Sunday, August 19, 2012

Panem Et Circenses (Bread and Circuses)

So the race for the White House has been fully joined.  The conventions are coming up shortly and we'll hear hosannas of praise for the selected candidates and derisive smears against the opposition. Each party will plead with you the voter to understand that their way forward for America is the best way and the other guys are despicable, anti-American, power hungry lunatics who will kill your grandma.  Truly, the process is comparable to the Bread and Circus days of the old Roman Empire where for the people's amusement, the Emperor imported gladiators, exotic animals, a few Christians here and there, tossed them in the middle of the Colosseum and everyone had a good old time watching the combatants tear each other apart.  Then, they went back to their lives and not much changed.  The race for the White House is much the same as those events back in Rome. There will be much theatre, metaphorical blood letting, we'll all get churned up and excited, then the next day things will return to basically the same as they were.

The presidential election of 2012 has really been going on since Barack Obama was inaugurated in January of 2009.  Mitt Romney, an erstwhile candidate in 2008 never slowed down his desire to become the 45th President of the United States and has spent the better part of the last 4 years working toward that goal.  In a couple of weeks in Tampa, Florida, at the Republican National Convention, Willard Mitt Romney will formally accept the nomination of his party to be President.  On his arm will be Paul Ryan, a seven term congressman from Wisconsin, the wunderkind of fiscal responsibility and a Tea Party darling.

We have a full set of combatants for the Circus now.  President Obama and Vice-President Biden, the Democratic incumbents facing off against former Governor of Massachusetts Mitt Romney and Congressman Paul Ryan.  The process is the same, the rhetoric will be the same, the outcome is in question. 

The choices between the two candidates couldn't be more clear.   On one side, the Democratic side, you have two career politicians who deeply believe in the power of government to be used on the country's behalf.  On the Republican side, you have a self-avowed Business Man who routinely shuns his short stint in government and touts his private sector experience as the cure for what ails Washington. His running mate, although a career politician himself, is however looked upon by his followers as a prophet in a land of iniquity and the one man in Washington who is truly a small government apostle. 

How will this play out?  Well, if you believe polls, and there are a lot of them out there right now to look at and form an opinion, the general view is the race is a dead-heat.  There are about 45 percent of the nation's voters in Obama's camp and another 45 percent in Romney's camp.  The fight will be for the remaining 10 percent.  The independents.  Those people who either have not been paying attention, don't care until the last minute, or are truly perplexed about what to do will decide who becomes the next President of the United States.  It is mind boggling to me to believe that that many people haven't yet made up their minds, but, so be it.  I can tell you this, they will not lack for information about the candidates (most of it bad) in the ensuing 80 odd days until the election.  The Super Pacs, non-disclosed donor groups, and the political parties have spent a combined half a billion dollars to get a job for someone who they hope will represent their interest.  This is the first presidential election since the Citizens United case was decided and money was ensconced as free speech.  The result of the election shows, with massive amounts of money being spent in the Presidential and down ballot races.   As an off topic editorial, I wonder how many people half a billion dollars can feed for a year?

Anyway, we'll get to see the bright and shiniest moments of the candidates at the conventions. We'll get to see the dirtiest, most sinister moments of the candidates (also at the conventions, but more in the ad buys that will blanket the swing states and rest of the country for the next two and a half months) as well.  It will be up to you to decide which version of the soft drink you want?  Pepsi or Coke?  Like the soft drinks, both parties taste good to some, both are bad for you in massive quantities, and both provide no nutritional value. 

It will be curious to me to see the debates play out.  How will Romney do against Obama?  How will Ryan do against Biden?  Does it matter? Yes, it does.  The voters in either camp will remain with their favorite sons unless something dramatic happens like Rick Perry's "failure to remember" gaffe in the primaries, but that isn't likely.  However, it matters because of the independents and undecideds.  And because of this, Mr. Romney better have his game face on in the debates, because he will be squaring off against a pro.  Like it or not, Mr. Obama is in his element when he's debating, and as Mr. McCain found out, not taking this seriously will cost you in the long run.

Bread and Circus indeed.  But, this time, instead of Nero deciding the fate of the combatants, it is the people who will hold thumbs up or thumbs down.

Tell me what you think.



  1. The surprising thing is not the number of people who have not made up their minds, but the number who have. It's unprecedented for so few voters to be undecided before Labor Day.

    Most people do not concentrate on elective politics before Labor day. It used to be that many waited until the World Series was over, but today that could be virtually identical with Election Day. While such inattention seems crazy to us political junkies, it actually makes much sense: Election Day is not until November 6th--why bother to pay attention before you need to?

    It's my suspicion that when more Americans do start paying serious attention, some of the seemingly-solid support for Romney will erode. His constant changes in position and his patent insincerity will cause many voters in the middle to pause. Some of them will go to Obama. Some will stay home. In either case, the result will be a widening gap in the polls, and ultimately in the election. Something dramatic could change that scenario, of course, but barring unforeseen events, the likelihood of Obama winning (and remember, he has all the advantages of incumbency) are very strong.

    1. Thanks for the interesting reply. I personally think the reasons the camps are so entrenched is the economy. I believe the parties have done a reasonable job of keeping their base at home. As you say though, Mr. Romney is likely the one who stands to lose the most over time as more scrutiny on the two candidates picks up after the conventions. Mr. Obama has been fairly well vetted since he is the incumbent and I think there is still quite a lot of things about Mr. Romney we simply don't have a good feel for. Much of that is the candidate's own doing, but still, he is a question mark to many. It will be an interesting couple of months. Thanks for giving me your thoughts. I appreciate it.