Sunday, November 15, 2015

The economy, Terrorism, and GOP Primaries

It's mid-November and silly season is still in full swing when it comes to the GOP race for the presidential nomination.  Donald Trump is going after his fellow Republicans, especially Ben Carson, in a full-throated, no holds barred way that has led many to question his fitness for the office of president.  Why it took this long is difficult to explain, though silly season is a time when voters flirt with various candidates before deciding who to support.  In some ways it resembles a mating ritual in the animal kingdom with each candidate hoping to emerge as the alpha.  The Democrats have largely been able to avoid this nonsense due to the small size of the field and the fact that there is really only a single real contender in the race.  Whether it helps or hurts Hillary Clinton in the general election is anybody's guess. 

Republican candidates often like to talk about their tax plans, job plans, economic plans, etc. in an effort to woo voters.  These efforts are likely to fall far short of their goals this season for a few reasons.  First, the economy is actually doing quite well, even if Republicans (and their voters) refuse to acknowledge that fact.  A recent poll in Iowa showed that some 47% of Iowans think the economy is poor there while it is, in fact, booming based on any metric used to measure the economy.  Unemployment is low, inflation is low, fuel prices are down, etc.  In 2012, Mitt Romney promised to lower unemployment to 6% by the end of his first term.  The national rate stands at 5% today with more than 14 months left in President Obama's final term.  One might ask why an unemployment rate of 6% would have been acceptable under a Romney Administration but an unemployment rate of 5% under the Obama Administration translates to a 'terrible' economy?  Republicans are probably better off emphasizing their strengths and this is not one of them.

The recent terrorist attacks in Paris, France and the downing of the Russian airliner in Egypt are key events for Republicans hoping to win the White House in 2016.  National security issues have provided Republicans with a built in advantage whenever Americans feel insecure on the national stage.  This has been the singular great failure of the Obama Administration.  The world has become a more dangerous place under his watch and Americans feel less secure than they did when he took office.  One can debate the causes of the rise of ISIS but one cannot deny that the terror group represents a serious threat to the security of the western world today.  Just or not, the Democrats will suffer the blame for that. 

Will the fear Americans feel be strong enough to overcome the demographic advantage Democrats have in the Electoral College?  It depends on what Republican voters do at the polls in February, March, and April.  If they choose to shun the entertaining but politically inept Donald Trump, the soft-spoken but clueless Ben Carson, and the well-meaning but inexperienced Carly Fiorina in favor of one of the candidates that actually understands the severity of the threat we face they'll have a much better chance against Hillary Clinton.  If they choose not to embrace a candidate who understands foreign policy, knows that meeting a foreign leader in a 'green room' doesn't amount to knowing that leader, and knows how to work within a broken system, Hillary and Bill Clinton will be laughing all the way to the White House.  If that happens, voters will get exactly what they ask for and precisely what they deserve.  That's not to say that a knowledgeable GOP candidate will win the election but he'll sure have a better chance than the outsiders do now.

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