None Of The Above: 2012, A Transformational Political Year?
Ralph Benko, Contributor
The game of Political Musical Chairs seems to be propelling Jon Huntsman toward outperforming expectations in New Hampshire. The Wall Street Journal’s rhapsody that his economic growth plan is “Better than anything so far from the GOP presidential field” may move more Granite Staters than expected.
Yet the disaffection, trending toward apathy, that America is feeling toward its politicians is bleeding into the 2012 race, possibly setting the stage for … the totally unexpected. Apathy? The Tea Party — which not so long ago was turning out over a million people on the National Mall — has bored itself into hibernation. Occupy Wall Street has been reduced to a dispirited tent city in Washington. According to most of the front page of Sunday’s Washington Post it mostly is good for romantic liaisons. Devoting Page One to this implies the Post, too, finds the presidential race strangely uninteresting.
Disaffection? Progressive enthusiasm for President Barack Obama has been replaced by a hard slog by party regulars. Obama now is being pilloried by the Feisty Left for a “trail of betrayals,” as a “coward” and “traitor” who “for now on desperation is his path.” He’s also been called a “Trojan Horse, A Psychopath, A Bad Boyfriend.”
And it looks very possible that the badly overdue cyclical recovery now, notwithstanding the inane growth-curdling polices of liberal Democrats, may be getting under way. James Altucher, in his extraordinarily perceptive column “My Last Death Threat in 2011” points out the inconvenient truths. Housing inventories are at the lowest level since 1963, corporate profits are at an all time high, cash in the bank is at an all time high, announced stock buybacks are at an all time high, consumer spending is at an all time high, household obligations are the lowest since 1993.
These (and more) point to what could be a rip-roaring recovery. If recovery, cyclical though it would be, is at hand Obama will receive credit, foredooming the Republican nominee.
We mere citizens are having a hard time staying interested. “This pudding,” once complained Churchill, pushing away his dessert course “has no theme!” The headline of an earlier column here, “The End of Politics: The Dawning Irrelevance of Obama and the GOP”, suggests why voters are so disengaged: irrelevance.
With a half century of total war ending and something like peace breaking out politics loses its life-and-death drama. If prosperity joins peace, as threatening, it will be hard for an Oval Office address to draw as many viewers as How I Met Your Mother.
Excitement is likely to return, however, emerging from outside the old two party paradigm. There are a number of transformative developments simmering below the media’s radar. Any one of these, if it pops, could upend the stale status quo.
Consider just a few:
– “Lessig’s Lab” at Harvard Law School is incubating an entity (upon whose board this columnist may have been asked, and may even have agreed, to sit) to make Article V (State originated single issue) Constitutional Conventions a regular feature of our politics, putting vastly more power into the hands of the people as a regular thing. Populism with teeth.
–Almost unnoticed, North Dakota State Senator Curtis Olafson and a few others are unleashing a national movement of state legislators designed to transfer the power to raise the debt ceiling from the Congress to the States. Voila: a federal balanced budget.
–Texas statutorily is permitted to carve out from within its territory four microstates, each the size of Rhode Island with a population slightly larger than that of Wyoming. This would reduce Texas’s size and population by an immaterial 1% to 2% yet send eight more Texan-type Senators and four more Congressmen to Washington. If this catches on, prepare to watch the Liberals in the federal government being crushed, driven before you, and to listen to the lamentations of their women.
–A national movement has been proposed (and could be worthily led) by public intellectual Walter Kirn to change a rule and allow Members of Congress to vote on laws by telecommunication. This would, of course, immerse our national lawmakers in their constituents, insulating them from the lobbyists, utterly changing the chemistry of our federal government.
–And just for good measure the possibility of a Conservative-Black Alliance (Blacks being even more ardently pro straight marriage than most white conservatives) emerges. Not only would it completely stop the march away from traditional marriage. It would create an entirely new array of opportunities both for African Americans and the Republican Party. African Americans, says Rasmussen, are the most enthusiastic demographic group for the gold standard!
There are more profoundly interesting proposals such as the restoration of the gold standard, a favored topic of this column. Most are at an early stage. Some never will get off the ground. But one is bearing down the tracks like a runaway locomotive: Americans Elect. (This columnist already belongs. Enlist!) This is the big wild card in the 2012 cycle.
Americans Elect is spending $20 million to achieve ballot lines in all 50 states. It reportedly was designed as a refuge for the mythical raging moderates. By the time its creators discover that there are few “raging moderates” (moderates, having moderate dispositions, don’t rage) the genie will be out of the bottle.
Soon the GOP truculently will settle on a nominee, ending the 2012 nomination drama long before the general election drama is ripe. Media Jackals like this columnist must look elsewhere to sustain your interest. What looks to emerge — next Spring — will be a tsunami of media reports on “the Internet Primary.”
Left wing nuts seem sure that AE is a secret project of the Kochs. Right wing nuts are convinced AE is a secret project of Soros. The evidence is that AE is the project of the man who fused the Web to the radical concept of…grocery delivery, earning himself several hundred million dollars. Peter Ackerman, a founder of Freshdirect, apparently somehow got enough of his poker buddies to ante up to raise the money to do this right.
However disconcerting to the conspiracy-minded there appears nothing sinister behind an effort to disintermediate, from the parties, a presidential nomination. And because it requires its nominee to pick someone from the other party its ballot line cannot be appropriated either by Obama or the GOP. This has the potential to make a huge impact on this election cycle and on all future politics.
The novelty and drama of Americans Elect is likely to transfix the political chattering class throughout the Spring and Summer. The publicity generated has the potential to drive millions to participate in this work of political genius (and to taste their own Power).
Who will its nominee be? Can she win? Which of the Two Political Oligarchies’, um, major national political parties’, nominees will it benefit? Will it act as a spoiler? Is it viable?
Yeah: Pundit Catnip.
The duties of citizenship are a pain in the neck. That’s why we have let the Governing Class get away with conduct tantamount to embezzlement (if not outright murder). But … it’s our country. And if we let it go to Hell without a fight we have nobody but ourselves to blame. It’s called Participatory Democracy for a reason. If you wish to hang on to your Bitching Rights, dear Reader, join up or join in. Use your Power As A Citizen to wreak some unholy Hell on a corrupt and inept Governing Class.
Political transformation, like the recovery, is overdue. It has been seeking — MoveOn,org, the Tea Party, Occupy — a channel. Americans Elect may prove to be it.
Tune in. Drop in. Turn out.