Heading into Wednesday’s election, polls indicate that Barack Obama and Mitt Romney are deadlocked at 48 percent of “likely” voters. This begs two important questions: 1) Who is going to win the 2012 Presidential election and thereby assume the title “Leader of the Free World?” 2) Who are the other 4 percent of “likely” voters casting their ballot for? I predict exit polling will reveal the runners-up to be “Steve Jobs,” “Mr. Reagan” and “No.”
For a lot of other university undergraduates, this may feel like your “first” U.S. presidential election. In 2008, I was in my last year of high school, and I was pretty sure that I was very politically savvy. I had earned this election gravitas by watching Sarah Silverman’s “The Great Schlep” and putting an Obama ’08 sticker on one of my binders. So, yeah, I was basically a pundit. The truth is, if you had put me in front of a firing squad and asked me to identify who Nancy Pelosi was, my answer would probably have been “A brand of pasta sauce.”
For all intents and purposes, then, 2012 is the first year that I have been able to follow an American election. Watching the race unfold, I struggled to determine what was newly insane and what insanity had been institutionalized into standard election ritual. I found myself perpetually asking those older and wiser around me questions about precedent: “Are the candidates always this intentionally vague about the economy?” “Was the Town Hall Debate previously arranged to look like an episode of The Voice fused with a velveteen diorama of a gladiator stadium?” and “Do the Republicans just always have better hair?”. The answers were “Yes,” “Yes” and “Since Jack Kennedy was shot.”
This was not supposed to be a real horse race. Oh my god that was so dated! Let me start again. This was not supposed to be a real aircraft carrier race. Barack Obama was expected to have this on a lock. Earlier this year Mitt Romney was nothing but the least terrible pick of a ragtag group of Republican candidates that included Newt Gingrich, Rick Santorum, and everyone’s favorite Christmas gremlin Ron Paul. All Romney had to do to secure the nomination was not cheat on his cancer-ridden wife (Newt) or say that being gay is like having sex with your dog (Rick). And boy, he nailed it. But beating your grandmother in arm wrestling does not qualify you for sparring with Ali. Yet somehow through the gaffes and the dubious tax records and the flip-flopping, Mitt has proven himself to be, if not an Iron Man, a Teflon Man. He has brushed off every accusation and sneer while making the slow and steady climb to where he is now—a real contender instead of a Republican placeholder.
“Women’s issues” (used with quotation marks to reinforce the irritation I have with this phrasing) have been unusually weighted during this election. This has been largely fueled by increasingly inflammatory remarks on the part of old Republican men, from Todd Akin’s comment on “legitimate rape” and Robert Murdock’s soundbite that pregnancy from rape is “..something God intended.” At this point they should all just sign a copy of The Handmaid’s Tale and try and get it passed into legislation. The Democrats have appeared glowing in comparison, through the simple act of NOT. TALKING ABOUT. RAPE. It is very unlikely that Romney would attempt to overturn Roe vs. Wade, but over the passing months it has progressed from a crazy impossibility to a looming option.
Both candidates are asking for the American people to base their support in trusting speculation. In the case of Obama, he asks the voters to believe in the hypotheticals of his past term. While things are not good now, he assures everyone that things could have been a lot worse. He rarely elaborates on what that may have entailed (Taking out a second mortgage on the White House? A new Taylor Swift single: “Unpaid Phone Bills (Don’t Mean You Can’t Call)”?) but he assures America that it would have succccckkkkkeddd. You have to give Obama credit, because it’s hard to strike a rhetorical balance between “America is the undoubtedly the greatest country on earth” and “Seriously, you would all be eating Chinese-manufactured dog food if I hadn’t been here.”
As for Mitt, it requires a similar leap of faith for voters to believe in the hypotheticals of his future term. He has been famously reticent to give any specifics on his plan to balance the budget, except for killing Obamacare and “slashing unnecessary spending” (at this point only pinpointing PBS and teacher’s unions: because we all know that basic literacy is just superfluous. For all Americans reading this in the future, “superfluous” means “bad”). He stresses his experience in ‘the world of business’ as uniquely qualifying him to dig America out of its tremendous deficit. The problem is, Bain Capital makes its money from cutting-and-running from the truly bankrupt and bogged-down businesses. If things got worse with the economy, it’s hard to know whether Mitt would roll up his sleeves or liquidate USA’s remaining assets and move to Malta. Or auction each state of the union to the highest bidder (requesting that France refund Louisiana because “Look at this water damage”).
A mixed blessing and curse we have as young adults is that we lack the precedent to be truly cynical regarding the electoral process. Those older and ‘wiser’ expect the empty stump speeches and staged photo-ops, and their resigned complicity serves to propagate the cycle for the next round. But hopefully every four years there can be a new contingent of newly adult people with fresh and critical eyes who are willing to point out that the Emperor is perhaps less clothed than is appropriate for a public setting. This time it is our turn to try and blow the whistle, and hopefully we use it well.
“To you, from jaded hands we throw
The meme generator
Be yours to share on your wall-”
For more election reading, check out: http://fimssc.ca/mixtape-ix/.
Jas Irwin‘s obvious political expertise has sealed her fate as the mitZine’s foreign election pundit forever and ever, amen.
And may the
least idiotic most up-to-date more elegantly coiffed best man future president win the election.