The GOP Field: No One Works in the Middle

Aaron James
Spare Change News

The American presidency is arguably the most stressful, yet highest held office in the world, and it is for this reason that the office has always intrigued me. The icing on the cake is the fact that you and I have a part in deciding who gets to run this country. I will always be proud to be an American – however, it is hard to deny the fact that as a nation we have made errors in choosing our leaders.

In 1992, I followed my first presidential campaign intensely. For the only time in my short life, a sitting president did not earn a second term. Instead, we chose Gov. Bill Clinton. With political agendas set aside, President George H. Bush led respectfully. He lost his re-election in large part due to agreeing to new taxes, effectively breaking his “Read my lips, no new taxes” pledge. He lost the trust of the people, and as a result, we sent Bush back to Texas and sent an unintended, misinterpreted message to Republicans.

I have nothing but respect for Clinton. In ’96, we had a man deserving of a second term. A man who was willing to put his legacy on the line to do what was best for the country. Had we given Bush a second term and elected Clinton in 1996 and 2000, he would have led us through 9/11. I find it hard to believe that W. was a stronger leader than Clinton would have been.

In 2008, we made a similar mistake. President Barack Obama had the makings of becoming an epic president. By now, it’s pretty clear he still has much to learn. On the other hand, John McCain gave a lot to our country and he could have given so much more. He would have made an outstanding president. We could be electing a much more politically strong Obama in this upcoming election. McCain by no means offered the same old policies of the previous administration.

Four years ago, I was excited for our country. When I watched the presidential debates, I truly thought that I was watching two future presidents going at it, like Kennedy and Nixon. I believed we would elect McCain, followed by Obama in 2012 – I guess that was wishful thinking.

Here we are today with a rather disappointing so-called “Progressive Democrat” seeking re-election against a bunch of out-of-touch Republicans. It is odd that W. campaigned as a “compassionate conservative,” yet compassion seems to be locked away inside a Republican time capsule, likely somewhere in Afghanistan.

But we are where we are. We voted for W. and are living through the consequences of far right conservatism. This was predicted by many scholars. Take a guess when this was written in reference to a speech by W.:

“On the economic side, Bush vowed to bring back economic stagnation by implementing substantial tax cuts, which would lead to a recession, which would necessitate a tax hike, which would lead to a drop in consumer spending, which would lead to layoffs, which would deepen the recession even further.” (http://www.theonion.com/articles/bush-our-long–nightmare-of-peace-and-pros,464/ )
January 17, 2001 – three days before W. took office – these words were written. Can we look back and say this was just partisan journalism, written as satire? Whoever wrote the article must to have had a crystal ball. I wonder if anyone could have predicted that after disaster struck and war waged, W would continue with the tax cuts. How are these tough times a surprise to anyone?

It looks like President Obama believes that the answer to our problems lies somewhere in the middle; with motions like budget cuts, it is clear that he is not the liberal he was supposed to be. As an independent, I applaud him for these tough decisions. We are a broke nation, and some cuts are necessary. On the other hand, the foundation of our nation’s social services and safety networks cannot be tampered with.

I do not feel that Obama has been an effective leader because he has failed to get new revenues. The millions of unemployed Americans are not alone; even our federal government is unemployed. We are running deficits. However, we still have a solid economy for the mere fact that everyone knows the money is out there. It’s just a question of how the federal government gets its hands on it before it’s all shipped off overseas. Cuts in programs only slightly decrease the amount we need to come up with; at the end of the day, we still need more funds. And to do this we need more jobs! Here I am writing about presidential elections and I’ve failed to mention a presidential candidate for the 2012 election cycle, except the sitting President. This was not by chance!

It is disappointing that the man I so despised in 2008, Gov. Mitt Romney, seems to be my choice on the other side. However, he does not have my support. First, he lacks military expertise. Second, he remains focused on budget cuts instead of finding revenues, with no realistic plan to create jobs. His website states he will “bring fiscal restraint to Washington by placing a hard cap on federal spending,” yet insists his plans “should not reduce benefits for current seniors or break the promises they have relied upon for their economic security in retirement” (http://www.mittromney.com/issues/fiscal-responsibility). If you want to put a cap on spending, how can you promise no reduction in benefits? Another promise made in vain? Or did your eyes too, skip over the word, ‘current.’ How clever!

The current Republican front runner, according to most national polls, is Gov. Rick Perry. RealClearPolitics, a political news and polling data aggregator, has the Texas governor leading 26.3% over Romney, who has 16.5%. Behind them are Gov. Sarah Palin, 10.6%, and Rep. Michelle Bachmann, 8.8%. With still several months until the first votes are cast, the eventual nominee may not be in the race. Needless to say, there is not much difference between the leading candidates. None of them are willing to work in the middle.

Perry is worth following. I predict he will run a strong campaign only to fall short, like Romney in 2008. I cannot begin to predict whom he will lose to, and I hope the answer is none of the above. It is important to remember that early polls are like football exhibition games. This time in 2007, McCain’s campaign was dead in the water, as he was polling worse than Rep. Ron Paul is currently showing. The outcome of 2012 is in our hands.

My plea is that you stay informed throughout the process. It is hard to pay attention to presidential politics when these days, we are focused on surviving. However, the election of W. effectively made it that much more difficult for those of us who are Democrats. I am living in Massachusetts for a reason. I do not want our programs affected anymore by the federal government. The homeless across the country could use every dollar possible. Unfortunately, however well intentioned, a politically weak man is at the helm of the nation. On the other side, they lack a leader. Should a Tea Party Republican become that voice, we all need to do more.

My prediction is that independents will vote in the Republican primaries, in those states they are allowed to. In these states, all of the current front-runners are in trouble. There is room for a moderate to take the nomination, so will one please stand up?

AARON JAMES is a Spare Change News writer/vendor.

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