A fellow Oxy Alum over on Linked In posed the following discussion question. Who will be the next president of the United States?
This is actually a very interesting question. If you’re asking who will win the 2012 Presidential election, I think it’s Obama’s to lose. That could change if the Republicans nominated John Huntsman, as he seems consistently conservative without giving into the knee-jerk reactions that Gingrich and Romney are using to play to the GOP base. But, it is that very base that serves as the gate-keeper to the nomination and as such, any candidate who might be moderate enough to win the center (Romney) has to tack so hard right that a turn to the center is impossible to execute properly.
The more interesting question is what happens next. A lot has to do with Congress. Just as I think it’s likely that Obama will win, I think it’s likely that the Democrats will regain the majority in the house. Every indication is that the Tea Party has run its course and people want effective government.
The Senate raises more questions. The Democrats are defending the class of 2006 this year. That means that they are defending something like 23 of the 33 seats that are open, and they’re doing it with a slim 3 vote majority. There are three possibilities here, and just for the sake of discussion, let’s assume I’m right about the House and the White House.
Option 1) There’s a huge Democratic sweep and the Democrats end up with a true fillibuster-proof majority. I consider this extremely unlikely. In that case, assuming my party can deal with such a success (that’s not a foregone conclusion), there is a flurry of progressive legislation. If it works and we as a nation begin moving forward again, Obama goes down in history as the next FDR and the Republicans are in the doghouse until the next great upheaval causes a politcal realignment. This would have to be something akin to the civil rights movement separating the Dems from the Solid South.
Option 2) Dems hold the Senate. In that case, the future could be up to Harry Reid. If the fillibuster is allowed to continue and the Republicans take the same obstructionist approach that they have since 2009, then progress will be slow. That scenario, as well as the the once in which a GOP minority comes to its senses and becomes a partner in governing, makes 2016 too hazy to predict.
Option 3) Dems lose the Senate. This scenario is similar to number 2 in that it would result in divided government and it has two sub-options based on whether Republicans obstruct the Democrats or partner with them. Again, that muddies the water for 2016.
Another way to look at it is to look at how our government functions over the next 4 years. If the Democrats lead the way out of our current problems with a strong partisan agenda, the Democrats will stay in power for a long time. If divided government with the partisan squabling put aside in the public interest emerges, 2016 is up for grabs because it would mean a new (positive) dynamic in the Republican Party.
If we end up with divided government providing more of the same squabling and lurching from self-inflicted crisis to self-inflicted crisis while leaving average Americans to our own devices, in other words more of the same, you’re setting the stage for significant upheaval like we’re seeing in other countries. The Occupy movement would be the leading edge of a much more serious conflict over what kind of a country we are going to be. 4 more years like the last 4 would create fertile ground for revolution.
So to get back to the original question, I don’t think either party has an heir-apparent, and how our government functions between now and 2016 will determine whether or not we’re even dealing with the same political culture that we have today.