Necessary Nonsense

With Rick Santorum dropping out of the race for the Republican presidential nomination, leaving the field to Mitt Romney, President Obama claims;

This election will probably have the biggest contrast that we’ve seen maybe since the Johnson-Goldwater election, maybe before that,

I actually laughed out loud in the car this morning when I heard that. Maybe, just maybe, if it had been Romney who dropped out, setting up an Obama-Santorum race, the statement might have just the slightest claim to plausibility. But Obama-Romney? A race between a Democrat that liberals find too conservative and a Republican that conservatives find too liberal?

I know it’s obligatory to make these kinds of claims, so this isn’t really a critique of Obama. But this claim is so laughably wrong that I just want to take a moment to note the races we’ve actually had since Johnson-Goldwater, for purposes of comparison.

1968: Humphrey-Nixon. The civil rights liberal vs. the southern strategy. A guy who only cared about domestic social issues vs. a guy who only cared about foreign affairs.

1972: Nixon-McGovern. The man who expanded the Vietnam War in Cambodia vs. the guy who wanted to end the war immediately.

1976: Ford-Carter. OK, the 2012 choice might, perhaps, be starker than that one.

1980: Carter-Reagan. Ol’ Doom and Gloom vs. Mr. Morning in America.

1984: Reagan-Mondale. A true, although not radical, conservative vs. a Minnesota liberal.

1988: G.H.W. Bush-Dukakis. A moderate New England Republican vs. a New England liberal…sounds like a lot like 2012, if you change that to Illinois Republican vs. New England liberal.

1992: G. H. W. Bush-Clinton. Eh, ok. Bookends, policywise. Worlds apart in demeanor.

1996: Clinton-Dole. Two moderates…again, sounds a lot like 2012.

2000: Gore-G.W. Bush. No, that wasn’t a stark choice at all, was it? An environmental liberal vs. radical conservatives.

2004: G.W. Bush-Kerry. A man who had first-hand understanding of the horrors of war vs. a draft-dodger and his gang of chickenhawks

2008: McCain-Obama. OK, true, this wasn’t actually that stark a choice, despite what any of us may have thought then. But it’s a bit funny that Obama is belatedly admitting–albeit indirectly–that he and McCain weren’t so different after all.

But if you can’t find a starker choice in that list than what we currently face, you’re not old enough to vote.

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About J@m3z Aitch

J@m3z Aitch is a two-bit college professor who'd rather be canoeing.
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22 Responses to Necessary Nonsense

  1. Phil says:

    As an academic working the fields of politics, do you think our election campaigns are really about conservative and liberal ideologies or are there deeper struggles for power that have more to do with being in control of the strings of government for the benefit of some would be ruling class? .

    Conservative and liberal ideas just being there to lull the dumbed down public”
    .

  2. Lance says:

    I am not quite so willing to let Pres. Obama of the hook. Since he ran on the Change and Hope ticket I was, you know, hoping for a change from politics as usual.

    Perhaps I was naive, but still I don’t forget such promises.

    Having watched and listened to our fearless leader speak for these last four years I see a man with great personal charm and charisma that is none the less willing to play the usual political games. He’s starting to look a lot like a black Bill Clinton (Thankfully with out the stained blue dress, at least so far.)

    Bubba lacked Obama’s cool intellectualism but Obama has managed to keep from looking as detached and snobby as Kerry or Dukakis.

    I fear that Obama closely follows a script written by David Axelrod, especially as the election draws closer.

    A debate between Obama and Romney will likely be no debate at all, but the usual two guys presenting a set of talking points while on the same stage. Still, if a true debate were to break out it would be interesting to see the two men engage each other. I doubt there would be any great policy difference to distinguish the two of them but their personal styles could be a contrast that would illuminate the way they would lead the nation.

  3. pierrecorneille says:

    Lance:

    I don’t know–have too little evidence–but I suspect Romney is probably a better debater than The Black Diamond claimed that licensing would “have a tendency to eliminate the irresponsible class, which does more to discredit the retail coal industry than any other factor.” Editorial, “Weeds Out Irresponsible Peddlers,” Black Diamond, 64, 8, 21 February 1920, p. 178. But after the city council raised the licensing fees in 1924, the association protested against them. It supported a lawsuit in which 176 coal merchants challenged the licensing law, this suit convinced the state supreme court in 1924 to overturn it. The court ruled that that the city had imposed the fees for the sole purpose of raising revenue, a power that the state legislature had not granted the city. Aberdeen-Franklin Coal Co. v. Chicago, 315 Ill 99 (1924). The association’s opposition to the law is cited in “Chicago News Items,” Black Diamond, 73, 3, 19 July 1924, p. 67. Other than noting that the association itself opposed the licensing law and that a large number of dealers, many of whom were presumably association members, the Black Diamond did not mention what role the association played in opposing the law.Obama. I didn’t pay much attention to the excrutiatingly large number of Republican primary debates, but I remember seeing a clip of Romney going after Gingrich and it wasn’t a pretty sight if you support Gingrich. (If you don’t support Gingrich, however, the sight was might bit prettier.)

    Ironically, if Obama had been more aggressive in his first year in office–if he had tried to push his advantage as far as possilbe to control the narrative–I think he might have gotten a lot of Republican supporters for his legislation and thereby partially fulfill his promise to change some of the “politics as we know it.” Instead, he relied too much on the Democrats’ nominal majority in the Congress (and even more nominal supermajority in the Senate) to pass legislation.

  4. pierrecorneille says:

    Ugh….I accidentally pasted a footnote from my dissertation onto my comment. I don’t know how that happened.

  5. Lance says:

    pierrecorneille,

    Whew, I was trying to make sense of the Black Diamond information as it might pertain to Obama and Romney. Was Obama the “Black Diamond”? What the hell…?

    I thought maybe you were having an adverse reaction to some medication, or maybe an LSD flashback.

    The footnote was probably the last thing you cut and pasted and you botched the next “copy” and pasted in the footnote.

  6. pierrecorneille says:

    Lance:

    Well, what happened was I was supposedly working on my dissertation (sadly (?) I’m about to go to work, and I’ll have to reprise it tomorrow). I accidentally clicked outside the comment box, and most of my comment had disappeared. Thinking I had accidentally cut it out with an inadvertant right click, I right clicked again and pasted what I had, which happened to be a (grammatically incorrect, poorly worded, and overly discursive) footnote I had cut and pasted in my word document earlier this morning.

    But my point remains the same and uncontested: The Black Diamond and the Chicago Coal Merchant’s Association really did oppose the coal licensing ordinance. Nobody can take that away from me!

  7. Lance says:

    Phil,

    You seem to see shadowy Illuminati-like bogeymen hiding behind every doorway. How would such a secret cabal maintain power and control of the whole world while remaining hidden?

  8. D. C. Sessions says:

    Your “this is not a stark contrast” thesis depends rather strongly on the assumption that the “Romney” at issue is the one who was governor of Massachusetts, and not a sock puppet for Paul Ryan. Obama is, indeed, a very moderate sort who might well have run as a Republican in relatively recent years.

    Paul Ryan’s sock puppet, on the other hand, is Hell bent on undoing not only the New Deal of the most recent Roosevelt but the Square Deal of the previous one. That contrast would indeed be greater than any in my memory (which goes back to Kennedy/Nixon.)

    So the question is, “which Romney are we talking about?” And the answer to that is not at all clear — to anyone.

  9. Matty says:

    Clearly our secret rulers The Black Diamond have been interfering with this comment thread.

  10. Lance says:

    DC Sessions,

    Paul Ryan’s sock puppet, on the other hand, is Hell bent on undoing not only the New Deal of the most recent Roosevelt but the Square Deal of the previous one.

    What, no mention of repealing the Magna Carta? Dogs and cats living together…

    C’mon DC, All candidates lean hard (to the right for Republicans and to the left for Democrats) to appeal to the party base during the primaries and then swing back to the center to pull in (so called) moderates during the general election.

    And spinning Obama as being similar to a centrist Republican? Really? Centrist Democrat maybe, but a centrist Democrat is a far cry from a centrist Republican.

  11. D. C. Sessions says:

    All candidates lean hard (to the right for Republicans and to the left for Democrats) to appeal to the party base during the primaries and then swing back to the center to pull in (so called) moderates during the general election.

    So you’re betting on the Governor. You may be right. However, my point is that the Romney we’ve seen to date — the Romney who is on the record — is nothing at all like the “no stark contrast” Romney assumed by Our Gracious Host. It’s far from unreasonable for BHO to contrast himself with the Romney of current record.

    And spinning Obama as being similar to a centrist Republican? Really? Centrist Democrat maybe, but a centrist Democrat is a far cry from a centrist Republican.

    Show me one nontrivial policy of the current Administration which is not only acceptable to Republicans of recent memory but actually sponsored by them in Congress or submitted by a Republican President.

  12. Michael Heath says:

    I find this race to offer the starkest contrast in my lifetime – not even close. However I still think the 2000 and the 2004 elections were the more critical junctures in our nation’s history, in spite of the fact the Democrats ran such a mediocre candidate in ’04. (I voted for Bush in ’00, easily the biggest voting mistake I ever made and where I should have known better given Gore’s reputation in the tech industry where I was working at time.)

    First – the biggest threat humanity currently faces to our long-term well-being is climate change, which Gov. Romney wants to avoid dealing with altogether. He never even brings up this threat.

    Second – the biggest challenge we have regarding the federal budget as it relates to economic growth and global competitiveness, is how the federal government will continue be an effective agent of growth given how healthcare costs are increasingly consuming our tax revenues – not just federal but also state revenues – where again Gov. Romney wants to avoid dealing with altogether as president or, transfer responsibility for denying coverage to the states (the Paul Ryan plan). The state burden is often hidden given how they do their accounting and therefore under-appreciated, for example the burden reported as educational spending where an ever-increasing portion is going to healthcare costs for employees and retirees in the public school system – in spite of those employees paying an increasing share and seeing a trending reduction in their take-home pay.

    Third – we see an enormous difference in what types of judges each party wants to nominate, by far the starkest in my lifetime given that the Republican party is now a purely conservative party which has mutated way beyond the Burke into something resembling the merging of Sarah Palin and Clarence Thomas. Republicans are committed more than ever before to nominating judges who will support the plutocracy at all costs and have no problem ignoring the equal protection of the 14th Amendment if that’s what to takes to secure the voters to achieve their plutocratic ends for a mere handful of business sectors (most do not benefit or lobby for what the Koch Brothers and the coal industry seek).

    Fourth – We have a debt problem where federal revenues are at their lowest level in the modern era and where we’ve once again validated low taxes doesn’t translate into sustainable growth and a robust labor market. And again, Gov. Romney avoids wanting to confront this problem, he won’t even reveal exactly what he’d cut in spending in spite of the fact this is the only lever available to him.

  13. Lance says:

    DC Sessions,

    So you’re betting on the Governor.

    Hardly, I think he is a transparent waffler with no real substance or great insight. I see him as a manager not an innovator.

    Show me one nontrivial policy of the current Administration which is not only acceptable to Republicans of recent memory but actually sponsored by them in Congress or submitted by a Republican President.

    OK. opposition to the Keystone XL pipeline. Obama, while cautiously claiming that he is just “delaying” not stopping the pipeline, is catering to the environmental left. Something no Republican (since perhaps T.R.) has done.

  14. Lance says:

    Michael Heath,

    First – the biggest threat humanity currently faces to our long-term well-being is climate change,

    What a load of shit.

    I’m so tired of you making outrageously over the top pronouncements like that and then just lobbing personal insults at rational replies that I am going to just walk away.

    I would love to have a serious, fact driven discussion on the topic but I know all too well that you are a fanatic on this subject and thus incapable of rational, respectful discourse.

    Have a nice night.

  15. James Hanley says:

    Pierre: From now on, Obama will be the Black Diamond in my mind. Thank you; that was a classic moment in blogging.

    D.C.: I don’t think Romney is a sock puppet; I think he is a windsock.

    Phil: I think both parties desire power, and as much for power’s sake as for actual ideology. But I don’t think there is a ruling class that controls both parties as puppets.

    Michael and Lance: You’ve both stated your positions. We know where each of you stand. And since neither of you can possibly persuade the other, let’s just leave it at that, acknowledging that both of you despise the other’s position.

  16. Lance says:

    James Hanley,

    And since neither of you can possibly persuade the other, let’s just leave it at that, acknowledging that both of you despise the other’s position.

    Fair enough. Despise being the appropriate word.

    I will also, from this point forward, think of Obama as the Black Diamond. A classic moment in blogging indeed. (By the way the words in Amharic, Ethiopia’s national language, would be Teckoor Almaz, and that is how I will think of Obama from now on.) As an aside my Ethiopian wife hates Obama and has chided me for voting for him for years.

    Nice turn of words with sock puppet and windsock. I would have said the same thing had I been clever enough to craft it.

  17. pierrecorneille says:

    Pierre: From now on, Obama will be the Black Diamond in my mind. Thank you; that was a classic moment in blogging.

    I’m glad I can contribute something to the blogosphere. :)

    However, just so everyone who may be reading can be clear, when I wrote “Black Diamond,” I was referring to a coal trade journal of the same name published from the 1880s to the 1970s. It was not a term I coined, nor was it my intention to refer to Obama as “Black Diamond.”

  18. James Hanley says:

    Pierre,
    Understoood. If you had intended to refer to him as Black Diamond it would just have been weird. That the words “the irresponsible class” were in there just makes it that much better, since it’s so easy to imagine those words coming out of his mouth.

    FWIW, after some initial confusion and re-reading I figured it must have been an inadvertent cut-and-paste from your dissertation. I hope that’s going well.

  19. Michael Heath says:

    My previous comment above could have used a summarized conclusion beyond a set of some of the most critical factors where we see incredibly stark differences between the two party’s candidates (and the parties themselves). I wrote this argument in one of Ed Brayton’s blog posts today. Below is the relevant part of my comment from that post:

    James Hanley argues that we’ve seen starker differences between recent general presidential candidates. I think if the old paradigm still existed he’d have a solid case. But I argue no, that past debates focused on swinging the middle and were about more about policy; where both parties mostly conceded the set of objectives that motivated their respective policy positions. Now we have one party making that same argument, whether you agree with the Democrats or not, and another party whose now almost totally divorced from reality[;] depending almost solely on false premises and denying or avoiding the most enormous root cause problems we have, e.g., global warming, rising healthcare costs, federal debt, cutting current and past effective rates on the wealthiest increases economic growth, and degrading economic competitiveness.

    So I think the divide has never been starker in my lifetime. Democrats seek to improve our situation with objectives which are sometimes compelling and at other times arguably objectionable. Republicans have created a whole different reality where failure merely harvests more fodder to criticize Democrats and non-conservatives; actual success at governing isn’t even a objective anymore – in fact it’s never seriously discussed by conservatives except [by] their apostates.

  20. Michael Heath says:

    The last paragraph is from that same post. I guess you have to blockquote every paragraph here.

    [Fixed–JH]

  21. So, assuming he were elected, which way would you expect President Windsock to blow?
    I’m having a hard time imagining him stepping up to act as a brake on the Paul Ryans of his party. Perhaps I’m missing something, though — please show me where if so.

  22. James Hanley says:

    D.C.,
    I’m instinctively inclined toward your view, but I think we should be cautious about over-assuming. We truthfully don’t know Romney that well. I think he probably truly is a moderate–it would fit with his family background (although that by itself obviously is not dispositive) as well as his success as governor of Massachusetts. It does seem clear that he sees himself as a managerial type, rather than a visionary leader type. So while I think he certainly would take a course that’s distinctly conservative, I don’t think we actually know that he would just willingly go along with the more radical conservatives in his party. His windsockiness may be more reflective of the particular electorate he’s facing than the legislature he’s working with. And perhaps not. But we just don’t know.

    But I’m not trying to dismiss your concern as unreasonable. I think it’s very reasonable, and would myself be more comfortable with a President Mitt dealing with a Democratic majority Congress than a Republican dominated one. I’m just cautioning that our concern is based on our current understanding of Romney, which is surely enough to cause concern, but insufficient to make definitive claims.

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