Every several decades, David Shribman writes, the United States has an election in which "the country seems to approach one of the hinges of history." The election of 2012 will be such an election. While a significant number of voters may be in the center, the nation's two political parties are not:
Sometimes, it seems as if the two parties are occupying different universes. In Congress, where liberal Republicans and conservative Democrats once made common cause, the chasm between the two parties is wider than the aisles that separate them – indeed, wider than at any time in memory. In fact, for the first time in the modern era, there’s no ideological intersection between the two parties. The most liberal Republican, a phrase that increasingly is an oxymoron, is more conservative than the most conservative Democrat, a phrase that also seems an antique.
Faced with such a stark choice, a lot of voters could choose to stay home. They did that recently in Canada, where the Liberal Party -- which has always occupied the political center -- was almost reduced to an historical footnote. But, as Canadians are discovering, even with the support of only 25% of the voting public, the winning side is proceeding -- full speed ahead -- on its agenda.
So, one way or another, Americans are going to get the complete package. Their problem will be to decide which package they prefer. Shribman writes:
Here are some of the questions at issue: Should the country press ahead with a comprehensive overhaul of health care or peel away at the Obamacare program passed in 2010? Should Washington regulate how banks and other financial institutions behave and pay their executives? How should the country pay for retirement supplements and health-care obligations undertaken when the country was richer and younger, now that it’s poorer and older? Are central banks such as the Federal Reserve redoubts of tyranny or tools to tame, or spur, the economy? Are taxes the price of civilization or a threat to freedom?
This will be an election where every vote counts -- and where every decision not to vote also counts.
This entry is cross posted at The Moderate Voice.