By Ken Trainor
A long habit of not thinking a thing wrong, gives it a superficial appearance of being right, and raises at first a formidable outcry in defense of custom. But the tumult soon subsides. Time makes more converts than reason.
-Thomas Paine, Common Sense
Here we are at last, fellow citizens, a week before Armageddon — or Deliverance, depending on your point of view. Next Tuesday, will our future be determined by LIVs (low information voters), NIVs (no information voters) and MIVs (misinformation voters)? Will our president-elect be someone who represents the many or the few?
Will Americans meekly hand over their country to the 1% or will we stand up for ourselves and save the middle class? The choice in our two middle-class communities is a no-brainer, but I'm not sure about nationwide.
Common sense seems in short supply this election season. How Americans decide their vote for president is a mystery. When the election involves an incumbent, the common-sense question should be, "Has he done a good job?" If so, he should be re-elected. But in 2004, we re-elected a perfectly awful president who went on to do an even worse job in his second term. So common sense isn't always part of the equation.
Has this incumbent earned a second term? That's an easy one. Barack Obama inherited an economy in freefall and turned it around, saving us from a second Great Depression. Things have been slowly but steadily improving since he took office, despite politically calculated and shameless obstruction from the very party that got us into the mess in the first place.
In spite of that, he defied the doubters and rescued the U.S. auto industry, saving thousands of jobs.
He ended the costly and misbegotten Iraq war, and is ending the war in Afghanistan as promised.
He brought Osama bin Laden to justice and has decimated Al Qaeda.
Health care reform will extend coverage to 30-40 million Americans who didn't have it before.
Wall Street reform will make it harder for the financial industry's reckless greed to produce another economic collapse like 2008.
The list is lengthy, but if you need more than that, frankly, your bar is set way too high. Few presidents have had more successful first terms.
Voting against a record like that, in fact, qualifies as a failure of common sense. I've never seen the bar set so unreasonably high for an incumbent and so absurdly low for a challenger. If the latter can walk and talk at the same time, even if what he says makes no sense, he's considered presidential. The incumbent, meanwhile, has to walk on water.
Common sense, not to mention fairness, dictates that you set the bar at the same height for both candidates — in which case, President Obama clears it by a mile while the challenger never gets off the ground.
Common sense also says you need basic criteria to assess a president's job performance. Has he moved the economy in a positive direction? Check. Is he a person of integrity who has avoided major scandals? Check. Has he kept the country safe from external and internal threats? Check. Has he done anything to significantly improve the lives of the American people? Check.
Then take a look at the challenger. Can he do a better job than the incumbent? Hard to believe when he refuses to provide any specifics on his plans. Does he have strong, clear, consistent positions and principles? He changes them, it seems, every day, depending on his audience. Is he honest? He insists he won't allow his campaign to be run by fact-checkers and won't release his tax returns. Does he have more charisma than the incumbent? Please.
Yet this race is tight, which can only be explained as a failure of common sense.
After the damage the Republican Party inflicted on this country from 2001-2009, and in spite of all the good President Obama has done in the last four years, you want to put the Republicans back in charge?
That's a failure of common sense.
After Republican policies created unprecedented economic inequality over the last three decades, undermining the stability of the middle class, you want to let them make it worse?
That's a failure of common sense.
The president tries to extend health care coverage to 30-40 million Americans and you react with eye-bulging, vein-popping outrage? What does that say about your basic values?
Why would any middle-class voter support someone who doesn't represent the middle class — the people who, as George Bailey puts it in It's a Wonderful Life, "do most of the working and paying and living and dying in this country"? Maybe you're suffering from the Stockholm Syndrome (identifying with your captors).
That's not only a failure of common sense, it's a failure of self-respect.
Before we vote, we should all take the Citizens Hippocratic Oath: First, do no harm. Ask yourself, "Will this vote harm my country?" Supporters of President Obama have his record to reassure us. Supporters of the challenger have a record to consult as well — the record of the Republican Party, a record of concentrating this country's wealth in the hands of the 1%, most of which, economists say, took place during the last 32 years, aided and abetted by Republican policies that dominated the political landscape.
I support Barack Obama because he represents what's right about this country. He's not only a good president. He's a good man, who has proven it's possible to hang onto your humanity in a system that is extremely effective at compromising it. His challenger, meanwhile, represents what is wrong with this country — the dishonesty, the blind ambition, the callous disregard for the common good, the unprincipled willingness to say anything to get elected.
Not to mention the lack of common sense. Mitt Romney is a veritable poster boy for the widening gulf between the rich and the rest.
Let's hope the American people come to their common senses before next Tuesday.