I've always been a political junkie. Since my earliest days as an observer and later as a participant in all things electoral, the golden rule has not changed: Love thy neighbor's wallet as though it were your own. Americans "vote their pocketbooks." I have always accepted it as a truism--doesn't everybody? Can't you just hear James Carville whispering those four magic words into Bill Clinton's ear over and over and over again in 1992... "It's the economy, stupid!"
Yale economist Ray Fair has developed a model to predict presidential election results which is based on economic considerations. It completely disregards social issues, moral questions, and fashion statements like sweater vests. And it appears that this is indeed the metric to watch. A recent Rasmussen report found in a national survey that 82 percent of likely American voters said that the economy was the most important issue.
However, in spite of this obvious truth, 2012 GOP presidential candidates and the news media that reports and analyzes their every breath seem obsessed with everything but the economy. Last week Rush Limbaugh, the High Priest of American conservatism, called a Georgetown law student "a slut" after she testified on Capitol Hill about birth control. For well over a week after Limbaugh's First Amendment moment my completely unofficial and unscientific observation is that most of the national dialogue was directed at that reprehensible comment, to the exclusion of things like the potential of war with Iran, or the teetering economy in places like Greece. I believe that Limbaugh deserved what he got---but at what cost?
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I simply can't figure out why Republicans, who are trying to win an election, keep harping about things that are likely only to hurt them, instead of focusing on the issue that always matters most. Maybe it's a function of the fact that we are only exposed to Republicans these days because they are trying to pick a nominee, but it sure seems like these guys keep throwing their aspirations into the briar patch when they could be making hay on the economy.
A few days ago another cast member of what has devolved into nothing short of a travelling clown show (albeit a more adult circus event with the departures of Michele Bachmann and Herman Cain), in remarking on a speech made by the President, misquoted Obama by asserting that he wanted everyone to go to college. Mr. Santorum then proceeded to call Mr. Obama "a snob" for believing that everyone should get a college education---which, of course, is not what the President said. The use of the word "snob" also attracted a great deal of media attention (not to mention expressions of disbelief by the other guys), and for a solid week the presidential race revolved around whether or not Obama was a snob, and whether or not the use of that word was appropriate.
And then there's Seamus, the new Eeyore of American politics, riding all the way to Toronto in a cage on top of a station wagon. Since Cain and Bachmann dropped out of the race, no one has provided more fodder for the cannons of late-night comedians than poor old Seamus, ears flapping in the wind, whining miserably through the backwoods routes along the Canadian border. Seamus has become the best-known dog in America, outpacing Bo and Barney, Pluto and Ren, and even those big eyed, sad hounds in the ASPCA commercials.