Here's the latest in our series, "Ask me a Question, Win a Book."
Craig Smith: If Obama is re-elected, how do you expect his second term to play out?
At first bitterly, then, maybe … better.
Republicans are vastly more personally hostile to President Obama than they were to President Clinton. They entered the 2012 cycle vastly more confident than in 1996. If Obama nevertheless survives, Republicans will first turn on their defeated candidate (moderate! RINO! Romneycare!), then on the media, then on the American people ("where's the outrage"), but above all on the re-elected Obama. Republicans have worked themselves into a mood of panic and outrage about the president that will not easily be dialed back.
But let's look for signs of hope.
If Europe can overcome the Euro crisis (which ought to be doable), and if the U.S. economy continues to revive, the mood at home may come off the boil. At home, a re-elected Obama will focus on a cautious, cupboard-tidying agenda: spending restraint, budget-balancing, and fiscal consolidation. If he can at the same time continue to thwart an Iranian nuclear bomb without war, he'll have achieved a decisive foreign-policy success.
The discrepancy between the Republican depiction of Obama (alien dictator hell-bent on collectivizing the economy and vilifying the successful) and the reality (consensus-seeking liberal technocrat) must sooner or later have some effect, if not inside Washington, then in the country. A new generation of Republican governors, struggling with real-world problems of healthcare costs, legacy unemployment, and unsustainable public-service pensions, will be pressed to develop a more pragmatic style of politics.
The paranoid strain in the politics of the past few years will come more and more to look like an episode, produced of economic distress, the strains of ethnic and generational change, all enflamed by an irresponsible media culture. As the storm subsides, the American ship of state will right itself.
We can hope at least.