* The Republicans don’t have winning issues. The triumph of Democrat Kathy Hochul this week in a special election in a historically conservative district in upstate New York underscores my belief that when right-leaning Republicans actually spell out what they stand for, independent voters flee in droves. In this case, the central issue was conservative budget guru Paul Ryan’s radical plan for replacing Medicare with a voucher system that would force seniors to pay substantially more for their health care, which has been endorsed by an overwhelming majority of Republicans in both the House and Senate.
In addition to defending that unpopular proposal, the Republican nominee will have no bold new ideas to push. The much ballyhooed job-creation plan that the GOP released this week is just more of the same-old, same-old combination of tax breaks for the wealthy and big corporations and a pullback on regulation that got us into this economic mess. And with the death of Osama bin Laden, any attempt to paint Obama as a weak commander-in-chief chief will be an exercise in futility.
* Finally, Obama’s critics on the left have opened the floodgates. One of the unintended consequences of Cornel West’s impassioned recent attack on Obama is that by sinking into ad hominem claims about the president’s character, he implicitly sanctioned the validity of similar charges from the right. There is not, after all, that much difference between accusing Obama of being afraid of “free black men” because he was reared by Caucasians, and bashing him for possessing a Kenyan anti-colonial view of the world that he supposedly got from his African daddy. How left-wing critics expect to combat right-wing efforts to paint Obama as an exotic outsider after they indulge in equivalent mudslinging is a conundrum that only a highbrow philosophy professor can resolve.
So there you have it: a conservative electoral base seething with anti-black resentment, combined with an unpopular platform and a de facto go-ahead from the left to portray Obama as some kind of alien. That’s a witches’ brew for what could easily spill over into a truly noxious explosion of racially tinged politicking, even if the eventual Republican standard-bearer never explicitly brings up the subject.
Hey, maybe my fearless forecast isn’t really all that fearless. There doesn’t seem much to stop it from coming true — unless Camping’s dreadful prophecy is fulfilled and we don’t have to worry about it.
Jack White is a regular contributor to The Root.