I voted for Obama in 2008. I lived in San Francisco and when the election results came through, the city erupted in a celebration that I must imagine was only rivaled by the rapturous joy in Chicago.
On November 6th, 2012, we as a nation vote again, but no matter the winner, it seems unlikely the excitement will be as palpable as it was 4 years ago. For one, ‘Re-Electing the first black president’ doesn’t quite have the ring of ‘Electing the first black president.’ And while Romney would be the first Mormon president, who outside of Utah cares?
Also, despite the challenger’s rhetoric, our nation’s position isn’t as perilous as it was in 2008. 4 years ago, the recession was ongoing and the worst days were still ahead of us. Now, the recession is over and recovery is marching ahead, albeit not quite at warp speed. We aren’t selecting a president to pull us out of the path of a hurricane (though, if we were, Obama has proven his chops for that job). We are essentially stating that either Obama deserves 4 more years to continue the job or that his efforts are too little, too late.
Romney Vs. Obama
Frankly, despite some strong campaign moments late in the game, Romney has never effectively made this election a battle between him and Obama. It has always been Obama versus not-Obama. Some Romney supporters would obviously disagree, but we have to ask ourselves why, if Obama is the failure he’s painted as among the Conservative media, he is still by all mathematical accounts the heavy favorite to win.
The answer is simple: Romney has founded his campaign on voter dissatisfaction. Not voter enthusiasm or even voter anger (though, naturally, there are some angry voters out there). At his most honest (which is a rare sight), the best Romney can do is say “Obama, meh.” Just look at the final presidential debate where he basically agreed with Obama on every stance before saying, “But I’d be better.”
Being the masochist that I am, I frequently read the comments sections of online articles. It tends to be the same annoying back and forth between Liberals and Conservatives (let’s make a deal: Libs will stop writing ‘Rmoney’ if Cons will stop writing ‘Obummer’. Neither one is all that clever and it undermines any point you’re trying to make). But in the last couple weeks, it seems like the Conservative commentators have all decided the Benghazi attack is Obama’s greatest Achilles’ Heel (bringing it up even on completely unrelated articles). This is interesting for a couple of reasons.
One, it indicates that they apparently realize a lot of their other attacks on Obama, especially on the economy, are pretty toothless in the face of good job numbers and other signs that the economy is rebounding.
Two, it begs the question: If the Benghazi attacks hadn’t happened (a mere two months ago), what would they be complaining about? Some conservative nutters have implied that Hurricane Sandy was good luck for Obama, but if that’s the case, the Benghazi attacks seem to have been good luck for Romney. Without it, the last two months of his campaign would have had nothing but bald dissatisfaction to hang its hat on.*
Considering all that, I don’t suspect this election night to be as electric as it was in 2008 (New Orleans doesn’t seem all that engaged in this election, at least compared to 2008 San Fran).
Regardless of the ‘enthusiasm gap’, though, it’s still important to vote. It’s important whether you’re voting for Obama, Romney or one of those other people that apparently exist (I kid because I care). Yes, in most states, the winner is pretty much predetermined. Yes, even of the many swing states, Ohio seems to be the single key to the whole shebang. Yes, a president could win the Electoral College and lose the popular vote (e.g. Bush v. Gore).
So why, if your name isn’t Bob Undecided-Voter from Cleveland (it’s German), should you vote?
First, no matter where you live, when they total the popular vote, yours counts. Why does that matter? Well, if you are, for instance, an Obama supporter, you want him to win both the Electoral College and the popular vote (this is true, of course, if you support Romney, but the likelihood of him winning the EC but losing the popular is considerably smaller). Nothing would give the opposition greater pleasure than to say, “Yeah, you won, but not with the support of the majority of the nation. We’ll gladly continue or obstructionist ways, claiming the ‘mandate.’”
Or as one political strategist put it: “It’s going to encourage more hyperpartisanship.”
No matter where you fall on the political spectrum, that’s not a good thing.
The other reason to vote is because your vote isn’t just for the president, it’s against the nakedly un-Democratic actions of states legislators across this country that have tried to restrict the vote in the name of protecting against ‘voter fraud’, fraud that simply doesn’t exist. And don’t think these sorts of restrictions were only popping up in the swing states. In the past two years, the vast majority of states have passed voting restrictions.
As partisan as I admittedly am (I’m not a Democrat, just a hyper-liberal), I do attempt to be fair when both parties are being stupid. But in this case, there is no question, the voting restrictions have been enacted predominantly by Republicans with a clear interest in disenfranchising voters who historically vote Democrat. Luckily, time after time, there have been people fighting these sickening efforts. But that hasn’t stopped some last minute efforts to suppress the vote.
We need to vote, no matter what state we live in, no matter who we’re voting for, because that’s the best way to undermine these cynical efforts to impede the rights of U.S. citizens. Ideally, the electorate would kick these legislators out of office the first chance they get, but that’s not likely to happen, at least not this election.
I don’t care if you like Barack Obama, Mitt Romney, Jill Stein or Ross Perot (remember that guy?), any attempt to suppress the voting rights of your fellow citizens should bother you. Yes, your guy might have a better chance of winning, but is that really the democracy you want? Is that what our soldiers fight for and what our forefathers risked their lives to create? We know it isn’t.
So, if you haven’t voted already, get to your polling place on Tuesday, and encourage your friends and family to vote as well. It’s a half hour of your day, at most.
Maybe your one vote won’t chance the outcome of the election, but it could change the course of the nation all the same.
And on election night 2012, that’s the win we can all celebrate, no matter who wins the presidency.
*Whether the Benghazi attacks are really all that big of a liability for Obama has yet to be truly seen. My guess: Not really.