Republicans and Democrats alike are desperate for this election to be seen as a simple choice for voters. Each side wants their own candidate to be the inspirational voice that offers a coherent path of prosperity.
The problem is that much of the conflict between the two candidates takes place in a proxy war between their PR teams. The framing of this election is becoming as much of an issue as the issues that define it; whisper it if you must, but as far as the facts are concerned, little separates Obama and Romney. As a result, this election is becoming an exercise in deception and scaremongering. Spending by those looking to influence voters recently passed $1billion – already nearly double the amount spent four years ago. As a result, Political Action Committees supporting Romney have spent $63 million attacking Obama, those supporting Obama have spent $54million attacking Romney.
Many of these attack ads – often not explicitly affiliated with the candidate being supported – aim to portray the opponent as a radical: Obama the socialist, Romney the unrelenting capitalist. Yet neither claim lives up to serious scrutiny. Take the topic of corporation tax. Romney is hardly channelling Ayn Rand in advocating a 25 per cent rate and neither is Obama looking to Lenin in his advocacy of a minutely higher 28 per cent rate. As far as capital gains tax is concerned there is once again startling similarity. Obama wants a 20 per cent rate for high earners, Romney wants 15. Both platforms offer a heady mix of tax cuts for families and support for American jobs that is accompanied with typically sparse detail.
Equally, on foreign policy little can be found to separate the candidates. Despite the attacks from Romney, Obama has in fact been one of the most unquestioningly pro-Israel Presidents in American history. Over the course of his Presidency his administration has voted in agreement with Israel on every single issue raised at the United Nations, a feat of geopolitical unity never before seen.
Furthermore, the flow of American aid and weaponry continues to channel its way to the IDF, unabated by the personal issues between Netanyahu and Obama. Either President dropping this unequivocal support for Israel that has defined U.S. foreign policy in the Middle East for decades would be political suicide; once again the two stand in absolute unity.
A show of uniformity is offered on the issue of Afghanistan as well. Both candidates want to end the decade long war as soon as possible whilst retaining influence over the land – as a result both candidates want Americans training Afghans and an end to combat operations by 2014.
It benefits both candidates to emphasise their differences. Romney is banking on the appeal of vibrancy; Obama is constantly attempting to show Romney as aloof, unsuited to the role of Commander-in-Chief. Whoever wins faces severe structural problems, yet neither candidate proffers radical solutions – this election could well be a contest to manage the American decline.
By Joe Bilsborough