With only a few days remaining until the election is decided on Tuesday next week, I reflect on a long campaign trail that has been among the most divisive elections to date. If President Obama wins, he could face the prospect of a much tougher second term as Republicans struggle to accept yet another loss from the Democratic incumbent. But should this be the case, Republicans have a great deal of internal restructuring to do before the 2016 election comes around. As witnessed throughout these past four years, the GOP has been anything except consistent in their party ranks. From the emergence of the Neocons at the start of George W. Bush’s first term in office, to the moderates, the extreme right fundamentalists, the libertarians, and recently, the Tea Party activists, Republicans have yet to agree on a common party identity that they can all rally behind. This is problematic because while it might be clear to them that President Obama’s policies are not the way to go, it’s not entirely clear to everyone else what the Republican vision of the next four years in the US ought to be.
We also shouldn’t forget to mention what an utter disaster the Republican primaries turned out to be. Barring aside the most ridiculous party rules that eliminated the winner take-all system of delegates, the poor quality of candidates were reason enough to seriously consider if the 2012 election was a question of who was best to lead this country, or rather, who was the lesser of multiple evils. All signs seemed to indicate that the race for the GOP nomination was both as much a game of appeasement as it was one of outreach, as candidates balanced more moderate agendas in the hopes of reaching out to independents in the general election, while maintaining staunchly conservative views that would appeal to the party base. But the race also took on a tone of “anti-Romney”, in the sense that any candidate could be the party favorite if he or she could somehow match his political capital while maintaining stricter conservative values. Needless to say, that sure didn’t work.
But Romney is another bucket of chuckles. It’s impossible to determine what version of Romney we’re going to get on any given day, and consequently whether his policies are at all indicative of an administration he would implement. What’s worse is the fact that running mate Paul Ryan’s budget policies have generally been clearer than Romney’s, but has had to renounce some of his earlier claims just to be as ambiguous. At stake is the idea that we can somehow stimulate the economy, fix the deficit and create jobs by cutting taxes and rolling back the regulations that made corporations predatory in the first place. If that doesn’t sound like a lot, it should. No president has single-handedly managed to accomplish such an ambitious agenda without lacking in other critical policy areas, such as foreign policy or energy investment. The fact of the matter is that as much as we’d like for our leaders to handle it all, they simply can’t and it’s nigh time voters accept that as they make their decisions on Tuesday. If candidates are going to campaign on certain issues, then the least they can do is focus their policies only on key issues and make good on their promises rather than spewing rhetoric that leaves copious amounts of wiggle room for alternatives to plans they know will fail.
If a Romney presidency is destined, then I say kudos to my Republican colleagues. Given internal party conflicts, a unified Democratic opposition, and generally unpopular ratings, the win would be deserved. But take heed at the fact that a problem unresolved is not a problem to be taken for granted. The US barely escaped a government default these last four years because Republicans and Democrats couldn’t negotiate a deficit deal. But if the GOP can’t even consolidate its own differences to negotiate a party identity, what makes us think that the same risks wouldn’t be repeated under a Republican presidency? If and when we finally see the true colors of a Romney presidency (that’s a big if, mind you), I truly hope he makes good on his promises to lower taxes, stimulate job growth, and fix the debt in one term because the whole world is watching. And if we fail this time, we will lose a lot more than our stagnant economy.