Gerson says that the terms of the debate this fall will be between “Reform Conservatism” and “Obama’s surprisingly unreconstructed liberalism.” Now is not the place to define Obama’s liberalism, but even if it were, this is wrong. The 2012 election isn’t a debate between two variations on welfare state capitalism—it’s a choice between two visions of American society. Will the United States be a place of solidarity between people? Will we build a society where everyone has the tools to succeed? Will we care for the least advantaged in the best way that we can? Or will we indulge the hyper-individualistic id of American life, and create a place where opportunity is reserved for those who already have it, and everyone else is left to defend themselves against the unbridled market?
Believe me when I say that I’m not exaggerating for the sake of the election. The Ryan/Romney/Republican is a complete departure from the post-war political consensus in a way that wasn’t true of Ronald Reagan, George W. Bush, or even McCain/Palin. Ryan wants to return to a world of tremendous social and economic injustice, and the GOP has signed on wholeheartedly. It’s alarming, and those of us who fall within the liberal tradition, that’s a necessary and reasonable response.
Two things make me want to discount this statement a bit. First, people say this every 4 years. Second, Obama has been disappointing on a number of levels, including, as Scott pointed out earlier today, in his response to the economy.
On the other hand, Jamelle is right. The Republicans are so determined to recreate the Gilded Age that this election is absolutely vital for the continuance of the America we grew up with, a deeply flawed nation but one that has slowly increased its citizens’ freedom and economic opportunities. A Romney administration will effectively mean the end of the New Deal state, the end of legalized abortion, and the end of civil liberties.