In case you somehow missed it, today is Election Day. I can’t imagine how you could have, I live in the least contested state in the country (anyone think California is going to pull a surprise win for Romney out of its hat?), in the 200% liberal democrat Bay Area, and don’t own a TV and even I have been inundated with political ads. Even if you don’t care about the election at all you surely care about the fact that tomorrow those ads go away, right?
I voted for President Obama today. Well. Not really today. I voted absentee a couple of weeks ago because they moved my polling place and driving to the new place with the baby in tow was harder than voting in my living room after the baby was put to bed. But I voted for the President.
But I almost wish I hadn’t.
Don’t get me wrong. I’m not regretting my choice. I think President Obama is not perfect, but that he has done a fine job leading our country for four years and hasn’t given me a reason to vote him out of office. I have every reason to believe he will continue to work hard for our country.
Should Mitt Romney prevail today I will not threaten to move to Canada. I will not rend my garments and declare the world at end. I will not take to Facebook with an angst ridden diatribe about stolen elections and America being returned to the stone age.
But many, many, many of my friends and family will. And that. makes. me. crazy.
Part of America’s drive to succeed comes from a culture that believes strongly in winning and losing. We are a country of people that create opposing sides out of nothing (I’m going to “take on the world!”) that then fight unto the death to emerge victorious. We do it for big things, like fighting to create a newer, better company. We do it for inane things, like fighting to get into the best preschool money can buy. And we do it for elections. For most people today isn’t about choosing who will take the helm of our great country for the next four years, it’s about “our guy” winning against “the other guy.” And while our drive to win makes us great, it also makes us ugly. Nowhere is that clearer than in our drive to win at the election game. And boy is it ugly.
This focus on ‘winning’ rather than ‘deciding’, with its accompanying nasty rhetoric, this is why I feel a mild regret that I didn’t end up voting for Mitt Romeny. I like to believe that if I was voting for “the other guy” my friends and family would have to stop and reflect on their demonizing of people whose only crime is to think differently. Who needs big brother? The government doesn’t have to tell us how to think. Facebook is around so we can do it to each other directly.
The irony of this election year ugliness is that liberals have spent the past four years complaining continuously about President Obama not being liberal enough, while conservatives spent their primary race trying to find the “Romney alternative” because they were so loathe to nominate someone who wasn’t a die-hard conservative in all areas. These men, while they have some areas of genuine disagreement, are both moderate, middle-of-the road choices. We’ve built them into imaginary icons of liberalism and conservatism, but when the election glitter falls away they are just ordinary moderates. Men who asking for the opportunity to strive for extraordinary. They are devoted patriots. And they are not that different.
Both of these men are wonderful examples of what the American struggle to win can produce. They are extraordinary examples of the kind of individual success that our national culture encourages, fosters, idealizes, and trumpets. No matter which one receives the 270 electoral votes needed for the nomination, then are both winners. And we as a country should thank and respect their willingness to sacrifice themselves for us. Because that, the fact that we are lucky enough to have two committed, passionate, talented, intelligent individuals as our nominees to the Presidency, that is the real win. For all of us.