"How bad can a (name the Republican) presidency be?"

August 9, 2011

“Really, how bad can a Romney presidency be?”

The words were spoken by an-under 30 voter who’s never supported anyone who wasn’t a Democrat. She’s pro-healthcare, pro-more taxes, pro-choice, pro-queer, pro-education, pro-helping out poor people, anti-racist, anti-Tea Party, anti-religion in government kinda voter.

In 2008, we had a few tense moments cuz she was all about Barack and I was less enthused. (In fact, in the primaries, I liked Hillary and gave her my vote.)

It took a few hours for the significance of her words to fully sink in.

Really, how bad can a Romney presidency be?

In other words, could a Republican president be any worse than the Democrat we have in the house now?

The question is at the heart of what appears to be the Obama campaign team strategy: to court “centrist” voters at the expense of the traditional Democratic voter who, no matter how pissed off, will always come home in the voting booth because she has no other choice.

Right now that strategy appears to be going nowhere, with the president’s approval rating at about 42 percent. (Then again, Ronald Reagan was at 43 at this time in his presidency, and Bill Clinton was at 46.)

But I was so haunted by my friend’s question that I turned to longtime progressive community organizer Kit Duffy. Could it really be just a wash?

“From political and constituency organizing standpoints, it's better to have a good enemy in office than a bad friend,” Duffy said, seeming to give my friend’s proposal some weight.

But then she added: “This (situation) is the worst nightmare, but I don't think it necessarily has to do with party or ideology. It has to do with the loss of underlying principles, after more than a decade of having principles labeled as right or left extreme-ism so as to marginalize their importance and the people who hold them. That began, purposefully and with malice aforethought, with Bill Clinton.

“Fairness, equity of opportunity, compassion and integrity...If those principles instead of win/lose scenarios underlay the current discussions, I think Democrats would at least be having a different conversation, and questions like your friend's would never occur to anyone.

“It's Obama's biggest failing. He certainly had the opportunities to skew the debates over war, the economy, social services toward principled analysis. Lacking underlying principles of his own, however, he did not."

But what will my friend tell her children when they ask why progressives did not help re-elect the first African-American President and turned instead to someone who, at best, was only equally competent?

Is it worse to leave children with a legacy of national debt, or the loss of hope?