Votes and Consequences

Given the fairly steady diet of talk this morning about this election cycle being petty and avoiding “big issues,” here’s a huzzah for Greg Sargent’s passionate post about the ways in which the presidential campaign did indeed highlight the big choices voters face. I’d add to his list of particulars the potentially enormous implications of this election for reproductive rights. This was the first presidential campaign, if I’m not mistaken, where both candidates ran ads on abortion and contraception, and definitely the first where the pro-choice candidate was aggressive rather than defensive.

But even Greg admits that in many cases the big choices were fuzzed up by indirection and side issues that “embodied debates with immense moral consequence,” but didn’t always illuminate them. I was frustrated throughout the campaign by the failure of Team Obama and its surrogates–with some important exceptions like the 42d president of the United States–to clearly explain the extent to which the GOP is determined to wreck the entire social safety net for the poor (especially the working poor!), sick and vulnerable. And while I understand that Obamacare’s bad rep made it a subject Democrats took on carefully when at all, voters really did deserve, and never got, a clear indication of what the health care system would look like if this legislation is repealed and the GOP’s atavistic health care proposals were substituted.

None of this carping is to suggest that voters had any real excuse for failing to understand this is a highly consequential election. That some of them apparently are going to the polls assuming that Mitt Romney would be a president who spends all day thinking about how to reach out to Democrats and solve the country’s problems through compromise is in some ways more depressing that the delusions about Obama embraced by the fire-eaters of the Right. Our wingnutty friends know a lot depends on what happens today. On that, at least, we can agree.

Ed Kilgore

Ed Kilgore, a Monthly contributing editor, is a columnist for the Daily Intelligencer, New York magazine’s politics blog, and the managing editor for the Democratic Strategist.