Editor's note: The Daily News has invited public figures in various walks of life to write essays sizing up 2011, 2012 or both. Their reports will appear through the holidays.Will Americans re-elect President Barack Obama next November and continue drifting toward European-style socialism, higher taxes and more debt, or will we choose the Republican candidate who embraces the restoration of our constitutional principles of individual liberty and limited federal power?
Florida, fortified with two more electoral votes this year, will likely play a key role in answering that question.
The stars were aligned for Obama in 2008. Voters went to the polls in the midst of a recession and the banking crisis, weary from two long wars. Obama was elected in a landslide. In addition, Democrats took decisive control of both houses of Congress.
Contrary to popular wisdom, Obama's limited experience and patchy personal history had made him an ideal candidate. There was little that would detract from a carefully engineered persona. He could be all things to all people. "Hope and Change" was the perfect slogan for a man with a radical agenda. It revealed few details of how he planned to "fundamentally transform America."
In order to get elected, Obama deliberately made empty promises. His platitudes rivaled those of a student running for class president. He would cut the budget deficit in half by the end of his first term. A multi-hundred-billion-dollar stimulus would keep unemployment under 8 percent. He would pass universal health care that would cost less and deliver more. Government-subsidized solar power and other "green" energy would free America from our dependence on carbon. His election would be the "moment when the rise of the oceans began to slow and our planet began to heal."
Now that he is a candidate for re-election with a proven record of failure, empty slogans will not work. He will blame tsunamis, George W. Bush, Congress, millionaires and billionaires, and anybody but himself for the weak economy. When the blame game fails, his attacks on his rivals will become bitterly personal, but only through his acolytes in public-sector unions and the liberal media.
Fortunately, as the 2010 midterm elections made clear, Americans voted for a man in 2008, not for the fundamental transformation of the greatest nation in history. None of the Republicans running for president is perfect, but all of them are outlining details of their proposed policies. In the end, America will choose between Obama's personality and our Republican nominee's ideas. It is my New Year's wish that ideas will prevail over personality in 2012.