There they stood, two men, one in red tie, the other in blue, facing off, facing ahead, facing away from each other; our future. And I knew the “who won the debate” verdict would soon be dancing its way across the airwaves and coursing along the superhighway. As I watched the two presidential candidates spar for the right to be leader of the free world, I came to a conclusion: Obama, 5; Romney, 7. But the real winner? All the rest of us.
Here is what we can agree on: Romney nailed it. He was assertive, competent, gracious and authoritative. Heck, even I liked him (yep, can you believe that?!). Unlike Shrub (George W. to many of you) who made me wince every time he opened his mouth, Romney was statesman-like. He used big words, had big ideas, and made me feel, that at the very least if he does become president, he wouldn’t be railroaded by the likes of a Cheney or a Rove.
Obama? He was as he always is: smart, thoughtful, considered, restrained. In debates, these qualities might not win the day. Running the country? They are essential.
I admit it. When it comes to our current president, I’m a sucker. Remember that scene from Jerry Magiure when Tom Cruise barges in and says he wants his wife? Renee Zellweger says, “You had me at hello.” Well, Romney may have won the debate, but Obama still had me at hello.
As expected, the candidates fox-trotted around the issues: taxes, entitlements, health care. At the heart, they revealed to us two men who come from diametrically opposed notions of what it means to be a great country.
Romney is a states-rights guy. He wants the government out of the way so capitalism can thrive. He
doesn’t hide his passion for the 1%. He believes they are the symbols of what is best in America. There is much to love and to hate in his notion of trickle-down economics, but at least he has a well-articulated philosophy with which voters can choose to align or reject.
Obama is a federalist who believes the way out of the morass is through the middle class. He advocates for programs that will bolster their efforts to climb back up to a place of stability rather than teetering on the edge from crisis to crisis. There is much to love and hate in his notion of trickle-across government and it too offers voters a real choice.
The good news is, at least, I feel I can breath a sigh of relief. If, god forbid, Romney does win, his performance last night left me with a kernel of hope he will not be ride rough over our country. He is not an ill-informed cowboy with a chip on his shoulder. He is a person with a deeply held philosophy that has historic precedent and some strong measure of merit. The balance between the role of the federal government versus the rights of states is at the heart of who we are. We can believe one or the other, but it is maintaing the balance that matters. We won’t delve into another civil war over it, and as a result, we can be a role model for other, younger, democracies. The world is watching and we are its civic lesson.
Over the next month, as we get closer to checking the proverbial box, things will get ugly. Slandering, pandering, and other indecorous undertakings will occur. But for the moment, I couldn’t be more proud to be an American.