Opinion

The Great Debate

It’s the (lack of) unity, stupid!

What we expect to hear in the closing days of a campaign is a call to arms.  Instead, what we’re hearing from both sides is a call to disarm.

“I’m going to have to reach across the aisle and meet with good Democrats who love America just like you love America,” Republican presidential nominee Mitt Romney told a recent campaign rally in Virginia.  “And there are good Democrats like that.”

“In the end, we’re all in this together,” President Barack Obama said at a rally in Wisconsin.  “We rise and fall as one nation, one people.”

Why the sudden craving for unity?  Because that’s the issue that got Obama elected.  He became a star when he told the 2004 Democratic National Convention, “There’s not a liberal America and a conservative America.  There’s the United States of America.”

Unity is also the issue of the moment.  Unless the president and Congress can agree on some kind of budget deal in the next few months, the country will go over the fiscal cliff — huge tax increases and mandatory cuts in domestic and defense spending.  It’s unity or calamity.

Voting in an election that matters

Every four years, presidential nominees tell voters that this election is the most important of our lifetimes. Such proclamations are largely hyperbole.

In 2012, however, it might be warranted. This election is consequential.

During the next four years, the nation will have to face issues of debt, taxes and fiscal stability that will imprint our grandchildren’s futures and beyond. National and homeland security have received less attention during this election than in the previous few, but they always are an international or national incident away from dominating our consciousness in ways we can’t anticipate.

And issues surrounding inclusion, equality and fairness can’t ever be forgotten for long. Otherwise our essential character as a country — the very essence of the American experiment — will be endangered.

Why it’s all about Obama

President Barack Obama may have lost the first debate the minute he appeared on stage in Denver.  Just by showing up, he changed the terms of the campaign.  Viewers immediately saw the election as a referendum on the president.  The decision became whether to fire him or rehire him.

This was bound to happen sooner or later.  It always happens when an incumbent is running for reelection.  Until the Oct. 3 debate, Democrats had made a vigorous, and mostly successful, effort to turn the election into a choice rather than a referendum: Which guy do you like better — Obama or Mitt Romney?

Democrats managed to demonize Romney as a rich guy totally out-of-touch with ordinary Americans.  Romney made it easier for them by constantly calling attention to his wealth.  Democrats went after Romney’s business record, his flip-flops and his efforts to pander to the extreme right.  It was working.  Last month, Romney had the most negative public image of any presidential candidate in at least 25 years, according to the Pew Research Center.

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