Politics completely personal

Published 12:42 pm Saturday, October 27, 2012

It’s hard to imagine what it would have actually taken for Ronald Reagan to lose to Jimmy Carter in 1980.

The economy was a mess. People were out of work. Our foreign policy was in such disarray that terrorists thought nothing of storming one of our embassies in the Middle East and brutalizing our fellow Americans.

Sound familiar?

Substitute Mitt Romney for Ronald Reagan and Barack Obama for Jimmy Carter, and suddenly the year becomes 2012 instead of 1980.

In 1980, people realized that the policies of the Carter administration had failed to produce the type of results that America had hoped for, and Carter himself failed to provide the type of leadership America desperately needed.

And so on Election Day, Reagan won 90 percent of the Electoral College and over 50 percent of the popular vote in a three-man race. The American people fired the guy who didn’t get the job done and hired someone they felt could.

It wasn’t personal, it was just business.

Although the conditions we find ourselves in 32 years later bear a striking similarity to those we faced in 1980, one thing that has drastically changed is America’s unwillingness to hold a failed leader accountable and make a change.

And that’s because for many folks, politics is no longer about how we do business, it’s about how we personally identify and see ourselves.

In other words, politics is completely personal and no longer has much to do with the business of running the country.

Consider these facts. When the president was elected, he vowed to cut the deficit in half. Instead, it’s grown by an additional 50 percent.

He promised to reduce unemployment below 6 percent. Until last month it had remained over 8. He promised to change the way business is done in Washington.

It’s more divisive than at any point in our history.

Yet rather than admit they had made a mistake, his supporters point to the fact that the president had inherited problems too large for anyone to solve in one term.

What is conveniently forgotten is that President Obama’s first campaign was based almost solely on the fact that he knew exactly how bad things were, and that he had a plan to solve them in one term.

He wasn’t an innocent bystander who unwittingly took on a job and had a mess dumped into his lap, he went around the country for two years begging for the job claiming to know how big the mess was and that he was the guy to fix it.

In hindsight, he either didn’t understand the problems or didn’t really have any solutions to solve them. Either way, he sold his supporters a bill of goods.

If it were just business, many who voted for him in 2008 would be standing in line at 1600 Pennsylvania Ave. waiting to help him pack for the big move.

But because it’s become so personal, because it would require admitting they were wrong, they happily scream for four more years.

Here are some more facts to consider. Before beginning his first campaign for the presidency, Mr. Obama had served only two years as the junior senator from Illinois. Yet he and his supporters gleefully make the case that his opponent in 2012 has no foreign policy experience.

Apparently, making the argument that his years as a community organizer and a state senator from Illinois better prepared him to deal with the foreign policy intricacies of the presidency than, say, being the governor of Massachusetts, President of the U.S. Olympic Committee or head of a corporation with 25 years of international business experience is easier than admitting your guy might not have been ready for the job.

If it were just business, we’d admit our mistake and move on. But we don’t treat political decisions as business anymore; we’ve made politics more personal. Were it less personal, rather than cheering on the president while he attacks his opponent for supporting tax breaks for companies that move jobs overseas, the president’s supporters would be troubled enough to look into why such a tax break even exists.

Yet what they would find would surprise them; such a tax break does not exist. There is nothing in the tax code, anywhere, which gives companies a tax break for moving jobs out of the country.

Companies can write off the expense of closing, opening or relocating a factory across the street if they want to, let alone across the ocean. But specific tax incentives for moving jobs out of the country, on the other hand, quite simply don’t exist.

So if it means getting our guy re-elected in 2012, and, more importantly, not having to admit we were wrong, we’ll keep cheering the lie rather than demanding the truth.

It’s hard to imagine what it would have taken for Jimmy Carter to defeat Ronald Reagan in 1980.

If they had competed in 2012, however, I’m not so sure Reagan could win.