“This race is far from over” is what I found myself tweeting this morning before entering class. I had barley paid attention to the polls during the months of August and September. Mr. Romney had cost himself the race by a set of speaking blunders at home and abroad that distanced himself from the American people. I have studied political science and I knew the Incumbent owed this presidential race, it was Mr. Obama’s to win
Or so I thought.
Then Americans did something, en masse, that they were never “supposed” to do, according to many political scientists- actually watch and pay attention to the debate last Wednesday. Over 50 million Americans from across the country tuned into PBS, rejecting other more flashy channels with new “exciting” series, to engage themselves in civic life. Through Mr. Romney, a man they had never known to be “one of them”, became them, vicariously, demanding a head-down, conflict-avoiding Mr. Obama to answer “Why did you fund Solyndra?”, “Why did you ignore Simpson-Bowles?”, and most importantly “Why did you promise change four years ago that has not come?”. Mr. Romney finally transcended himself to stand next to Mr. Obama and become what the GOP always wanted him to be- the referendum choice.
A pew poll released Monday showed Mr. Romney ahead 4 points in the Presidential race, even though Obama had a buffer of 12 points over his challenger in mid-September. In the electoral race, Mr. Romney has Indiana, the Carolinas, and Missouri secured and is even closing the gap in Ohio. Politicians need to take this as a reminder that fundraising speeches win money, but debates win voters (and quickly). What I like most about this shift, however, is that it did not come from negative campaign ads, a huge individual or corporate donor with an agenda, or the position of an interest group- it came from the American people honorably defying their critics and actually tuning into the issues that face our republic today. They have shown that a new generation is taking civic responsibility very seriously.
We have yet to find a solution on the 2013 “Fiscal Cliff” because of extreme polarization in Congress, but maybe if we can revive what Robert Putnam at Harvard calls “social capital” or a rise in social and civic trust around America, we can begin to solve our legislative problems. Americans showed they cared last Thursday during the debate, hopefully on election day those numbers will remain high. Whoever wins this presidential election is going to have a direct effect on all policy areas in the next four years, but how they win it could put America on a new course for the entire century. To me, the former takes precedent.