No, I am not referring to the coming apocalypse, unless you’re talking political apocalypse, because I’m talking about the 2012 election. I was shocked when I had to haul out the ‘2012 election’ tag in August, August of 2010, mind you, but there it is, and here we are. The President has barely had time to change the drapes and the newly reshaken Congress is just getting settled, and we’re already plunging into the 2012 election cycle, which promises to be a distinctly ugly one.
I’ve always thought this system is rather borked, because, basically, people get to be President for two years, and then they have to campaign for two years, and everyone blames them for not getting stuff done, but, really, what else are they supposed to do? If they don’t campaign aggressively to get a second term, they’re pretty much going to tank at the polls. And if they do get a second term, they’ll need to spend the last two years of that supporting a successor, with the goal of avoiding a whipsaw of political power back to the other side (because there are only two sides in major US politics).
The Republicans are jostling for position and getting their waterfowl in a row to set up their campaigns, while the Democrats quietly rumble. In 2008, a lot of Democratic candidates were definitely working the Obama angle hard, trying to evoke him in their campaigns and hoping for endorsements. Hell, even a few Republicans snuck in Obama references to win over voters in their districts. In 2010, we saw a shift away from that, with less people wanting endorsements and support from the President due to a perceived waning in popularity. I suspect in 2012 that will shift back, both because Obama’s campaign teams are very, very good at what they do, and because an endorsement from a sitting President is going to be part of the strategy for trying to win back the House (trust me, they were screaming about the failures of the administration last year, in 2012 they’ll be riding on the coattails of the stuff the administration did manage to accomplish despite obstructionism and general fuckery, just you wait).
Things are going to start ramping up from here on out and I suspect that they will get foul. There are a lot of people who are very unsatisfied with the current Presidential administration and they’d like to hang the blame for anything and everything that goes wrong on President Obama, rather than grappling with the fact that he had a basically insurmountable legacy to deal with, paired with more or less constant cockblocking on the part of the Republicans. That, paired with his somewhat aloof nature and desire for family privacy, is going to make him an irresistible target to a whole fleet of assholes who think elections are won primarily by focusing on attacking the opposition, instead of actually presenting plans for dealing with social and political issues.
Alas, those strategists seem to be right in many cases, judging from the way our elections usually go. The electorate is fickle, it wants instant satisfaction, and it is very easy to blame the person in power when times are bad; evidently no one else ever has had anything to do with US economic policy, say, and getting rid of the current President will snap us instantly out of the recession (who remembers that the recession started in 2008, before the poor man even took office?!). And I’m sure that the Republicans will be able to spin a very pretty line of bullshit when they want to about how everything is still the fault of the Democrats, even though the Republicans had control of the House. (‘It’s the Senate’ ‘it’s those pocket vetoes’ etc.)
Sorting fact from fiction in political campaigns can be a frustrating process, especially when you are deluged in crap. I refer you all to the glossy mailer rule when it comes to evaluating the source of information, and I’d recommend using balanced fact checking sources. i.e. don’t assume NPR always knows what it is talking about when it comes to evaluating claims made and their veracity, and don’t rely on the National Review either. Spread the love around, look at lots of sources, and if you can, go to the unexpurgated original. Someone says Obama said something in a speech? The full text of his speeches can be found readily online in a number of sources, including the White House website, so find the speech referred to, find the quote, and take a look at the context. Someone’s claiming a Senator voted this way or that way? You can look up the bills on Thomas and check out the roll to back that claim up. Assume that everyone, and I mean everyone, me included (because I will be talking about politics!) is biased, and wants to convince you of something, and will manipulate, elide, and otherwise twist information to make it say what we want it to say. Be on your toes. Trust no one.
Shit’s going to get real, and I suspect it will get extremely unpleasant before it’s over. Sentiments are running high right now, whether you’re talking about alarmist anti-immigration rhetoric or the increasingly dire economic situation. Politics tends to be especially dirty and often horrifying in conditions like these; let us not forget what the times were like when the Nazis rose to power (yes, I have officially Godwin’s Lawed my own website now).