Editor’s Note: Do you ever get tired of hearing the same old cliches every four years? Every Democratic candidate is the most radical leftist in the history of the Republic, and every Republican is going to move us to a level of Fascism not seen since Mussolini. And every election is life or death for the American way of life.
Despite the conservative conventional wisdom that he combined the finest attributes of Washington, Lincoln and Churchill, I never voted for Ronald Reagan. On the other hand, I never voted against him either.
In 1972, I cast my first ballot. At 20 years old, I was the sort of drugged-out, long-haired college kid you’d have expected to support George McGovern. However, I swallowed the Republican fear mongering that McGovern (a Midwestern Methodist minister) was a raving radical socialist, who’d lead us into rampant degeneracy. So, in what was being called “the most important election of our lifetime,” I voted for Richard Nixon.
A short time later, a serious car accident confined me to a couch, from which, for weeks on end, I watched the Watergate hearings and became disillusioned with politicians. For the next 20 years, I stopped voting, which is how I missed my chance to vote for (or against) President Reagan.
In 1982, when my wife and I moved to Stamford, we registered as one Democrat and one Republican, so we’d get both sides of the story. This was somewhat pointless, because neither of us really wanted either side of the story.
In 1992, after 12 years of the Reagan/Bush administrations running up what were, at the time, appalling deficits, the thought of four more years of faux fiscal conservatives borrowing and spending frightened me back into the voting booth. So, after a 20-year absence, I found myself standing in a long line at our local polling place.
At the end of the line, a very old Eastern European immigrant was struggling to drag himself along in an aluminum walker. What was, for most of us, an obligation, he saw as a miraculous privilege. Eventually, we all let him move ahead of us, because we recognized that the right to vote was more important to him than it was for the rest of us. This shamed me into becoming a regular voter, no matter what I thought of the candidates.
Fast forward 20 years, and it’s 2012. Our household still comprises both parties, so we’re subject to endless campaign mailings and constant robocalls from both sides. And, as always, it’s “the most important election” of my now far more distended lifetime.
I’m no economist. The subject seems less a science than an art — a paranormal art, like voodoo. Each election, the presidential hopefuls proclaim economic platforms endorsed by long lists of economists, including Harvard MBAs, while their opponents do the same. It’s hard to take any of it seriously.
However, in my humble opinion (IMHO for you texters), this year, as Bill Clinton’s campaign once emphasized, “it’s the economy stupid.” And, IMHO, the most important question is what will the two candidates and their parties do about the deficit.
Based on the campaign so far, the answer looks to be “nothing.” The Greatest Generation bequeathed us a robust economy, which we Baby Boomers have ruined, leaving future generations to pay for the selfish irresponsibility initiated in the Reagan years, which we’ve embraced ever since. Neither candidate is willing to frighten off prospective voters by asking for any sacrifice that might materially reduce the deficit.
Governor Romney’s campaign staff at Fox News is portraying President Obama as a socialist radical turning America into Greece, while talk radio paints him as a communist and/or Islamic radical turning America into Egypt under the Muslim Brotherhood. This despite the fact the Left is disillusioned with a moderate whom they see as a spineless pragmatist repeatedly knuckling under to the conservatives in a futile quest for bipartisanship.
Meanwhile, the Left paints Romney — a lifelong middle-of-the-road pragmatist and chameleon who’ll say anything to get elected — as a right-wing fanatic, even though his primary opponents accurately portrayed him as a “Massachusetts moderate.” Both candidates are now tarring each other as extremists, but the choice just isn’t that stark.
Regardless of how large the deficit grows, the Republicans won’t increase revenue (i.e., taxes), and neither side will reduce spending if it compromises their ideology. The rich will get richer, the poor poorer, the middle class will be squeezed and service on the debt will cannibalize an increasing percentage of future budgets.
So, is this the most important election of our lifetime? I doubt it, because no matter who wins, four years from now, the deficit will be larger, and we will have kicked the can further down the road. Realistically, this is, quite possibly, the least important election of our lifetime.
I’ll still vote in 2012, but my choice will be based mainly on the type of Supreme Court justices the candidates are likely to nominate. This could be the one area where my vote might matter. Perhaps the Court will one day reverse the Citizens United ruling and slow our current descent into oligarchy and plutocracy.
And maybe, someday, I’ll drag my aluminum walker toward the ballot box to cast a vote in the most important election of our lifetime. But I’m not optimistic.
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