At the core of the manifold paradoxes swirling around American governance is the harsh reality that we just can’t keep running our (stuff) the way it has evolved to run. Neither candidate for president is honest enough to spell this out and indeed both act as though easy work-arounds exist for sustaining the unsustainable.
– (James Howard Kunstler)
Mr. Kuntsler’s description of the two candidates quoted above was accurate until Mitt Romney’s selection of Paul Ryan as a Vice-Presidential Candidate in 2012. In Choosing Paul Ryan as a running mate he has now assumed ownership of the budget crisis as a signature issue. In an impressive feat of political Jujitsu, Mitt Romney has made himself the Progressive candidate and Barack Obama the champion of a defeatist and unworkable status quo. Mr. Romney now has the plan to repair things wrong with America. Mr. Obama is now attempting to put duct tape on a machine that just won’t fly.
The election of 2012 was always going to be a choice election. But until this weekend, Mitt Romney has not brought the choice we need to make into stark, visible relief. “Believe in America” was much more nebulous than “Stop Spending America into Perdition.”
This is a risky strategy for Mitt Romney to follow. The Status Quo Alternative starts any comparative analysis with the advantage of familiarity. Yet the current status quo in America has a deadline beyond which it can no longer function. If we insist on doing it the way we are doing it now, we will go bankrupt. When Romney chose Congressman Ryan as his VP, he endorsed this line of reasoning by choosing the man who has a plan to alter this course.
This sticks Obama with a role to play. He can become the safe choice; preferred by puppies and media hacks everywhere. Walter Russell Meade describes President Obama’s position in the weeks before the Democratic and GOP conventions.
On the one hand, President Obama and Vice President Biden stand foursquare for the growth of what I’ve been calling the blue social model. In terms of government policy, they want to continue to grow the mix of interventions, guarantees, entitlements and programs that FDR launched in the New Deal, that Lyndon Johnson extended in the Great Society, and that various presidents (of both parties — think of Nixon and the EPA and W and the prescription drug benefit) have extended since.
Barack Obama becomes the candidate who wants to take the risk out of everything. He becomes the person who guarantees a minimum below which you will never decline.
For Obama and Biden, that kind of America is what Frank Fukuyama called the end of history: a relatively egalitarian income distribution, a stable employment picture, defined benefit pension programs for more and more workers, a gradually rising standard of living, more kids spending more years in school from generation to generation and a government of Keynesian macro-economists who keep the economy on an even keel. For the Obamians, this is the ideal form of society.
Thus America becomes a society that discriminates against those who take risk. This comes at a cost to any possible innovation. Following Obama’s lead locks us into a culture that maintains what it has instead of trying or developing anything new. In fact, to really make his case, President Obama has to argue that innovation and original thought are not possible without Big Brother’s assistance. He turns America into the “You Didn’t Build That!” Society. He becomes the servant and hostage of the institutions he is attempting to preserve. James Howard Kunstler offers an example of this below.
In the case of Mr. Obama, it’s paying limitless TBTF ransom money to overgrown banks to avoid the constant threats of collapse that they whisper in his ear – essentially a hostage racket. A policy of managed contraction is probably the only way to avoid unmanaged and uncontrollable collapse, and would include dismantling all the TBTF banks, but Mr. Obama won’t acknowledge the imperative of contraction and the difficulties it represents.
What the unabashedly Leftist Kunstler disregards is that Paul Ryan’s budget plan is as close as anyone in America has come to attempting to manage the contraction of anything anywhere. Mr. Obama and the Democrats have failed to produce an organized budget that could pass either house of Congress since 2009. This is despite the fact that they held overwhelming advantages in both houses of Congress until the 2010 midterms. That is, they had a 19-seat ideological majority in The US Senate; yet still failed to pass a 2010 budget. That is the record that Democrats would run on if they operated a factually-based, logical re-election effort.
So Barack Obama has been steadily been attempting to run against The Boogeyman instead of Mitt Romney. He understands that he owns the last four years the way homeowners in Phoenix tenuously own homes with an underwater mortgage. He can’t defend the real thing, so he defends a vision of what he believes we want it to be. He does so while at the same time he demonizes any viable alternative.
Mitt Romney made a VP choice that called President Obama out on that particular line of bull-feke. The incumbent is now exposed as the candidate of the undependable, failed status quo. He is now a relic of the past instead of the man of tomorrow. It is now Mitt Romney’s task to educate America’s electorate to an important point. Contra Francis Fukuyama: history doesn’t end – it just ends those who fail to adapt.