indicator of enthusiasm for a particular candidate or cause.

Recall that candidate Obama rejected public financing four years ago, eventually raking in $750 million as compared to the $84 million that his rival took in through the public system. In justifying his decision to break an earlier promise, Obama declared “independence from a broken system,” and pledged to “run the type of campaign that reflects the grassroots values that have already changed our politics and brought us this far.” In other words, then-Senator Obama preferred to allow individuals to speak through their small-dollar contributions.

He was right then. But he’s wrong now about large-dollar contributors (though he has no problem taking in big money from wealthy Hollywood donors).  If a wealthy individual is particularly enthusiastic about a candidate, she should be free to express that enthusiasm with a larger contribution. Again, put your money where your mouth is. Some people have big mouths, others have big wallets.

Perhaps Democrats are just a little bitter that their candidates, including the president, aren’t bringing in the kind of money that they did in 2008.

3. The Decline of the Unions and Other Unpopular Positions

Unions aren’t that popular. In fact, most of what Obama supports isn’t popular. If Scott Walker’s re-win is any indication (and it is), then public approval of unions is on the decline, and particularly of unions of government workers.

It is fine that the president supports something that is unsupported by a majority of Americans. President Bush, for example, stood by the virtue of the Iraq War until the bitter end, even when public opinion had gone underwater.   

But President Obama is on the losing side of many big issues: his healthcare bill, oil drilling, fracking, the Keystone pipeline, taxes, the deficit, another stimulus, and gay marriage, to name a few.

Again, perhaps he has taken principled stands on all these issues, though it seems like a remarkably misfortunate coincidence that he is, on nearly every major issue, out of sync with the electorate that he hopes will grant him another term in a few months.

4.  Obama loses the Youth Vote

Young people won’t deliver for Obama in 2012. First, those who showed up for him last time are four years older now. With age comes different voting patterns, at least on the margins. Others will have wised up, or maybe they have become disengaged or disenchanted.

More importantly, their replacements (the new young) have come of age in a terrible economic time, and are a lot less likely than their forebears to be enraptured by the thought of an Obama presidency.

5. Campaigns at Odds

It has become political dogma that the 2012 election will be a nail biter, coming down to a few states. How does anybody know? Bill Kristol asked just such a question several weeks ago. It might not be close. Romney might open up a healthy lead and run away with it.

Sean Trende of Real Clear Politics has made the point that if Romney can build a significant, but not implausible, lead over Obama in national polls, then states like Pennsylvania, Michigan, Colorado, and Wisconsin will go into play. Under that scenario, Romney could accumulate up to 320 electoral votes or more, making it a rout.

One thing is certain: if Obama wins, it will be close. Nobody is suggesting that the president can come remotely close to replicating his 2008 victory map. For Romney, however, it is wide open. 

 

Learn more about the author at Rich-Stowell.com 

Rich is a teacher and a soldier. In addition to writing the “Rich Like Me” political column at the Washington Times Communities, he is the author of Nine Weeks: A Teacher’s Education in Army Basic TrainingTunnel Club; and Not Another Boring Textbook: A High School Students’ Guide to their Inner Conservative, which you can follow on Facebook.

 


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Rich Stowell

Rich Stowell has written about politics and travel for the Washington Times Communities since 2011. He is a soldier in the Utah National Guard and a fellow at the Center for Communication and Community at the University of Utah. Rich is the author of "Nine Weeks: A Teacher's Education in Army Basic Training"and continues to blog about military issues at “My Public Affairs.”

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