By way of full disclosure let me say that I have voted in every primary and general election since I was twenty-one and eligible to do so. Despite the fact that I identify more with the stated ideals of one of the two major parties than the other, I have never voted a straight ticket in any of those general election contests.
Both parties have their share of hacks and heroes – and I have always tried to find the best candidate for each office irrespective of whether their name on the ballot had a (D) or (R) by it. I realize that puts me in the minority of voters. Now that I think about that, I wonder if that entitles me to some kind of government subsidy. I’ll have to check that out.
I will never forget doing precinct work, going door to door and speaking with registered voters about their choice for governor in a contest in which then Illinois Gov. Ogilvie was trying to get re-elected versus a populist Democratic candidate, Dan Walker.
I had a voter list of the precinct I was canvassing and knew who were the registered Republicans and Democrats and those who had declared no party affiliation. My goal was to speak to every one of these voters and get an indication of whom they supported in this race. Then on election day, to make sure that the Governor’s supporters got out and voted.
I knocked on one man’s door – a registered Democrat – and as I was wearing my Ogilvie button he knew why I was there and wanted to speak with him. But he was surprisingly receptive and cordial to my interrupting his prime time television viewing.
After a few minutes in which I talked about the things that the governor had done for Illinois I asked him if we could count on his support. Much to my surprise, the accomplishments I had listed were dwarfed by this man’s praise for the governor and his enumeration of other things that he thought the governor had achieved.
So I said, “Well, sir that’s great. Then can we count on your vote on election day?”
He said, “No, I have to vote for Walker – even though I think he’s a jerk. I’m a Democrat and I work for the city.”
I mention this experience for one reason. So many of us cling to a political sense of partisanship that goes beyond reasonable expectation. And this is even more true of those politicians who are members of that party. They will defend to the death the most outrageous and egregious behavior of other members of their party rather than betray their allegiance. And with that as background, we now come to the subject of this post.
In the last week former President Clinton has twice made statements that conflict with the stated goals and policies of President Obama. The latest of these was his endorsement of extending the Bush tax cuts – an idea which the current president opposes.
Why this break in Democratic party solidarity? Certainly, President Clinton knows better. So is there something else behind this? I would like to suggest a possible scenario.
We all know that the November, 2012 election is going to be a close one. In large measure the outcome will depend on how the economy improves or fails to do so. So what could make the difference in who gets the votes necessary to administer the country for the next four years?
One of the claims coming out of the negative campaign which President Obama is conducting is that things were Utopian under Clinton (a Democrat), got bad under Bush (a Republican) all of which he inherited and that his opponent Mitt Romney (a Republican) was an evil doer as Governor of Massachusetts and as a private businessman following the Bush rather than the Clinton tradition.
Now if former President Clinton (the standard bearer for truth, virtue and prosperity) breaks with President Obama – doesn’t that cast a shadow of doubt for those who can see that the economy simply is not recovering despite government bailouts, massive Federal Reserve intervention and Congressional stimulus plans all endrosed by Obama?
Now into this fray enters Obama’s opponent, Governor Romney. He has a record both in the public and private sector – of which you might either approve or disapprove. He has standards which you might or might not share. And given the tepid reception that he has received even within the Republican party, it would be fair to say that voters view him as uninspiring. Governor Romney doesn’t have the same media appeal that President Regan or even President Obama have.
So here’s my thought. In a tight election anything can happen and most likely will.
Here are two possible outcomes.
1) Obama wins re-election. We continue down the same path which we have seen for three and one half years or speed down it at an even faster pace. The country and economy continue to flounder. We are now at the election of 2016 and the country has woken up to the fact that Obama’s (the Democratic Party’s) way of doing things has been a dismal failure. No matter how appealing the Democratic candidate might be in 2016, his or her election is impossible.
2) Romney defeats Obama in November. He provides competent though uninspiring leadership. Things get better – but President Romney never captures the hearts of the American electorate. He is vulnerable in his re-election bid. Enter Hillary Clinton as the nominee of Democrats in that election, a woman with certain credentials to her name – most recently as Secretary of State – a position in which she has earned both a title and a certain amount of obscurity.
It is seldom that I can speak honestly of our politicians having a long-term view of things. But if there is one, it is in how they regard their own futures. On that topic they are supremely prescient.
Could the reason for former President Clinton’s break with his party’s nominee, the sitting President have anything to do with his wife’s political aspirations?
It’s something to consider.
As a footnote, in the election for Illinois Governor, Dan Walker defeated incumbent Governor Ogilvie by a very narrow margin. He served only one term as the people of Illinois saw the economic disaster he wreaked on the State in those four years.
After leaving office he was indicted and convicted of bank fraud and served a prison term.
Partisan politics exacts a very expensive toll on each of us. The people of Illinois came to realize that. The question at issue this November is will the voters throughout our country have the wisdom to learn from their experience?