September 11th, 2014 // 10:50 am @ Sara DeMille
(A Tale of Four Candidates)
Prediction: Mitt Romney is running for president. And, if current trends continue, he’s going to win.
Rand Paul and Hillary Clinton are running as well. It’s just a matter of time until all three of these future candidates announce, but in the meantime something interesting is happening to this election.
It is being determined by stealth, and the major players are world events—especially in Russia, China, and the Middle East.
In the 2008 election Hillary Clinton was the unanimous frontrunner.
But she lost the nomination because she promoted a strong, aggressive foreign policy while newcomer Barack Obama promised to get America out of Iraq, Afghanistan, and even Guantanamo.
This gave candidate Obama the natural lead in a war-weary nation frustrated about the lack of WMDs in Iraq.
Clinton and McCain talked aggressively about foreign affairs, but the voters wanted to get out of world conflicts and refocus on the home front.They voted for Obama.
In a very similar way, the next presidential election is already gearing up. With the recent resurgence of threats from Putin and Russia, along with continual crises in Iraq, Iran, Egypt, Libya, Israel, Syria, Palestine, and now the constant news coverage on ISIS, Americans are increasingly seeing the need for a strong leader in the White House.
Golf and Governing
Foreign affairs are once again foremost in the American electorate’s emotion center (with worries about China still simmering just under the surface)—but the emphasis is on standing strong and facing down threats instead of getting away from them.
If the storyline shifts by 2016 and the American people once again want to get out of foreign interventions and focus more on the home front, Rand Paul will receive the kind of huge popularity boost that propelled Barack Obama to the White House in 2008.
But right now we’re witnessing something very different. Each recent move from the Obama Administration has been met with major opposition from Democrats as well as Republicans.
If the president plays golf during a crisis, Congressional leaders from both parties criticize him.
If he dresses in his power suit and fills thirty minutes of prime time television announcing a major military initiative, looking straight into the camera and talking tough, national leaders from both parties spend the next three hours and days arguing against his plans—filling the airwaves with every conceivable criticism.
Short Power, Short View
There is a general lack of trust in the president right now, no matter what he does, and it comes from both parties and also the media, even many of the media outlets that have historically been very supportive of the Obama Administration.
Moreover, the president has a low approval rating and a very high level of American voters who mistrust his leadership.
Part of this stems from the fickle nature of the American electorate. Americans overwhelmingly supported going into Afghanistan, and also Iraq. A few years later they overwhelmingly supported getting out.
Today strong majorities want to use our military against ISIS; the more we do, the more likely it is that most Americans will soon be clamoring for us to bring these same troops home.
As a nation, we seem to like the idea of using our power—we just want its use to be short and decisive.
The same thing happens with domestic programs. A majority demanded health care reform; once it passed, the criticisms began. The longer we’ve watched Obamacare roll out, the less support it has among the electorate.
This is repeated in many ways in current U.S. politics.
But there is a bigger reality at work here. The nation is tired of the direction we’re taking. In 2008 the voters blamed it on Bush and put Obama in office. Today the electorate blames it increasingly on Obama.
And with the rise of general concern about foreign threats, both Clinton and Paul will be seen as a bit soft on foreign aggressors. They’re not, but the populace still sees it this way.
During all this there is one powerful, recurring thread: President Obama is frequently broadcast in the media at his worst and weakest, and Mitt Romney appears on one news program after another—constantly commenting on what we should be doing in international conflicts. His answers are refreshingly different from Obama’s, and he sounds both credible and wise.
Indeed, Romney has accomplished something he never pulled off during the campaign—he projects a consistent, confident message of American strength.
Romney looks a lot more presidential in these clips than the president in his golf clothes. Indeed, the television optics during the last few months of Russian and Middle Eastern crises constitutes a major victory for Romney.
After all, Romney told Obama during the 2012 presidential debates that Russia was a major threat—and Obama scoffed at him. Romney warned of a slowed economy that would need serious free enterprise action to get moving again. Obama sneered at this view. Romney was right; Obama wasn’t.
The electorate is now sneering in the other direction. It has largely lost faith in Obama. And when it sees Romney responding to the latest international problem, he oozes competence while Obama and Hillary evoke immediate skepticism.
If the election were held next week, Romney would win.
But we’ve got over two years until the next presidential election, and a lot will happen between now and then. Not the least of which is the 2014 midterm congressional election.
Foreign and Domestic
With all that said, world events may well be the biggest influence on who becomes America’s next commander in chief. If foreign problems maintain their current pace, Romney will most likely be the next president.
If not, we may be faced with a very interesting situation, where a Hawkish Democrat (Hillary Clinton) faces a more non-interventionist Republican (Rand Paul).
While I personally agree with the less interventionist view and would love to see a President Rand Paul lead a White House that actually believes in following the U.S. Constitution, I think world events make this unlikely. Sad.
Ultimately, there is a lot more to this than mere politics. America’s power in international affairs won’t be as important to the future of the nation as whether or not the next president rekindles freedom in our economy.
This is what Romney or Paul offers. Hillary Clinton, or Elizabeth Warren if Hillary falters, will likely keep acting like Washington is the center of our business and economic success. This is the battle: freedom versus bigger government.
This is the great American decision of 2016.
The importance of this choice is almost impossible to overstate!
Ironically, this vital decision will probably be made by foreign aggressors, by what they do or don’t do, and how their actions influence the American electorate in the months and years just ahead.
Oliver DeMille is the New York Times, Wall Street Journal and USA Today bestselling co-author of LeaderShift: A Call for Americans to Finally Stand Up and Lead, the co-founder of the Center for Social Leadership, and a co-creator of TJEd.
Among many other works, he is the author of A Thomas Jefferson Education: Teaching a Generation of Leaders for the 21st Century, The Coming Aristocracy, and FreedomShift: 3 Choices to Reclaim America’s Destiny.
Oliver is dedicated to promoting freedom through leadership education. He and his wife Rachel are raising their eight children in Cedar City, Utah