The weeks after Labor Day almost always decide the Presidential election.2012 appears to be poised to maintain this pattern.After the conventions, the incumbent – President Barack Obama – has opened his first substantial leads in both the ‘swing states’ and the national polls. Meanwhile, on taxes, foreign policy, and the economy, the challenger –Governor Mitt Romney – has stumbled even more egregiously than his predecessor –Senator John McCain.
For two weeks, elected officials and party representatives from both sides of the aisle have conceded the ineptitude of Governor Romney’s campaign and have begun adjusting their strategies to work with (or against) President Obama for the next four years.The important question that emerges from this current state of analysis is, “What about the American people?Where are we now that a clear pattern in the process of the election has taken shape?”
The immediate answer that many Republican officials have already outlined is that they must shift to state and local elections to preserve their vision of small government and reduced spending.No one on the right is openly considering intellectual compromise on their commitment to destroying what Governor Romney contemptuously described as an ‘entitlement’ society during a campaign fundraiser.
For as much as his political opponents denounced this sentiment, many on the left have employed similar rhetoric to dismiss believers of the Republican orthodoxy about self-reliance and costly systems of regulation. The only real answer for the future of the United States is a vigorous and renewed discussion about our values and ideas AFTER the election on November 6.
Instead of mobilizing the bases of each party to attack the others through another fruitless two-year session of Congress and state legislatures, it must become a priority for elected leaders in both parties to bring their constituents into direct conversation with their opponents. American citizens must talk with each other and attempt to resolve these ideological divisions – house by house, neighborhood by neighborhood.
In short, the American people cannot be satisfied with watching the political sport on cable news and expecting elected officials to do the hard work of crafting policy.Individuals and families must engage the issues they find most important to them each week and call their state representatives regularly to make the republic function.Once a month, every American should attend a community meeting or sign a petition to advance their own vision of how the nation should resolve its most pressing debates.Once a year, every American should organize a visit to a community where they will talk with other Americans who disagree with their ideas. These conversations would transform everyone’s perceptions of each other and bridge the ideological chasms that threaten to tear the republic apart.
Beyond November, America must transform itself and its place in the world. No President, no Congress, no Governor, and no state legislature can accomplish this goal without the sustained engagement of the citizens.
Dr. Walter Greason is a Visiting Professor at Monmouth University. You can follow him on Twitter (@worldprofessor1).