By all rights, President Obama and the Democrats should win the 2012 election by a landslide. By all rights, President Obama should have no trouble defeating a wealthy private equity manager with shifting values and minimal personality. By all rights, Democrats should be building a strong majority in the Senate and should recapture the House. But that isn't going to be the case.
The Alex character, in Sunday's Doonesbury, summed it up quite aptly, "It just amazes me that only a few years after the economy was brought to its knees by a gang of predatory Wall Street plutocrats--that the GOP would nominate a predatory Wall Street plutocrat!"
Conservative ideology, i.e. tax cuts and deregulation, caused the 2008 financial meltdown, but the Republicans are sticking with it. The Tea Party has slipped in popularity, only 32 percent view the group favorably, 46 percent negatively. Only 25 percent of Americans identify as Republicans, compared to 32 percent who call themselves Democrats. President Obama is an incumbent president presiding over a difficult economy, but one that is gradually improving.
Despite all that, the Democratic Party will not win their landslide. The election is expected to be close, and Democrats will be lucky to be any better off after this election than before.
The reason for this anomaly boils down to two significant problems for Democrats. Most important is the huge advantage in money enjoyed by Republicans and their wealthy benefactors. When the Supreme Court gave the green light to unlimited campaign donations, Republicans could be confident they would always be competitive. Super PACS are able to funnel millions of dollars of campaign contributions, often from undisclosed billionaire donors, into political races large and small, all over the country. It's a great investment, too, considering the big bang for their bucks they receive in subsidies, tax breaks, and favorable legislation.
The second problem for Democrats is the massive right-wing propaganda machine spewing out conservative messages to receptive audiences. The days of political consensus are a thing of the past. Were President Obama to rescue a helpless little girl from a burning building, a large chunk of the population would hear and believe that the President was encouraging the kid to be dependent and denying the child a chance to learn how to save herself. Right-wing media have absolutely nothing good to say about President Obama or any Democrats but never run short of negative talking points. Left-wing media does the same for its side, but has nowhere near the national coverage or influence of their competitors.
Because Republican candidates, no matter how unqualified or extreme, can count on substantial campaign contributions, as well as favorable coverage from sympathetic media, many GOP candidates that by all rights shouldn't be in competitive races, are in relatively good shape heading into Election Day.
If Democrats survive the election with an Obama victory and a relative status quo in Congress they should consider themselves fortunate. There is not a lot they can do about the right-wing media edge (except finding rich liberals to buy more outlets), but if they don't figure out how to lessen the impact of unlimited campaign contributions, they will always be struggling to stay competitive in future elections. A constitutional amendment or a new Supreme Court must bring down the "money is free speech" and "corporations are people" doctrines and return politics and elections to the American people.
Democracy is being gutted by obscene campaign spending and unprecedented disinformation. By all rights, the American people deserve to have their democracy returned intact.