Featured Historians Julian E. Zelizer: Americans want security for 2012

FEATURED HISTORIANS

Julian E. Zelizer: Americans want security for 2012

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STORY HIGHLIGHTS
  • Julian Zelizer: Economic security is going to be defining theme of 2012 race
  • Americans want to know jobs are safe and available, he says
  • Zelizer: Neither party has done a good job developing policies for economic security
  • He says FDR provided security to U.S., while Ford and Carter didn’t

Julian E. Zelizer is a professor of history and public affairs at Princeton University. He is the author of “Jimmy Carter” (Times Books) and editor of a book assessing former President George W. Bush’s administration, published by Princeton University Press.

Just as the 2004 presidential election was all about the concept of security, the same term will shape the campaigns of 2012.

But this time around, the issue is not national security and the threat of terrorists but the search for security amid the ongoing struggles that Americans have faced with the economy.

High unemployment, laggard economic growth and a turbulent stock market have left many middle class Americans terrified about what comes next. Almost three-quarters of Americans, according to a recent Reuters/Ipsos poll, said that the country is moving in the wrong direction.

During the 2012 election, voters will be looking for a candidate who can restore some sense of economic security: a candidate who can provide them with confidence that their jobs won’t disappear (and that new jobs will emerge for those without them) and that their income will remain steady….

Republicans have not provided much of a vision of how they would restore economic security for the middle class. They have focused on the traditional conservative magic bullet solutions of deficit reduction and government spending cuts — without tax increases — neither of which would have any major impact on the current unemployment rates or address the underlying challenges that the economy has been facing for over a decade.

Today’s candidates from both parties are closer to their predecessors in the 1970s than the 1930s. Political leaders are having trouble providing guidance and hope as a devastating economy has turned life into a constant struggle for many Americans. In 2012, the nation will have a chance to hear what each party plans to do to turn things around. The candidate who can offer a more compelling case is likely to end up in the White House.

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