Steven Hayward is following a very different election from the rest of us:
Let me double down on Noonan’s public memo to Romney and his campaign: there’s a Reagan-style landslide sitting on the table for you if you can figure out how to step up and grab it.
That just isn’t the case. Hayward is building on the statement that Peggy Noonan made at the start of her latest column that also celebrated Condi Rice as a “brilliant choice” for VP. I don’t think that it makes sense to separate Noonan’s view of 2012 as a “crisis election” from her badly misguided belief that Condi Rice is a former government official of “obvious and nameable accomplishment.” Both of these beliefs are silly and unfounded in their own ways, but the the belief that 2012 is an election similar to 1932 and 1980 is much more misleading. Whatever else happens in November, 2012 will not matter as much as either of those. For starters, 2012 is not going to usher in a decade or more of one party’s control of the White House.
Noonan wrote at the start of her column:
The 2012 presidential election is unusual. It is a crisis election like 1932 or 1980, with the American people knowing we’re at a turning point and knowing that who we pick now really matters [sic]. But crisis elections tend to bring drama—a broad sense of excitement and passion. We’re not seeing that this year. We’re not seeing passionate proclamations from supporters of one candidate or the other that their guy is just right for the moment, their guy is the answer.
Perhaps if “we” aren’t seeing the “excitement and passion” this year, then maybe 2012 isn’t a crisis election. Perhaps the American people don’t see the election as a “turning point” at all. If they don’t, they would be right. Once we get past some of more the obvious disagreements on foreign policy, this is an election contested by two candidates in general agreement about the size and domestic role of government. Rhetoric about the Ryan plan notwithstanding, does anyone believe that Romney significantly differs from the “big-government conservatives” of the previous administration on the role of government? Of course not.
If there isn’t much enthusiasm for Obama this time around, perhaps that is because everyone now realizes what some of us knew a long time ago: Obama accommodates entrenched interests, and seeks consensus whenever possible. He is a rather boring, conventional center-left politician. That isn’t exciting. It’s no surprise that there’s no enthusiasm for Romney as “the answer,” since he is famously unprincipled and will say whatever he has to in order to win an election. As a result, he is a very boring, conventional, party-line Republican with no interesting ideas. If Romney doesn’t seem very inspiring, that is partly because the incumbent isn’t widely regarded as a failure. FDR and Reagan benefited from running against incumbents that were perceived as failures. Obama is mainly perceived as a failure only by the people who didn’t vote for him last time, so Romney isn’t in a position to trounce him by ten points or more (which is what a “a Reagan-style landslide” would be). Barring some disaster, the electorate is too evenly divided and Romney is too untrustworthy to allow for such a rout.