The morning after the third presidential debate I sat in front of my laptop listening to MSNBC's Joe Scarborough and Mica Brzezinski debate the night's performance. As usual, they disagreed on just about everything... everything, except this:
"The voters want to know the facts," they said!
"They want to know what Romney's plan really is," cried Mica!
"They want to know President Obama's plan for the next four years," exclaimed Joe!
"They want more information!" they agreed.
Really? Do they?
If neither candidate is big on putting out more information there's a reason. The voters don't want it. At least the voters who are in play don't want it.
The president has a history of accomplishments he barely touts, and Romney has a plan he won't define. Why? Why in the final months, weeks and days of this election has content been so absent? Why have the campaigns and Super PACs been lost in a swirl of spins and attacks instead of putting forth their plans?
The answer is simple. It won't make a difference.
"I want someone who just feels presidential," said one friend of mine.
"I want someone who'll make America great again," said another.
"I want someone who makes me proud," said yet a third.
"We've just got to balance this budget. I'm voting Romney," touted my white working class father-in-law without ever bothering to ask how Romney might do it!
America is a simmering crock pot. Just enough steam seeps out from under the lid to let you know something big is brewing while barely enough clanking is heard to confirm nothing has really melted inside.
Back in the mid '70s the rock band Boston had a hit song, "More Than a Feeling." I always wondered what it meant. I guess I was too young to understand it's longing for the past and its reverence for a relationship that just, "slipped away." But now, some grey in my temples and a bit less spring in my step, I get it. "I looked out this morning and the sun was gone," went the lyric. Maybe there was something about "that girl I used to know."
I don't need facts and figures to understand that longing. I don't need policy and positions to know that what I had has disappeared. As the song goes, "I see my Marianne walkin' away." Well now, maybe, just maybe, she's turning around and walking back. That is the promise of Mitt Romney.
I get it. So does half of America.
The problem is that the other half of America doesn't. For them, Marianne was never theirs. She was riding off in some hot sports car with someone you knew you'd never be. For that America, the promise of a future that looks different than the past was powerful and hopefully starting to seem inevitable. For that America, the promise of Carlos picking up his African American girlfriend, or boyfriend, is a lot more exciting that Mitt and Marianne in a sports car. For them, it is the future versus the past. It is the Republican Convention versus the Democratic Convention. It is inclusion versus exclusion.
In a snap-shot, that's what this election is about. In the ever evolving continuum of our history, have we gotten ahead of ourselves? Has the future come too fast? Is the world changing faster than we have? For many, the answer is yes.
For them, if Romney wins, there is a chance in this election to slow it down, to roll back the tide on gays, and women and contraception and touchy/feely diplomacy and go back to something concrete and real that I can understand. If that happens, the cultural tipping point will be pushed another decade away.
If Romney loses, there will be no solace for his supporters. The shining city on the hill, cited by Ronald Reagan, personified by the likes of John Wayne, Burt Lancaster and Charlton Heston will have burned out its last high energy bulb. That America will have fallen into the past. With Romney's candidacy, the last dying breath of the twentieth century, finally, will have been buried and put to rest.
With an Obama win, the inverse is also true. America will never return to what it once was. The cultural tipping point will have been crossed and the fulfillment of a dream for half of America will mean the death of a dream for the rest.
That's why, if there is any solace in losing this race, it will come to those who support President Obama. His loss will end his time in the White House, but it will not stop the future. The future, their future, will come anyway. Technology, the internet and the interconnectedness that comes with it, along with a changing demographic landscape that is literally changing the face of America... demands a future that looks more like Apple and less like the old IBM. Their future will come. It's inevitable. It just may take a little longer in getting here.