As we have kicked around in comments, this election is fraught with really cosmic implications, notwithstanding the efforts of many in the media to try and characterize it as a depressing and lackluster contest, of interest only for its horse race characteristics.
L-t c ably illustrates below just one area in which the Republican governing vision is a nightmare scenario for those of us concerned with reproductive rights. And, of course, a Romney victory would almost guarantee that after forty years the Republicans will achieve their vision of overturning Roe v. Wade. This alone makes the election enormously consequential.
But that is just one area in which hard-earned rights and social progress will be devastated by a Republican victory -- virtually every area of progress in gay rights from marriage equality to the repeal of Don't Ask, Don't Tell, to the abandonment by the Justice Department of DOMA defense will all be relitigated or reversed.
Medicare and Medicaid will be jeopardized in ways that no one could have imagined a few short years ago. And health care reform will either be repealed or effectively destroyed through a lack of implementation and funding.
Another shot at Social Security privatization -- or benefit cuts (with the applause of the Village no doubt) -- will also be on the agenda.
The assault on unions and unionized workers, particularly in the government sector, will likely be stepped up to levels hitherto unseen, and there is the prospect of a national right to work law being passed. The latter would be the death knell of already microscopic private sector union presence.
The progressive income tax would also be a likely victim and discretionary domestic spending would be slashed to the point of irrelevance.
As the Republican Party has become increasingly ideological and extreme with each passing year, the consequence is that we simply cannot afford to lose any national election. The Bush Administration showed to some degree the consequences of a Republican triumph. Amazingly, though, the GOP has only gotten more extreme since W left office. We would likely view it as a golden age compared to what would ensue should a President Romney take office and manage to win a Senate majority in 2014. (Sadly, unlike the Republicans, I do not believe Senate Dems can really be counted upon to thwart everything that Romney would want to do -- that kind of disciplined obstruction has never been our strong suit.)
So we face the frustrating prospect that our own electoral victories yield incomplete and fitful progress while our opponents triumphs are likely to bring decisive and catatrophic change. It's a tiring scenario, one that can lead people to feel a sense of futility and fatigue. But it's our reality for at least the next several elections I think.
It requires that we continually fight each battle with sufficient enthusiasm to win, notwithstanding the fact that every victory is contingent and incremental.
It is paramount that we keep the Republican from winning the presidency for the forseeable future as the potentially destructive power of such a presidency for all that we hold dear is overwhelming. Above all, we cannot afford to think in a juvenile and ahistoric fashion. (hat tip to Becky.)
To those who object that this is essentially a defensive and uninspiring world view, I wanted to share some words of wisdom from the late Tony Judt:
The lesson most pertinent to daily political analysis and debate is the reminder that all political choices entail real and unavoidable costs. The issue is not whether you face a choice such that the "right" decision consists in avoiding the worst mistakes. Any decision -- including any right decision -- entails forgoing certain options: depriving yourself of the power to do certain things, some of which might well have been worth doing. In short, there are choices which we are right to make but which implicitly involve rejecting other choices whose virtues it would be a mistake to deny. In the real world of politics, as in most other arenas of life, all worthwhile decisions entail genuine gains and losses.
In other words, politics from a progressive perspective (and Judt was a committed social democrat) is likely to be slow, constrained, and often unsatisfying. It entails making decisions that feel incomplete and unsatisfying, sometimes irretrievably so. But that is politics in the real world in which we live. We need to face up to this, understand the true nature of our opponents, and reconcile ourselves to the fact that for the near future, defeating them must be our highest priority -- a negative, but crucial aspiration.