Election consultant James Carville’s watchword for Bill Clinton in the 1992 presidential election will likely go down as the most effective campaign slogan ever used in American politics.
Carville’s admonition to campaign staff members contained three pieces of advice to remember. “It’s the economy, stupid” was the key. He also suggested that the workers repeatedly call for “change” and he told them, “Don’t forget health care.”
Sixteen years later, in the 2008 election, those latter messages also proved critical for Barack Obama’s election, but Carville’s cry on the economy is the message — or at least a variation of it — that surfaces first when candidates today begin strategizing for president. It’s heard even from candidates for some lower-level positions across the political landscape.
As Americans prepare to elect their president next week, there are widely disparate views concerning the economic situation facing the country. President Obama’s campaign stresses that the economy is improving after inheriting what they refer to as a “disaster” from President George W. Bush. The Obama administration has held it together with bailing wire, but it’s together.
However, Republican challenger Mitt Romney says Obama hasn’t stabilized the economy. He says Obama didn’t act quickly enough to turn the tide of rising unemployment — a shaky observation since it was Romney who famously suggested that the powerful U.S. auto industry should have to endure bankruptcy before receiving government help.
Obama’s 2009 bailout of the auto manufacturers has almost brought the 2012 election down to a single issue in Ohio, the battleground state that many observers feel will decide the next president due to the large number of independent voters who live there. (Don’t you secretly wish that we could all be indys and the two main parties would simply vanish?)
Romney touts his experience in turning a profit for the Olympics and his record as CEO of a private capital firm as preparing him for the arduous task of returning America to its former economic prosperity.
So no matter whom you believe, it’s still clear that the many aspects of the economy remain the number one issue on voters’ minds for the general election.
It is not about Afghanistan, Iraq or Syria, although those are deeply troubling issues to the American people, particularly to families who have lost loved ones on the battlefields of the Middle East. It’s not about the September attack in Benghazi, either, despite the loss of four American lives there in a terrorist act. Forget the environment, immigration reform and abortion laws.
No, it’s all about the economy and the direction being taken to return more jobs to the American workplace. It’s about reducing debt and ensuring that our children and grandchildren are able to enjoy the fruits of an economic system that used to be the envy of the world.
Public education is an issue that should be as important as anything else. This nation — and particularly Georgia and most of its Southern neighbors — must decide if it is going to adequately fund K-12 classrooms so our children can compete with the rest of the world. And higher education must return tuition costs to a level that can be afforded by everyone.
Next Tuesday’s election comes down to the almighty dollar, and little else.
Mac Gordon is a retired reporter who lives near Blakely and writes an occasional opinion column for The Albany Herald. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.