My wife, Amy, looked at me this morning and told me she is nervous. She is nervous about President Obama losing the election tomorrow.
We then spent time reminiscing. Election Day four years ago we each proudly cast ballots for Barack Obama. On Election Night, I was in Grant Park and Amy was at home uncomfortably pregnant with our first. The entire scene in the loop that evening was something I’ll never forget. The bars were packed with people, cocktails in hand, watching election results. Everyone was an armchair political pundit, telling whoever would listen what states Obama had to win to get elected. The enthusiasm was infectious. Being in the park on that warm night four years ago was the best political event I had ever been to. I was proud of my country that night (that doesn’t mean I had not been proud of it before) and very happy to be a part of it.
Now that enthusiasm, for the most part, is gone. Although I still support President Obama, my “enthusiasm quotient” which was a 9.8 in November 2008, is now somewhere in the high 6s or low 7s. And that’s because after Barack Obama was elected, politics trumped hope. Political change didn’t happen.
I don’t solely blame President Obama for that. You need a dance partner for bipartisanship and he stood on the floor alone. When Republicans vowed to defeat Obama in 2012, any hope for change was ushered in with the political realities of governing. The country was in a tough spot and it needed to be governed. Unfortunately, the GOP didn’t do President Obama any favors by helping.
But tomorrow when I go cast my ballot, although I am a bit nervous about the outcome, ultimately, the promise I make to my family each day cannot and will not change due the results.
As I zipped up my son’s coat this morning, the reality that had been just underneath the surface of my skin during this endless campaign came flooding over. Regardless of who wins tomorrow, I am responsible for this little boy. Barack Obama is not going to come to my house and buy my son a winter jacket. Mitt Romney is not coming over to zip up his coat and wish him a good day at school. That’s my job. And the better I do my job—by providing my children the things they need and by being a good example of how to be a good father, husband, lawyer, Chicagoan and American, the better chance they will have to succeed. Their chances at success are not increased terribly by tomorrow’s outcome; they’re increased by my efforts at raising good children.
So that’s why I am not nervous. Yes, the election is important. But no matter what rhetoric you’ve heard, our nation will still be here in 2016. One person, even the president, cannot shatter the country. The phrase “our nation was not seen a more important time” in terms of needing your vote has been uttered in every election since 1796 and will be uttered again in 2016.
Ultimately, only we can destroy our nation. Half of us will “lose” tomorrow. One guy, whether it is Obama or Romney, will go home to defeat. After that the choice is ours. If Barack Obama loses tomorrow, Mitt Romney is not going to put food on my table. And if Barack Obama wins tomorrow, he’s not going to do it either.
That is up to me. The role I play on making our country stronger is to make my family stronger. It doesn’t matter who wins tomorrow, that is still my role. Our nation can only be defeated if we give up if our candidate loses. If I throw in the towel if Barack Obama loses, then I am responsible for the lack of food on the table, not Mitt Romney. And the same is true if you support Mitt Romney. There is a lot of heated rhetoric that our country will not be as strong if Barack Obama is our president. That’s only true if all of the people who vote for Romney stop working at making our country stronger.
And we make our country stronger by legitimizing the winner, respecting the office of the president, staying engaged in the process, and making our individual lives better.
If you are unemployed, underemployed, underwater on your home, not earning enough money to make ends meet, ultimately—especially in the short term—it doesn’t matter who wins tomorrow. If Romney wins tomorrow night, you still are going to have a mortgage payment to make December 2012 and it is not going to magically pay itself—or even become easier to pay it.
So recognize that as you vote. Do your civic duty and vote, but then realize that your job is not done. The election of Mitt Romney is not going to make your home value increase. Your resume doesn’t get better with Mitt Romney in office. Barack Obama is not going to take care of your family. Think about where you want to be and develop a plan to get there regardless of who wins. Ultimately, it’s up to you.