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On Day One

 Posted: 9:35 AM November 05, 2012

I am all but certain that should Mitt Romney win on Tuesday, we will look back on this election and wonder how we could have missed such a momentous opportunity to validate what seems so self-evident: On Day One, Barack Obama inherited from the Republicans a country on a financial precipice, our nation's fabric frayed.

All things considered, why would we seriously consider withholding from Obama the opportunity to complete the tasks already begun: the unemployment numbers are dropping and the economy is improving; some 45 million uninsured people will soon be standing under the umbrella of the Affordable Care Act; Medicaid, so vital to the least among us, will be strengthened; women's preventative health services will be expanded; our commitment to research and development, as well as education, will continue and grow; and, if Obama is re-elected, he will affirm, through his Supreme Court nomination(s), a woman's right to choose.

To deny the president a second term would demonstrate a profound lack of understanding and, well, generosity.

Is it possible that voters simply fail to grasp the reality, as proffered by Bill Clinton, that no president could have extracted us, in just four years, from the deep ditch into which we were driven by the Republicans? It was an economic crisis approaching that of the Great Depression.

Recall that on the day that President Obama took the oath of office, Republicans, having already committed political and economic malpractice, met behind closed doors to construct the scaffolding of obstructionism, knowing that the nation was hemorrhaging jobs (some 800,000 monthly). Our major banks and corporations, to include General Motors and Chrysler, were facing possible liquidation. Small businesses were closing their doors. Home foreclosures were reaching tsunami levels. Main Street was desolate as people wondered if they could survive. Millions of Americans woke in the dead of night and felt the clenching anxiety of an unknowable future (many still do). But ever so slowly things are improving.

During the first year of his presidency, Obama was performing triage on our economy while the Republicans sat in the cheap seats, turning "party before country" into an art form. The Republicans' priority, as made explicit by Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, was not jobs but denying Obama a second term, refusing to place their collective oar in the water while righteously blaming Obama for the tepid recovery.

Certainly voters get this. How can they not? And yet, when asked to reflect on Obama's tenure, they often shake their heads and claim they are "disappointed. He hasn't kept his promises." Such a response seems startlingly shallow, lacking any real understanding or refection. Some voters (half of the electorate?) seem unable or unwilling to acknowledge that not only did Obama face a herculean task of righting our ship of state, the truth is that he confronted what amounted to a Republican jobs slow-down, beginning with their rejection of his proposed jobs bill, aimed at the countless unemployed firefighters, construction workers and teachers. Tackling our failing infrastructure would have realized a million jobs.

Isn't it self-evident that conservatives have not only discouraged our economic recovery, but they have repeatedly referred to Obama as the other. Romney surrogate John Sununu suggested that Obama was "lazy" and should learn how "to be an American." He went on to posit that Colin Powell's endorsement of Obama was clearly race-based and not given on merit. Romney has called Obama foreign, linking him to what? Europe? Kenya? He stood on the dais in Michigan not long ago and said no one would ask him for his birth certificate. Ah, the birthers, led by Romney's BFF, Donald Trump. It has been outrageous. Some might say racist.

And how to understand the response of women to the Romney-Ryan-Republican misogynistic strategy regarding their reproductive rights? Yet women are today trending back to Romney, who has been unequivocal in his commitment to overturn Roe v. Wade, thus criminalizing abortion (with narrow, wobbly exceptions) while limiting access to contraceptives, buttressed by a promise to defund Planned Parenthood. He also has stated, without equivocation, that he believes life begins at conception, an extreme view with incalculable consequences.

And, of course, there's Romney's "47 percent" soliloquy, spoken behind what he thought was a closed door. His statements should have followed him to every podium in every state. But it seems Romney has a stunning ability to make shameless, dissembling, pandering statements with chilling conviction (consider his most recent Chrysler-to-China comments) while doubling down. His has been a campaign of shape-shifting, with style over core substance.

And what is so startling, if the polls are remotely accurate, is that it doesn't seem to matter. The race remains incredibly tight, which seems counterintuitive, confounding and downright puzzling.

Hopefully, on Tuesday, our nation will choose wisely. We'll see.

Chris Honoré lives in Ashland.

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