Our Views: Hard choices still lie ahead

If the president is re-elected, don’t expect the economy to boom.

But don’t expect a boom if the challenger is elected, either.

Whatever your level of faith in the wisdom and all-around-super qualities of your favored candidate, harsh realities lie in wait on Nov. 7.

Even if there’s a change in the Oval Office, the tepidness of the economic recovery from the catastrophic 2008 recession appears not to be warming up, despite a recent spate of good economic news.

One of the historical realities of the current election is that previous recessions arising out of financial crises result in slower recoveries than traditional dips in the economic cycle.

So whether you are for Mitt Romney or Barack Obama in this election, it would be unrealistic for either to be able to shift the economic needle very far very fast.

On the upside, of course, for Romney is that the Republican would take office in the course of a recovery. Not screwing it up might be just enough to become the Bill Clinton of this new century; the latter benefited from the recovery under way when he won the 1992 election.

On the other hand, there are plentiful opportunities for both sides to mess up the recovery, in part because gridlock in Congress will continue no matter what.

“Easy compromises split the difference,” wrote former Clinton adviser William Galston in The New Republic. “Hard compromises contain elements that each party to the agreement regards as bad public policy.

“Given the polarization between the parties, getting to yes anytime in the next few years will require a series of hard compromises. The alternative to compromise is a continuation of confidence-sapping drift and slow national decline.”

Galston is critical of Obama, saying that the president’s campaign against Romney “has done nothing — if anything, less than nothing — to prepare the parties and the American people for the choices that lie ahead.”

Although Galston notes that Obama isn’t entirely to blame for this election-year mess, “the way he chose to run for re-election has made a bad situation worse.”

That’s not entirely fair to Obama, for it takes two to set the tone of a presidential election.

Romney has not wrapped himself in glory, either, in terms of articulating the hard choices. He’s promised tax cuts, a much-bigger Navy and a number of other things that really aren’t possible to deliver in today’s deficit-ridden environment.

Let’s not get our hopes up prematurely. Working our way out of our current economic situation isn’t easy.