Politico believes it has stumbled upon the overarching Republican theme for the 2012 campaign. That theme is that America is in decline, President Obama and the Democrats are causing it, and the Republicans can reverse it if more are elected.
Certainly people who believe America is in decline have a lot of real world evidence to support that supposition. From an anemic economy at home to dangers from terrorists and tyrants abroad to a feckless President who seems more interested in working on his basketball brackets and his golf swing than on the problems of the world, the world looks pretty scary if one is an American.
Scary, in fact, for anyone, all things considered.
If the theme of American decline takes off, President Obama might as well concede the election now and announce that he is not running again. Americans, thought by many to be indolent and apathetic, are no more energetic when they are scared that they might not be Number One anymore.
Jimmy Carter, a man who resembles Barack Obama, got a taste of this when he was soundly beaten in 1980. Then as now the United States was beset by a bad economy, wars and rumors of wars abroad, and a weak, vacillating President who seemed at turns out of touch with reality and hectoring to the people he was elected to lead.
The flip side of America in decline will likely be America will be great again. Various Republican candidates and candidates in waiting are already working on their themes and policy proscriptions. Many are likely studying the campaign of Ronald Reagan, whose sunny optimism for America’s future and cheerful scorn of those who would hold the country back, contrasted with the dour, sour mien of the man he supplanted as President.
Look to hear words like “innovation,” “pioneering,” “entrepreneurial” and other positive, pro American words in Republican speeches. A Reaganesque pro free enterprise policy at home and vigorous opposition to terrorists abroad will be in every platform.
What can Barack Obama do to counter it? Likely not much, except to try to scare people into believing that the Republicans are “too extreme.” That worked against Barry Goldwater in 1964 when peace and prosperity prevailed. It failed miserably against Ronald Reagan in 1980 when neither was in evidence.
It is said that Barack Obama is Jimmy Carter returned. Some have added that is the best-case scenario. But that cuts both ways. Obama’s defeat may make that of Jimmy Carter seem like a gentle admonishment.
Source: GOP 2012 theme: American ‘decline’, Jonathon Martine, Politico, March 15th, 2011