Maybe y’all have time to read this piece by John Heilemann in New York Magazine. I don’t, not today. If you do, please get back and tell me that things don’t really look as dark as they do at the beginning:
The contours of that contest are now plain to see—indeed, they have been for some time. Back in November, Ruy Teixeira and John Halpin, two fellows at the Center for American Progress, identified the prevailing dynamics: The presidential race would boil down to “demographics versus economics.” That the latter favor Mitt Romney is incontestable. From high unemployment and stagnant incomes to tepid GDP growth and a still-pervasive sense of anxiety bordering on pessimism in the body politic, every salient variable undermines the prospects of the incumbent. The subject line of an e-mail from the Romney press shop that hit my in-box last week summed up the challenger’s framing of the election concisely and precisely: “What’s This Campaign Going to Be About? The Obama Economy.”
The president begs to differ. In 2008, the junior senator from Illinois won in a landslide by fashioning a potent “coalition of the ascendant,” as Teixeira and Halpin call it, in which the components were minorities (especially Latinos), socially liberal college-educated whites (especially women), and young voters. This time around, Obama will seek to do the same thing again, only more so. The growth of those segments of the electorate and the president’s strength with them have his team brimming with confidence that demographics will trump economics in November—and in the process create a template for Democratic dominance at the presidential level for years to come…
Y’all know how I feel about Identity Politics. I want leaders who want to lead all of us, not this or that arbitrarily selected subset. Obama, to me, is the guy who inspired a victorious crowd in Columbia to chant, on the night of the 2008 South Carolina primary, “Race doesn’t matter!” Amen, said I. The atmosphere that night — when voters rejected the continued partisan strife that the Clinton campaign seemed to offer — was one in which we put our divisions behind us, and work toward building a better country together, as one people.
And if there’s anything more distressing in my book than Identity Politics, it’s Kulturkampf. Those couple of paragraphs are enough to push me toward political despair on that count. The next two grafs are worse:
But if the Obama 2012 strategy in this regard is all about the amplification of 2008, in terms of message it will represent a striking deviation. Though the Obamans certainly hit John McCain hard four years ago—running more negative ads than any campaign in history—what they intend to do to Romney is more savage. They will pummel him for being a vulture-vampire capitalist at Bain Capital. They will pound him for being a miserable failure as the governor of Massachusetts. They will mash him for being a water-carrier for Paul Ryan’s Social Darwinist fiscal program. They will maul him for being a combination of Jerry Falwell, Joe Arpaio, and John Galt on a range of issues that strike deep chords with the Obama coalition. “We’re gonna say, ‘Let’s be clear what he would do as president,’ ” Plouffe explains. “Potentially abortion will be criminalized. Women will be denied contraceptive services. He’s far right on immigration. He supports efforts to amend the Constitution to ban gay marriage.”
The Obama effort at disqualifying Romney will go beyond painting him as excessively conservative, however. It will aim to cast him as an avatar of revanchism. “He’s the fifties, he is retro, he is backward, and we are forward—that’s the basic construct,” says a top Obama strategist. “If you’re a woman, you’re Hispanic, you’re young, or you’ve gotten left out, you look at Romney and say, ‘This [f*@#ing] guy is gonna take us back to the way it always was, and guess what? I’ve never been part of that.’ ”
Yeah, that’s all we need. A campaign that sees itself as an army of indignant minorities, feminists, gays and young people up against a coalition of self-interested white males, Ayn Randers, birthers and nativists, with both sides convinced that it is at war with the other. And each subset being motivated not by what’s good for the country, but by what it sees as advantageous to itself as a group.
So much for the United States.
All that’s left to me at this point is to hope the campaign plays out differently from the way this writer envisions it.