Heroes, Clay Feet, and Last Night’s Debate

Like many people, I’ve been disgusted at the turn Republican politics has taken in recent years. From insidious attacks against gays, women, and minorities to ill-informed statements on issues of abortion, race, gender, and poverty, I’ve just had my fill. My reserves of tolerance have been depleted, yet statements like Romney’s 47% and Akin’s “legitimate rape” keep coming. I even tried to keep track of Republican craziness through a Tumblr site, but there was just too much. The sheer mass of backwardness, of baiting and propaganda would, I think, be overwhelming to any rational mind.

I wanted President Obama to come out swinging last night. I wanted him to express the frustrations that I, and so many other Americans, feel. I wanted him to call Romney out not just for his own history of flip-flops, outsourced jobs, hidden tax returns, and egregious lies, but for Republican obstructionism and extremism in general. I wanted him to mention the jobs act that Republicans recently refused to vote for, as well as the Veterans bill they drafted and then refused to sign. I wanted Obama to point out the fact that Bush-era tax cuts for the rich have done nothing to create jobs in America. Instead, unions have come under more fire, wages are stagnant, and jobs that pay decently are getting harder to find.

There were, I felt, so many opportunities that President Obama missed. He appeared polite and restrained while Romney seemed fired-up. Passion doesn’t always win debates, particularly when it’s fueled by clever deception, but on both those scores Romney won. I personally don’t know how many swing voters there are — it kind of boggles my mind that anyone would be undecided at this point — but there’s no doubt that Romney energized his base, while Obama did not. Those of us who vote Democratic will still vote for him, but in an election the polls show as close, we need a record turnout. We need even more grassroots excitement and a stronger sense of urgency than we had in ’08.

I am hoping that the next debate focuses on social issues as well as economic ones; that the next moderator won’t let Romney run roughshod over the format; and that Obama takes the gloves off. He’s already a well-liked President, but now’s the time to be an outspoken, passionate one who doesn’t let the delusions of a naked would-be emperor go unchecked.

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