David Hoppe

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:: Yawn, election's coming

Wake up!

By David Hoppe

You don't have to tell me, I know: Obama seemed like a stiff during his Oval Office speech about Iraq. It wasn't just a question of style, either. It was the language he used. Here was a guy who, when he was running for the presidency, was the most compelling orator to come along in at least a generation. Now he was sitting with his hands clasped in front of a teleprompter, a muddled stream of euphemistic gobbledygook coming out of his mouth.

I didn't think this could be possible, but Obama sounded like George W. Bush.

If you voted for Obama in 2008, you may need to be reminded that off-year elections are in just eight weeks. Recent polls indicate that you're feeling less than enthused about the way things are going. It's possible you might even sit this one out.

Your ennui is understandable. Obama's been a disappointment in many ways.

Some people like to talk about how Bush squandered the unity that showed itself in this country immediately after 9/11. But that unity was based on a terrible crime. It offered no clear path for the future and, as it happened, the path Bush chose led to disaster.

Obama's election represented an even greater opportunity. A decisive majority of voters rallied in support of his aspirational message. The change we voted for was a government that would take our side and stand up to corporate power.

Unfortunately, Obama appears to have squandered his moment, too - settling for a diminished version of healthcare reform; shifting our war-based approach to terrorism to the fight in Afghanistan; making his closest advisors the same people who helped create our economic calamity. If he were up for election this Nov. 2, Obama might have a tough time.

But Obama's not in this race and so these elections lack the wall-to-wall attention that comes in presidential years. It's easier to tune things out, especially when you're feeling put-out with the state of the union. Absent the enthusiasm you felt in 2008, you might be thinking there are better ways to spend your day on Nov. 2 than going to the polls.

Unless, that is, you want to "send a message." In other words, screw the people in charge by voting against the party that happens to be power. This year that could mean voting against Democrats, although "power" isn't a word that jumps to mind in describing what this motley crew has made of their majorities in the House and Senate.

Republicans are counting on you to be disenchanted. They believe that if you sit this one out or cast a grudge vote they will score well enough to gain a substantial number of seats in both houses of Congress, maybe even win a majority in the House.

This will make Republicans the party of change.

And that, of course, is another reason to feel cynical about what's going on. With both parties crowing about change, it can seem that nothing really separates them.

But that's not true. If Republicans should win a majority in the House, Rep. Paul Ryan from Wisconsin will be head of the House Budget Committee. Rep. Ryan has been called the "Future" of the GOP by no less than Fox News. As Chairman of the Budget Committee, he will have tremendous influence over this country's economic policy.

This summer, Rep. Ryan has been making the rounds of conservative think tanks, sharing what he calls his "Roadmap for America's Future."

To his credit, Ryan is very specific about what he thinks should be done. He wants to reduce income tax rates on high-income households, including those earning above $633,000; raise taxes on many middle-class families; eliminate taxes on capital gains, dividends and interest; abolish corporate income tax, the estate tax and the alternative minimum tax. As for Social Security, he wants to begin privatizing it. He also wants to discontinue the Children's Health Insurance Program and end Medicare and Medicaid, replacing them with a voucher system aimed at eventually getting people to purchase their own private health insurance.

Ryan's approach amounts to a Darwinian stress test. It takes radical conservatism to its logical limit by systematically purging the government from peoples' lives, making us all competitors in a corporate marketplace. His plan is based on what he calls "bedrock principles of natural rights, equal opportunity, free enterprise, limited government and private property."

Ryan is not a product of the recent Tea Party mania. He is currently serving his sixth term and is expected to win his seventh handily in November. Although some Republicans find his approach a little too severe to openly support, his name, nevertheless, has been mentioned as a possible contender in 2012, perhaps as Mitch Daniels' Veep.

So think about it. If you voted for Obama, is Paul Ryan's version of change what you had in mind? If you take a pass on this election or vote simply to throw the rascals out, Rep. Ryan's America could be your future address.