Neither Obama nor Romney is offering a perfectly plausible vision of America: A stronger safety net and better security paid for with higher taxes on more than the top 2%.
Barack Obama and Mitt Romney both agree that this is a crucial election. A pivotal one. A battle for the future of America. It isn't true.
I agree that this is an important election. There are profound differences between the candidates (despite what Adam Davidson says), and which one is elected will have a major impact on issues ranging from economic growth to the social safety net to abortion rights to maintaining a sane foreign policy that reduces the risk of war. But on the central economic questions -- the role and "size" of government, the tax system, social insurance and health care, etc. -- this is just the latest stop in a long, strange road trip that conservative Republicans have been taking us on for forty years. The question is whether we pause for a few years or keep on driving.
Since the 1970s, conservative groups and later the entire Republican Party have mounted a sustained campaign to reduce the role and size of government in American society. You may think that's good or bad. The story has been told many times, including in chapter 3 of White House Burning, so I'll just point out a few key elements of that campaign. They include intellectual attacks on Keynesianism, welfare programs, regulation, and affirmative action (among other things); rhetorical demonization of government, when conservatives are in power ("government is the problem") but particularly when they are out of power (recall the frenzy provoked by the elections of Presidents Clinton and Obama); and, perhaps most importantly, the most successful tax revolt in American history.