Strategists Say Politicians Should be Talking About the Big Issues
By Jennifer Ginn, CSG Associate Editor
Donna Brazile and Rich Galen don’t agree on much, but they both think the issues being talked about in national politics aren’t the big ones.
Brazile, a Democratic political strategist, and Galen, a Republican political strategist, discussed the 2012 political scene at The Council of State Governments-Midwest’s Annual Meeting in Cleveland July 17.
“My friends, this is an opportunity for us, I believe, in this presidential season to raise the big issues and not begin to lull back into all the small conversations we like to have in American politics,” Brazile said. “As I’ve often said, I’ve talked more about sex on TV over the last six months than I’ve had an opportunity to read Fifty Shades of Gray or go out and find. That’s because we often talk about the small issues. We’re not talking about the large issues, like unfunded pension liabilities or our infrastructure needs.”
Galen called the issues in the campaign “so complex that even those of us who think we understand a lot of it, it’s just mind-numbing. When you throw in not just what’s going on in the United States, but what’s going on in the eurozone, what’s going on with the economy in China, … these are not things any president has control over.”
Brazile said political gridlock has kept Congress from addressing many pressing needs—such as the looming massive budget cuts scheduled to take effect next year due to sequestration.
“We’ve got two minority parties,” said Brazile, “two minority parties struggling for control of this country while the vast majority of American voters are independent and not allied with either party because they think both of us stink. We’ve got to think about how to get these politicians, these leaders, to show some courage.
“Since this recession, since the election of President Obama, you can’t find anybody who wants to work, who wants to sit down, who wants to do what’s right for our country. Obama has polished off every Republican proposal. He’s stolen every Republican idea that any Republican has ever had, and yet when he puts it on a piece of paper, they say, ‘Hell no, we don’t like that.’”
Galen said this election cycle could be like the old saying, be careful what you wish for because you might get it. If Mitt Romney wins the presidency and Republicans maintain control of the House and win the Senate, it might not be a good thing.
“I don’t see any reason why they won’t sooner or later fall back into old habits,” he said, “much like what happened during the first two years of the president’s term. … If our Founding Fathers had any idea how the two-party system would become so entrenched in American government, they would have come up with some mechanism to have the House, the Senate or the White House controlled by another party. … I would be cautious saying, ‘OK, one party has control, now we can really get things done.’”
So who do these beltway barbs think will win the presidential election? Well, that’s where their opinions part ways.
“I believe President Obama will win re-election this fall,” Brazile said. “I believe voters will rehire him to continue to manage this economy.”
“I think Romney may win,” Galen said, but he noted that it is an incredibly tight race. “The closeness of this election, the fact that there don’t appear to be any events on the horizon, barring, God forbid, something dreadful happening, that will alter the horizon. I mean, the eurozone will not collapse by Nov. 6. For a while, it looked like Obama’s campaign depended upon Angela Merkel holding the eurozone together.
“One of the president’s big problems is four years ago, he was on a crusade. This year, he’s on a campaign and it doesn’t generate the excitement.”