So I’ve found myself talking up Mitt Romney lately.
My daughters started paying some attention to politics for the first time in 2008, and they got caught up in all the excitement over Barack Obama’s election. Now, they’re sensing he’s in trouble. Maybe it’s morning radio at breakfast. Maybe it was my recent, highly constructive criticism of the president’s potted plant impression during the first debate.
In any event, they’re worried. And I’ve been trying to tell them that it’s entirely OK if Mitt Romney wins. He’s a successful man with a great family. He was governor of a state and did some really good things. He’s smart and highly qualified and may make a fine president. And if he doesn’t, well, we’ve had great presidents and less-great presidents and the nation endures.
Obama may still win. And if he loses, you shouldn’t feel bad that you like him. His victory was historic and he’s done some good things as president. But the economy is still lousy for a lot of people. Things haven’t gotten better fast enough, so voters may want to switch. That’s how elections work. Somebody’s gotta lose. My kids seem willing, at this moment, to accept that.
I’m not selling them a bill of goods. Vastly oversimplified, sure. But still true.
There are huge, meaningful differences between these candidates. Make no mistake, this election could set a fateful course on taxes, entitlements, foreign policy and many other big issues. It matters who wins this thing. I would never suggest otherwise.
But what I’m trying to steer my kids away from is the persistent, damaging idea that every election is the most critical election ever, and that losing is tantamount to an unthinkable catastrophe. Look up, and you’ll see Democrats and Republicans, perched on ledges, looking into what they’re convinced is an abyss.
I refuse to join them. For one thing, I have too much respect for the history of a country that has faced far worse times than this. And I regret, daily, how the ledge sitters have turned so much of our public dialogue into pistols at 10 paces. I used to get mail from critics seeking to persuade. Now, I get demands for unconditional surrender.
I also think this doomsday framing has relieved our candidates from actually outlining new, specific ideas. I mean, who cares if my tax plan adds up when the mere fact of my victory will save the republic from destruction? We rail at the potted POTUS because he didn’t throw enough rhetorical punches, but not because he has yet to clearly explain a clear plan for the next four years.
My own plan is to have chocolate chip muffins for my kids on the 7th. So they’ll be good either way.