As we head into the final stretch of campaign 2012, what many will call the most consequential election of our lifetime (always true until four years later), let us gird for the disappointment that awaits us.
Yes, no matter who wins the presidency on Nov. 6, he will lead a nation of anxious, distrustful and disappointed citizens who have little faith in government, the banks, the Supreme Court, the media or even the president of the United States. Either President Obama or former Gov. Mitt Romney is likely to win a squeaker, not a landslide, and his approval ratings are likely to dive lower than his winning margin within a mere weeks.
As Romney and Obama continue campaigning for the highest office in the land, it’s important to note that they never, ever, talk about the sinking ship they will have to rescue the morning after the election. It’s just too complicated, politically perilous and, well, important. Romney will occasionally sound off on how devastating the defense cuts would be, but then again his running mate — Rep. Paul RyanPaul RyanTHE MEMO: Trump takes the fight to Congress GOP grapples with repeal of popular ObamaCare policy Ex-Trump adviser: Ryan should be replaced if he can't execute on ObamaCare MORE (Wis.) — and the entire GOP leadership team in Congress voted for the deal that created them. He isn’t, however, willing to offer a detailed plan to extend all the Bush tax cuts, avoid the military cuts and reduce the deficit all at once in December. And neither is Obama. So their failure to tackle the fiscal cliff in their presidential campaigns is an early abdication by both Obama and Romney, one that follows the victor into the Oval Office. Expect them, of course, to project a profound sense of urgency when the time comes.
But let’s cut Romney and Obama some slack, because the two political parties in general are attracting so much scorn. New polls show both the Republican and Democratic parties have reached historic lows in popularity. The newest ABC News-Washington Post poll shows that “The Democrats, while slightly more popular than unpopular, are near record lows,” and the Republicans “are underwater.”
Simply put, the morning after the 2012 presidential election is likely to bring more of a headache than a fresh start. If Obama wins, we don’t know what we are getting because he hasn’t told us — we know it won’t be change; Obama isn’t selling that anymore. If Romney wins, we have been promised 12 million new jobs, but trying to imagine him getting anything through a paralyzed Congress isn’t easy to do. He has never told us how he will.
Perhaps expectations are so low that the winner can only succeed.
Stoddard is an associate editor of The Hill.