May 19, 2012

Will American voters re-elect President Obama?

    Saturday, May 19, 2012   No comments

Or can Mitt Romney offer them a viable alternative? But an alternative to what and why?

As it is generally the case, extraordinary circumstances must be present for an incumbent president to lose re-elections. The last time this happened, President Bush (41st) was fired because of the economy. Bill Clinton rode the spiffy slogan, “It is the economy stupid,” to underscore the need for change.

This election cycle, and by selecting Mitt Romney as their candidate, Republicans seem to use the Clinton strategy against Obama. But how good or bad is the economy in comparison to early 1990's?

The answer may not be relevant or important because Obama could rightly remind Americans that the poor economic conditions did not start under his watch. Also, he could point out that, unlike George W. H. Bush, he did not start the wars that taxed the economy either. His son, a Republican, did. But all these issues could be mooted if the economy were to improve between now and November. In which case, the Republican candidate could fall back on social causes, foreign policy, and defense issues.

While social causes that touch on civil rights and religion are motivating forces for conservative voters Mitt Romney is not seen as a stronger defender of those values. Foreign and defense issues too cannot be used to attack Obama this time for a number of reasons.

First, Romney, in comparison to Obama, does not have the experience or the record that will allow him to challenge Obama’s. Romney’s policy is merely a concept when compared to Obama’s practical steps taken since taking over in 2008.

Second, Obama, despite his promises to end Bush’s policies and practices, he actually continued on the same path. He failed to close Guantanamo, he pursued Bush’s road map for Iraq, he escalated in Afghanistan, he killed the top terrorist, he authorized more drone assassinations than his predecessor, and he took part in the Libya war without putting troops on the ground or committing American resources. This record is a problem for the left but it is hardly "attack-able" by the right given the policies and practices of the previous administration.

In terms of foreign policy, Republicans might attack Obama’s Middle East record. But even that can be easily undermined by simply qualifying it. For instance, Republicans are using the slick slogan “Stand with Israel” to suggest that Obama is not. That slogan too can be taken apart given Obama’s stance in support of Israel even when other western and European countries were prepared to abandon it. For example, Obama defeated Abbas’ efforts to secure UN recognition. He pressured Turkey and Egypt to keep peace with Israel despite the extraordinary changes taking place there. And he aborted or vetoed UNSC resolutions condemning Israeli for issues related to illegal settlements and Gaza War. Republicans could be more accurate and change their slogan into “Stand with Natanyahu.” But that is like asking a liberal politician to love a conservative one, neither party does it and it will be disingenuous to ask Obama to be the first. Natanyahu is simply too conservative, not only for Obama, but for many Israelis and American Jews too.

So comes November, voters will have the option of firing a president whose, economic,  defense, and foreign policies were center-left if not outright conservative practices masked by his liberal credentials or hire Romney who would fire everyone and attempt to turn around an economy that is already turning around. Romney, as fiscal conservative,  would privatize social security and healthcare, outsource the postal service to UPS and FedEx, and bid out  natural resources and infrastructure. 



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