10/27/2012 12:44 am ET Updated Feb 02, 2016

Shapeshifting and Distractions

Like a mythical shapeshifter or a repertory actor, Mitt Romney will pretend to be whatever you need. Politicians often do this, but he reaches new heights of brazenness. Time and again he says something on the stump that a campaign spokesperson later "clarifies." This only works if people are not paying much attention, Mitt as pliant vessel of everyone's discontent.

A gay former Democrat, for reasons he apparently deems too obvious to mention, recently began lighting votive candles every night against President Obama. There's something about Obama that some folks don't like and that makes them deny him due credit for his accomplishments and overlook relentless Republican obstruction. Whatever his real or imagined traits that provoke this irrational bias, the most generous votive offerings against him are not by disillusioned liberals but by latter-day robber barons with a starkly illiberal agenda.

It is hard to get a substantive discussion on the merits of candidates so late in the process. Voters respond better to theatrics. But we face crucial public policy choices, and to advance the common good we must look past the polling and posturing and press some questions.

Despite the GOP disinformation campaign against the Affordable Care Act, many of its features are popular, such as coverage for preexisting conditions and no lifetime cap. So shouldn't any deficiencies be addressed by amendment rather than by repeal?

Stocks have soared, profits are up, unemployment is down, and jobs have increased for 31 consecutive months. So how has Obama hurt the economy? Aren't we recovering from the Bush-Cheney recession? Given the upward redistribution of income represented by Republican tax proposals, they should be called trickle-up economics, not trickle-down economics. Whose interests are we voting for?

Sixty-eight Nobel Prize laureates have endorsed Obama while slamming Romney's proposed cuts in scientific research and his "positions that privilege ideology over clear scientific evidence...." Why would we vote for the know-nothings?

President Obama authorized the raid that killed Osama bin Laden, got us out of Iraq, and toughened sanctions on Iran while discouraging the reckless preemptive strike favored by Israeli Prime Minister Netanyahu. So how would we be safer under Romney, whose advisers are Bush-era warmongers? How can Republicans who exploit the terrorist attack in Benghazi for partisan purposes be taken seriously when they voted to cut funding for security at our embassies?

It is easy for some of us to take for granted our individual advantages and collective progress. But with Republicans vowing to overturn our gains, and the prospect of a conservative Supreme Court blocking LGBT equality and reproductive freedom for decades, shouldn't we drop our smugness long enough to act in our own and one another's interest?

The president spoke at a rally in Fairfax, Va., on Oct. 19, mocking Romney's sudden transformation into a moderate: "[I]f you come down with a case of Romnesia, and you can't seem to remember the policies that are still on your website, or the promises you've made over the six years you've been running for president, here's the good news: Obamacare covers pre-existing conditions."

Some worry that Obama's reenergized campaign style came too late, that Romney "looked presidential" in the first debate. But the postmortems are premature. It's a close election, and it's time to get out the vote. If a friend or family member doesn't know the stakes, take the trouble to explain.

No amount of voter suppression could give the wealthy a win without substantial help from the middle class. The plutocrats seeking to buy control of government use a divide-and-conquer strategy that has Americans fighting over minorities, unions and uteruses to distract us from our own disenfranchisement. Why in the world should we let them get away with it?

This piece originally appeared on Bay Windows and Metro Weekly.