What They Would Do If They Were Elected vs. What It Would Mean If They Were Elected.

This crazy election has brought something into relief for me. And that is, there are two ways to choose a president, both ways are valid, and each way may or may not have anything to do with the other.

The first way is driven by fact. The second way is driven by myth. But myths are not fiction; they are the spine of any culture, and emotional decisions based upon them are not necessarily wrong.

Both parties in this election stand to be the beneficiaries of fact-based decision-making and myth-based decision making. Both halves of the two-part question — what would they do if elected, and what would it mean if they were elected? — are before us with both tickets.

What Would They Do If They Were Elected? In Obama-Biden’s case, it might include ending the war faster, creating national health care, helping victims of the economic crisis, encouraging energy conservation, and making the tax burden more equitable across different income levels. In McCain-Palin’s case, it might mean lowering income taxes in all brackets, more off-shore drilling to increase our domestic supply of oil, Supreme Court appointments that would make abortions difficult to obtain, and comprehensive immigration reform. You can make a choice on that basis.

What Would It Mean If They Were Elected? Ah, that’s a different question — but to some, an even more important one. In Obama-Biden’s case, it would mean among other things that as a nation, we have made incredible progress against racism. What was unthinkable only a couple of years ago (or, if thinkable, seemed that it might not happen until 2052), became possible, and then happened. A black man becoming president validates a powerful American myth about equality, the one that goes back to Thomas Jefferson, in 1776, writing that “all men are created equal.”

In McCain-Palin’s case, it means that we honor a war hero’s sacrifice with our trust, which is the highest reward we have to give, and we elevate an ordinary, working-class hero — the kind we revere in our culture, the mythological archetype Frank Capra tapped into so effectively — to the second-highest office in the land. And, concurrently, smash the sex-discrimination glass ceiling to bits.

You can reconcile the two questions. Or, you might find it difficult. Whether you find it easy to reconcile them, difficult, or impossible, we are facing not one big question in this election, but two.

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