Political InQueery: Let the 2012 Games Begin

Tim Pawlenty in a blue shirt at a news conferenceIt seems like only six months ago we were talking about the 2010 midterm elections. Oh, wait. I suppose the 2010 midterm elections were only a little more than six months ago. At any rate, the early campaigning for the 2012 gubernatorial election is underway. When I brought up the idea of guest blogging about this summer's candidates to Bitch's editors, Osama bin Laden was still at large, Donald Trump hadn't done himself in as a serious contender, and people were still talking about the possibility of nominating Tim Pawlenty. (Well, okay, a few people still insist Pawlenty can pull it off.) My point is, if the last two months are any indication, this campaign cycle will be hectic and as fast moving as Trump's bangs in a July thunderstorm. For this latest iteration of Political InQueery, I want to take a look at the following:

  • Rhetoric used by candidates on both sides and the way the media cover it—I suspect that as in campaign cycles past, early stump speeches and press events will have some "test market" ideas laced throughout, so the parties can see which issues gain traction with the electorate and which should be dismissed for this election. Quick guesses are that the GOP will look to assess how much damage has been wrought regarding last spring's union mess in Wisconsin, and if there's any way they can get Latinos to vote their way after the fear mongering of the 2010 midterm elections. Democrats will likely want to see if the LGBT promise follow-through has gained them anything heading into 2012, and how to paint a picture of progress when so many Americans feel so negative about their circumstances.
  • Criticism of Obama from the left—Yes, I will include Cornell West in that analysis, but if there were complaints about Obama before the assassination of the al Qaeda leader, there are louder critiques now, including the now-perennial "how are the Dems different from the GOP anymore?" question, people's realization that Mr. Obama is not the liberal many insisted he was, and what Obama's politics mean for the radical left. While these criticisms tend not to get a lot of play in mainstream reporting (with respect to the preponderance of White House/presidential coverage in general), they do shape a portion of the voting bloc's attitudes and where attitudes are, so goes the information highway. I think it's helpful to examine who is saying what about the President and which moments catch fire online.
  • The diversity plummet—There was much made of female Republican candidates in the 2010 midterms, and even more talk regarding whether the GOP had a "Hillary" counterpart. Other than Michelle Bachmann throwing her hat in the ring, and sudden rise of the Herminator, the field on the right this time has been decidedly white and male. Meanwhile, Michael Steele, the African-American chairman of the Republican National Committee, was let go from his job. What happened to the GOP's paltry attempts at equal opportunity hiring? And how do Dems stack up on civil rights issues and campaign positions? 

I know, these are electoral politics, and I don't espouse that this inside-the-box frame answers every issue feminists say needs to be taken up by progressives. But the re-election campaign of Barack Obama is a bellwether moment, and there are signals produced during elections that give Americans talking points and ways of understanding their country that play out in millions of smaller ways until the next go-round. And I believe we need to take a close look at how those signals are created and absorbed.

So if readers have specific issues they'd like to examine here these next two months, please send them my way. And let the Games begin! I mean, on to 2012.

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