Photo: dcJohn via flickr
The New York Times ran a story over the weekend that pointed out one of the weirder disconnects of the 2012 GOP presidential nomination campaign. The paper reported that GOP primary voters and caucus attenders were (and are) “fired up and ready to go,” to borrow President Obama’s famous phrase from the 2008 campaign. They want the campaign to begin now. But the candidates, oddly, seem reluctant to engage. They’re almost aloof from the roiling electorate that will decide who wins.
It was a smart story because it captured the mood of a lot of GOP activists in Iowa and New Hampshire and South Carolina. Those folks are used to an early start to the campaign. They like it that way. It makes them feel important. It elongates their status as players in the campaign. And it enriches their home states. Presidential campaigns spend a ton of money in Iowa and New Hampshire and South Carolina, as a rule. Those dollars are especially important to states now, in the aftermath of the financial collapse and an anemic recovery.
But the larger story of the 2012 GOP presidential campaign is how detached the candidates are from some fairly core beliefs of the early state electorates. Not one GOP presidential candidate, for instance, is distancing himself or herself (or the Republican Party they seek to lead) from the banks. Fealty to the bank agenda (which, through the eyes of an increasingly large number of GOP primary voters is thought of as “privatization of gains, socialisation of losses”) is just about the last place on political earth that any GOP candidate would want to be right now. But not one GOP presidential candidate has said one critical word about the banking industry, the shadow banking industry or the financial services industry in general. GOP primary voters and caucus attenders are dying to hear someone address how to put the financial services industry back in its cage. None of the candidates wants to talk about it.The GOP candidates are, to a person, silent on another monster issue out there, which is this: voters want to hear someone proclaim the end of the United States being in the nation-building business. They want to hear that the US will draw down from Afghanistan and Iraq faster, and that the next time we go to war we proceed on strictly Jacksonian terms. And they want to also hear that that the US will approach all foreign policy and national security matters with a realism that would make former Secretary of State James Baker look squishy. The neo-conservative foreign policy agenda is dead. Voters want to make sure that all the candidates understand that.
What these voters are hearing, instead, is that some of the candidates are “weighing their options.” while the others do pander calisthenics or say as little as possible about anything, so as not to disturb anyone.
Eventually, someone is going to figure out that the straightest path to the White House is a renunciation of the neo-conservative foreign policy agenda, a divorce from the eastern banking elite, a wholesale assault on the mandarins of the Beltway and their utterly irresponsible fiscal policies and a thorough-going condemnation of a Hollywood-driven pornographic culture. Slay those dragons and the nomination is yours in a walk.
For the moment, none of the candidates seems interested in taking that walk. It’s the weirdest disconnect of the campaign so far.
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