Given the high stakes of the next election and the bitter partisan divisions, the 2012 presidential campaign should be a passionate one. Or will it? Robert Reich argues persuasively in a new article that the election will, in fact, suffer from a lack of enthusiasm. The more I think about Reich's prediction, the more I agree with it.
There are several reasons why, arguably, one of the most important elections of the past 100 years may inspire more apathy than enthusiasm. First, the voters despair of either party being able to break the gridlock. Four years into an intractable economic crisis, many have had their already gossamer ties to Washington broken. Second, the likely eventual nominees — Obama and Romney — suffer from something I would coin as "supporter intensity deficit." Meaning simply, neither candidate excites. Voting for either will feel dutiful, not inspirational. The signs of SID abound on the campaign trail: smaller crowds and less money for Obama, and a Republican party that is so unenthusiastic about the inevitability of Romney that it keeps dead candidates, such as Cain and Perry, walking.
This is not to say there aren't fervent political passions loose in the land. Witness the Tea Party and OWS. But neither is finding satisfaction with the candidates or the process itself. The real energy for change may occur outside the political process in 2012 as citizens organize themselves in search of solutions they no longer trust their elections to foster. That could make for interesting new political forces awaiting the next president.