Imagine an America where we have no vote. How about an America where we have a vote but there was only one candidate to vote for because no one else was allowed to contest him or her? There is no way most Americans would equate either of those scenarios with the system of government that we know.
Since we have been old enough to understand the process, we have been taught that our vote equals our voice. We have been taught that when those voices come together, they represent the collective will of the people and within that collective will lies the power to choose our leaders. When it comes to our presidential elections, however, this seemingly could not be further from the truth.
If first impressions are lasting impressions, Wednesday's presidential debate certainly delivered some very mixed ones. The president, in expected fashion, presented his case with all of the polished preparedness those who follow him have come to expect. Romney came out pulling no punches and brought a very presidential air to his presentation. Both candidates stuck to the issues for the most part and utilized virtually every minute of their time to get their points across.
Although neither candidate appeared to stand out as a clear winner of the debate, Romney has likely managed, to some extent, to close the gap between himself and Obama with many voters. He clearly used his time to convince the American people of his sincerity about putting the country on a solid path to recovery, though he appeared to be somewhat vague about how he plans to do what he promises. Obama seized the opportunity to point out the ambiguities in Romney’s plan.
This was also an important opportunity for Romney to distance himself from statements he made that were captured on a recording at a fundraiser this year. On several occasions throughout the debate, Romney stressed how important the American people are to him. Whether this was effective at convincing most Americans of his commitment to them will likely depend on who you ask.
While Obama attacked the uncertainties of Romney’s plan, Romney countered pointing out the failures of the policies implemented by the Obama administration over the past four years. All in all, this first debate fundamentally served as a platform for the candidates to engage each other directly in a verbal jousting match. There was, for the most part, nothing said that was not expected.
Romney, like most challengers, was faced with the situation of having to compete with the solid accomplishments of the incumbent. This is a most difficult hurdle because it basically says, “This is what I have accomplished. What do you have to compete with that, other than your promise to do better?” Romney wisely acknowledged those things but judiciously pointed out that while this is true, Obama’s failures outweigh his successes.
After listening to the reactions of those who called in following the debate, it appears that the American people are still just as divided as ever. This debate has only served to underscore just how deeply many Americans have become entrenched in partisanship. Incidentally, this was obviously not lost on those who prepared the candidates for their television appearances either. A close examination of the setup, aside from the obvious red and blue ties, will reveal a few other interesting visual cues as well. What these are however, I will leave to the observant among you to notice.
It is clear that both candidates are vying for the approval of the middle class, who make up the largest portion of voters, but what of the poor? Both Romney and Obama realize that publicly going after the approval of the “one percent” would prove detrimental, but the poor are another story. The poor make up an impressive amount of the population, yet neither candidate specifically addressed the issue. There was mention of the poor throughout the debate but seemingly only in a manner one might expect when addressing an issue in a marginal matter.
Could it be that the opponents are surreptitiously in agreement when it comes to the poor? Does poverty equal voter disenfranchisement? Or, has it been determined that the impoverished are lacking in all their ways, even when it comes to selecting a president? Have the statisticians and number-crunchers decided that poor people do not vote because they are too busy trying to survive rather than worrying about who becomes president?
It has also become apparent that the battle lines have blurred over the years for other Americans. These are the ones considered as the “swing voters." These are the ones who have decided that blind partisanship is reckless and unproductive. The candidates realize that as closely divided as America is between red and blue, it is these swing votes that could ultimately decide who wins.
As the economy continues to falter and people continue to lose jobs, what should we do? Will we decide to stick things out and go through another four years with what we have? Will we opt for a new approach? Will some just flip a coin and hope for the best? Most importantly, has this nation’s economic situation reached the point of no return?
We have now reached the crossroads. Our process has given us our two choices. But do we really have a choice? Have both Obama and Romney simply attempted to sell the American people a bill of goods for a lost cause? Have they only succeeded at impressing us with their intellects, while presenting impotent solutions to problems that have gotten way out of hand? Do they truly believe that they have finally come up with a workable solution to our plight? Or, have they simply dressed up the same agendas in different packaging to give us an illusion of choice?
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