JOHN HINDERAKER ASKS: Why Is This Election Even Close? “On paper, given Obama’s record, this election should be a cakewalk for the Republicans. Why isn’t it? I am afraid the answer may be that the country is closer to the point of no return than most of us believed. With over 100 million Americans receiving federal welfare benefits, millions more going on Social Security disability, and many millions on top of that living on entitlement programs–not to mention enormous numbers of public employees–we may have gotten to the point where the government economy is more important, in the short term, than the real economy.”

UPDATE: Prof. Bainbridge wonders if we’re living in Jerry Pournelle’s future.

MORE: Reader Eric Schubert writes:

Why isn’t Romney running away with the election?

The majority of voters, as of early September, are not ready to address the underlying problems of the economy.

For a more detailed discussion of the election and the real changes that the economy is facing, see the venerable Walter Russell Mead.

Here’s an excerpt from Mead:

As regular readers know, our view is that the US stands at an uncomfortable transition point between eras. We are between social models. The blue model of twentieth century mass production, mass consumption society based on stable corporate oligopoly, bloc voting and government regulation in a relatively closed national economy has foundered and it cannot, so far as we can see here, be restored. But we have at best only a very dim and incomplete sense of what could replace it.

This means that we are at a moment of maximum discomfort nationally, and we want our politicians and leaders to fix things — but that neither party really knows what to do. On the whole, the Democrats stand for restoring the blue model and Republicans oppose that and so far, so good. The choices between the parties seem to be growing more clear as the problems resulting from the decay of the blue model take a larger toll.

Yet neither party can offer the smooth path to a stable and affluent future that voters want. The Democrats know what they want but can’t deliver it because it is undeliverable. The Republicans know what they don’t want but are not able to describe the future they would like to see — much less show how they can manage the transition fairly and kindly because they don’t really know what the goal looks like.

Our problem is that the time isn’t ripe: the real work of our society right now isn’t about political competition. It is about re-imagining, reinventing and restructuring core institutions and professions. . . .

The legacy media are going to have a tough job shifting from noisy political pseudo-drama (much of which has more in common with professional wrestling than real politics) to the kind of substance based reporting that people actually need. Covering the revolutions in higher ed, medicine, state and municipal governance (including things like the pension crisis) is much more important than having talking heads gas about potential Veep picks or speculate about debate strategies and poll trends. But it’s hard for legacy organizations with their heavy fixed costs, pension overhangs and creaking business models to pull away from campaign infotainment and invest in real news.

Among the American institutions in need of reinvention is the serious press; the intellectual framework of the legacy media is as broken as its business model.

Read the whole thing.

UPDATE: A reader offers a more cynical take: “I think that there is a pragmatic need to maintain the appearance of closeness, or a lot of the travel/TV schedules would be rendered moot. The market correction, or ‘preference cascade’ will be a late-October affair.” Let’s hope.

MORE: Reader William Stroock writes: “I am getting sick of conservative pundits like the guys at Powerline getting pessimistic about the election. Obama got a bump, big deal. So did John McCain, Bob Dole, and Bush the Elder.”