I write this on the morning of Election Day 2012. By the time you read it in print or online, the election will be over and the final tallies will be tallied (hopefully, unless we go through the same month-long Florida nightmare that we suffered in 2000, which damned us with Bush 43, because that one had nothing to do with an actual election).
Try as I might, there was no budging Reader editor John Heaston into pushing back the newspaper’s press date by one day to include election results. “Nope. Moving on,” John said. “I hear you on being obsessed with this election, but I think everyone else is pretty sick of it.”
As per usual, John’s right. As the Thursday-after rolls in and our crack team of muscle-backed distributors fills the wire racks with freshly minted copies of The Reader, bitter, painful memories of all those campaign commercials will already have faded, having done their damage both to the outcome of the election and to our bruised psyches.
I have no crystal coffee cup to gaze into that will tell me who will have won, but wouldn’t it be ballsy to try, knowing that said predictions won’t be read until after the election? What hutzpah! What moxie! What outright arrogance! What stupidity!
Instead, let’s step into the telephone-booth-styled magic box I’ve built in my office out of discarded campaign fliers and transport ourselves 18 hours into the future, after the election is (hopefully) decided.
This is what I would have written had I known Obama won:
“He pulled if off in spite of himself, overcoming the damage inflicted by his own performance during that first horrific debate. He persevered because he had to, righting as best he could a ship that listed so dangerously close to sinking, lost somewhere out of sight in the deep waves. In the end, it was a storm named Sandy that blew him back on course, along with two better days of debates and the return of his original campaign message — a positive, hopeful message that we as a country cannot stop the course we’re on, that we’re headed in the right direction and that despite the progress we’ve already made filling in the fiscal hole dug by the last administration, even better days are ahead. No, he was never able to convince white, under-educated males of his value, but he managed to convince the youth and the women and the minorities and the disenfranchised middle class that he’s championed since his early days as a Congressman from Illinois. And now he has four more years to prove he was right, fighting a pitched battle with a Congress divided. With no more elections in his future, he can push aside his allegiances and do what he knows he has to do for the good of the country: Compromise.”
And this is what I would have written had I known Romney won:
“Up until October 3, it was all but over. Even the most staunch conservatives had written him off as unelectable, the booby prize amidst a gallery of booby prizes that made up the Republican primaries. And then came that first debate, where Romney threw aside his hard-right positions and began espousing more moderate views in front of a stunned silent Obama and an electorate hungry to hear that everything Republican doesn’t have to be just right of right. It was a campaign based on confusion, with Romney saying whatever he felt he had to to win votes, casually ignoring his past ultra-conservative positions. His far right supporters — his base — could care less what he said during the heat of the campaign because they knew once he was in office he would revert back to his old ways, and screw the undecideds who were fooled by the masquerade. This one has always been about one thing: Getting the other guy out of office, no matter what it took. In the old days just a few years ago, Romney would have been run out of town on a rail for being the King of the Flip Floppers. Instead, he was rewarded Tuesday night with the highest office in the land. Now he has four years to prove he was right, fighting a pitched battle with a Congress divided. The only question left unanswered: Is he willing to push aside his allegiances and do what he knows he has to do for the good of the country: Compromise?“
It’s kind of like writing an obituary years before someone has died and filing it until that fateful day.
There is one thing I can predict with dead-lock certainty:
Whoever won will get all the credit for what takes place over the next four years, and what took place over the past four years. Because no matter what Romney said during the campaign, the economy was slowly but surely getting better under Obama, and all signs indicate that it will only get better despite a looming “fiscal cliff” that will ultimately be kicked down the road over and over and over.
If Obama won and the economy continues to recover, they will say it was the culmination of all the years that came before, all the hard decisions Obama had to make along the way. If Romney won and the economy continues to recover, they’ll say it was due to Romney righting a damaged course, and thank god he came along when he did, ignoring any progress made by the past administration as he skips carelessly to a second term. It will become Romney’s economy, and Obama will be an afterthought, another in a series of one-term losers.
But what if I’m wrong and we go sailing off that fiscal cliff? The winner Tuesday night won’t get the credit, he’ll get the blame. And isn’t that what this election was all about?
Over The Edge is a weekly column by Reader senior contributing writer Tim McMahan focused on culture, society, the media and the arts. Email Tim at firstname.lastname@example.org.