Last night I spent a couple of hours with the New Trier Twp. Republican Organization (that would be in the moderate, suburban enclave north of Chicago, newly represented by Jan Schakowsky). We heard remarks from Senator Mark Kirk, Rep. Bob Dold and Fox News’ Monica Crowley, as well as Illinois State Treasurer (and candidate for governor) Dan Rutherford. What was striking about the local politicians is the thin veneer of conservatism that has cloaked this district for decades: Bob Dold cited the historical rundown which includes Chuck Percy, John Porter, Mark Kirk and now Dold.
Monica Crowley took a refreshingly vigorous approach to the significance of the 2012 presidential election, her courage perhaps energized by less exposure to the consciously uninformed electorate in these neighborhoods. The North Shore is the natural home of support for Mitt Romney, the candidate who is never extreme, who is difficult to pin down on foundational values, and who is considered a “certain win” over President Obama. But are these the right criteria to focus on in presidential decision-making this year?
I join Crowley in viewing the upcoming elections as especially pivotal for our nationhood, therefore requiring a uniquely exceptional Republican candidate for president. In 2008 the country elected a virtually unknown young man who achieved his academic success sheltered by affirmative action, who was nurtured in Saul Alinsky’s radical schemes for societal change, and who had little experience beyond the machinations of Chicago-style politics. The swift and ambitious changes he brought about left a large swath of the citizenry disillusioned and fearful.
If America is at a crossroad in its history, and if this fulcrum point could be said to embody the elements of a Greek drama, Obama would represent the painful national calamity that calls for a heroic character to resolve the plot and set the system back to right. Even just since 2008 there has been a growing chorus of dissenting social media, the Tea Parties and rebel bloggers on the right, calling out the new questions and defining the purifying Constitutional issues that await the chosen candidate. Bachmann, Daniels, Ryan, Perry, Christie and now Cain have rehearsed the role of hero, but interestingly, never Romney.
We might perhaps take another look at a character who has spent the last 20 years rehearsing on the national stage, a politician who is not quite a politician, and who is not unflawed. Why try out Newt Gingrich, and why now? If the 2012 election must deal with the Tea Party chorus – which will not be denied notwithstanding the disdain of the moderate and mainstream elements of the Republican Party – then it must also deal with the debates. There are some indications that neither money, nor advertising might, nor geographical/ethnic connections will define success in this new 2012 campaign season. Settling for safety clearly is not an option this time round. A series of presidential debates between two master character actors from two sides of the philosophical spectrum would set the stage for the unambiguous resolution of questions the country is asking, and for which answers must come.