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The Summer of 2012

What to Expect as the Year Heats Up

By Oliver DeMille

The temperatures are rising for summer, not just literally but also in politics, economics and culture.

There are several important trends that are sure to influence the months ahead, and indeed the summer of 2012 promises to be both historic and memorable.

Each of us should consider these significant trends and keep an eye on how they develop:

1. There is a great debate occurring in the United States about the proper role of government.

One side argues that the government should do whatever it can to make a positive difference in the world, the other that it must be limited to its constitutional roles and leave everything else to the private sector.

Both believe in an important role for government, but disagree on its scope and especially its scale.

This debate is making its way through the entire 2012 election, but it is actually bigger than politics.

It is cultural, and it literally permeates our societal views on economics, education, health care, business, transportation, information, technology, entertainment and beyond.

The disagreement gets to the very heart of how we define freedom in our society.

In this debate about the ideal role of government—especially the federal government—the two big parties are widely divided.

The summer contest will cause more Americans to consider this great question: What is the proper role of government?

Is it to do what the Constitution says, or to do whatever it deems desirable at any given time?

2. Between these two sides, independents find themselves frequently frustrated with the ideological stances of both major parties.

Independents want the government to do better in some things and to be more limited in others.

Independents are less of a bloc than either conservatives or progressives, so it isn’t clear how they will vote.

3. There are three major branches of the Republican Party: the Establishment (which often calls itself the Rockefeller Republicans and is labeled Nixon Republicans by its opponents), the Tea Party or Right Wing populists, and the Reaganites or old-style conservatives.

Mixed into these is a fourth group, the neo-cons, who emphasize America’s role as the world’s sole superpower.

In the 2012 political environment, the one person who speaks with credibility to all four groups in the Republican community is Representative Paul Ryan.

What this means for the future is unclear, but at this point Ryan is the most uniting figure in the GOP.

Moreover, Ryan is credible to a large number of independents. Senator Marco Rubio is also credible to all these groups as well as many independents.

Expect to hear more from these two men over the course of the summer and well into the fall.

4. While the Democratic Party is also divided into at least three major groups (liberals, progressives and proponents of various—and at time conflicting—special interests), all three are united behind President Obama in the 2012 election.

Many non-Democrats may find it surprising that the liberal wing of the Democratic Party is less enthusiastic about President Obama than the progressives and many proponents of special interests.

The reality is that the President has governed more as a progressive than a liberal, and is therefore seen as centrist by many on the Left.

Again, this is a shock to many who get the majority of their news from conservative sources.

The Obama campaign must choose whether to swing left or to the center in the 2012 election, or find some way to appeal to both Left and Center.

This will be a major theme of the summer. So far the campaign has pivoted left and emphasized the message of class division.

It remains to be seen whether this will be the gist of the campaign or simply a feint to be followed by renewed centrism.

5. The campaign of 2012 is being framed by both sides as an attack on each other.

President Obama’s major message isn’t a vision of the future but rather an attack on what Republicans have done, what the Ryan budget means for America, and how we must avoid a return to what he calls the failed Republican policies of the Bush Administration.

So far the Republican message has followed the same playbook: it isn’t yet about a vision of the future but instead emphasizes the failures of the Obama Administration.

Americans are notoriously focused on the future (David Brooks called “Futurism” the American religion), and the winning candidate may well be the one who effectively connects with American voters on a shared vision for the future.

If this does come, it likely won’t happen until fall. The summer may shape up to be deeply negative—at least in political circles.

Attack ads have worked so far in the election, and this will likely continue.

The sooner a top candidate can effectively pivot to a moving positive view of the future, the more support such a candidate is likely to garner from independents.

6. This summer’s Supreme Court decision on Health Care may turn out to be bad for President Obama’s campaign.

If the Court upholds the law, the Republicans will make it a rallying point for the November elections.

If the Court strikes it down, the Obama Administration will probably look vulnerable and ineffective.

If the Court rules the entire law unconstitutional, it could hurt the Republicans as twenty-somethings are taken off their parents’ insurance and other changes occur.

But if the Court simply strikes down the individual mandate, it will most likely hurt Democratic candidates.

7. The Ryan budget may be the crystallizing division in the 2012 debate and election.

Likely most Democrats will be against it, most Republicans for it, and independents will determine America’s future as they analyze and decide whether or not to support it.

Every American should study this budget.

8. Iran… Need I say more? What happens in the Middle East could have drastic impact on fuel prices, inflation and employment rates, all of which will significantly influence the year ahead.

9. Debt crisis? Credit rating? Inflation? Jobs? Credit availability? Small business regulations? Economic upturn or recession? It is unclear where the economy will go in the coming months.

Welcome to the summer of 2012. Temperatures are rising, and the months ahead will make a real difference in America’s future.

In this sputtering economy, will most Americans enjoy a summer of vacations and good times or will a growing frustration heat up as we approach election day?

Whatever happens this fall, our summer will have lasting impact on the history of the United States and our world.


odemille 133x195 custom Egypt, Freedom, & the Cycles of HistoryOliver DeMille is the founder and former president of George Wythe University, the chairman of the Center for Social Leadership, and a co-creator of Thomas Jefferson Education.

He is the author of A Thomas Jefferson Education: Teaching a Generation of Leaders for the 21st Century, and The Coming Aristocracy: Education & the Future of Freedom.

Oliver is dedicated to promoting freedom through leadership education. He and his wife Rachel are raising their eight children in Cedar City, Utah.

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