Opinion and Forefront

GARRISON: This time, the stakes truly are huge

November 3, 2012

GarrisonAlmost every politics-attentive person around Indianapolis probably sees the Nov. 6 elections as of huge consequence.

Liberals—and most Democrats—see what they view as hard-earned advances in governmental oversight of the private sector, increases in various financial programs for a large portion of the population, and gains in areas of social issues at risk if Republicans take back the White House and Senate.

Conservatives and most Republicans see what has happened over the past four years as the greatest flood of socialist inroads into all segments of society of all time so that, unless they can take back the presidency and the Congress, in four more years none will recognize what has become of the republic.

Many times over the years of opining on election cycles, one or both sides have made similar claims—Democrats in 2000 and again in 2004 and, most recently, Republicans in 2008. And it is clear that many of the more cynical observers of all these glorious games view all with that “the more things change, the more they stay the same” mentality.

Not so this time.

If you are a real social and fiscal liberal, what you see as gains of the past four years have been decades in coming to fruition. Federal control of health care has been a key piece of that agenda all the way back to LBJ, who also started the whole social welfare ball rolling. President Obama’s declarations on gays in the military and most recently on gay marriage have been passionate goals for about as long.

As for conservatives, the recitation above is sufficient to permit the same conclusion. They fear an end to constitutional governance as it has been known since 1787, a vast shrinking of the military, a debt that will dwarf the $16 trillion we see now, and an exponential increase in the government’s influence throughout the private sector.

Spending on Indiana’s U.S. House races stagger the imagination, but the dollars flowing from all over the country into the Senate race are simply mind-numbing. So it is clear that all these forces—conservative think tanks and super PACs for Mourdock, union PACs and interest groups in support of the liberal agenda for Donnelly—see the stakes as uniquely high.

Sooooooo … whassit all mean? It means that, one way or the other, we face a significant, if not a cataclysmic, tectonic shift from the Statehouse to the Congress and the presidency. The presidency will see the same shift even if Democrats win, especially in view of Obama’s penchant for administrative solutions to problems wherein the Congress has not acted as he has sought.

If you are a liberal, you say, “Well, it’s about time.” A victory for Romney with the attendant takeover of the Senate means an abrupt end to Obamacare, an increase, at least in relative terms, in military spending, a rollback over time of the percentage of the federal budget going to entitlements and welfare programs, and a net shrinkage of the size of government.

Few predictions of cataclysm ever come from both sides at once, but this is one of them. And all are correct. Both sides cannot be right, as polar opposite as they are. And the whole idea of compromise, consensus-building, and that other euphemism of “reaching across the aisle” are headed at least for drastic redefinition.

More of the same—an Obama re-election—will certainly see a huge turn toward more avoidance of a deadlocked Congress; a Romney win will see an end to the perpetual horse trading that, if you are a conservative, has always meant more spending, debt and growth of government.

Either way, as Dylan croaked so long ago, “The times, they are a-changin’.”•

• Garrison is a partner in Garrison Law Firm LLC in Indianapolis and a talk show host on WIBC-FM 93.1. Send comments on this column to ibjedit@ibj.com.

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