Commentary 09 Nov 2012 12:23 am

Can we all agree on this?

Today’s column was going to be a letter from the Me of the Immediate Past (Sunday, to be exact) to the You of Today.

In it, I said that if I had a time machine, I would jump ahead a few days to see who won the presidential election. Then I theorized that it wouldn’t matter, because you would know as little today as I did on Sunday.

My prediction was based on all the talk of Ohio as a linchpin state, that if the election were tight, it could come down to counting of absentee ballots, which voters had up to 10 days to return by mail to their boards of elections. If the race were a squeaker, we might not have known who would sit in the national driver’s seat until sometime next week. If lawsuits were filed — which, on Sunday, seemed a distinct possibility — we might not know even then.

That’s not the column you’re reading today, although pieces of it have been cannibalized and reformatted here, for two reasons.

First, my scenario was wrong, and who likes to be wrong? The vote in Ohio was close, but Barack Obama won enough electoral votes elsewhere that even if recounts, absentee and provisional balloting give the Buckeye State to Romney, it won’t matter.

Secondly, as I looked over the earlier column, I saw that I’d done a lot of crowing about my candidate, which was bad sportsmanship, like the fan who isn’t content when his team wins, but who must rub others’ faces in it the next day.

We’ve had more than enough bad gamesmanship the last few months, especially in battleground Ohio, where both Obama and Mitt Romney practically took up residence while pummelling one another on various issues.

Historian David McCullough said on “60 Minutes” this week that, in terms of vitriol, the campaign just passed is nothing compared to those of earlier generations, which put the mudslinging of 2012 to shame. I’ll take his word on that, but this year’s run was nasty enough, both from the candidates themselves and from the various PACs and their deep-pocketed donors.

The bald truth is this: Although I voted for Obama and am pleased that he won, my vote was less in support of him than it was against Romney, who quite frankly scared me. I have serious concerns about the president’s plans and policies, but I nevertheless cast my vote for the force that could be reasoned with, not the force to be reckoned with (sentence-ending prepositions aside).

I put Romney in the same category as Gov. John Kasich, whose blunt demeanor and outright arrogance during his early days in office were appalling. But, really, once voters defanged the viper that was Kasich’s war against public employees, he’s settled down and governed competently, if not spectacularly. If Romney won the election, he likely would have done the same, despite my reservations.

I recognize that many Americans woke up Wednesday with that same sinking feeling in the pits of their stomachs because Romney had lost that I would have felt if he had won. Nobody likes to feel that way.

In his victory speech early Wednesday, President Obama expressed his desire to sit down with Romney in the coming days and discuss the economy. I hope that meeting is more than merely symbolic. Romney has experience with job creation and worthwhile ideas about growing the economy, and the country and the president need all the help they can get in those regards.

It would be wonderful if that meeting signaled the end of partisanship and the beginning of a more cooperative relationship between the two parties, although it probably won’t. That’s not to say the GOP should merely roll over and concede Obama’s every point — not that that’s ever been a danger — but merely that both “sides” (a casually-used word that shows how divided we are along party lines) can work toward compromise and do some good for America.

With that said, I also believe that rank-and-file Americans have to become more tolerant of opposing viewpoints. All this talk of people picking up stakes and moving to Canada if their candidate lost, or telling other people to do the same because they offer an opposing opinion, runs counter to the spirit on which this country was founded.

As Americans, we should speak our minds and make our opinions known. It’s not only a right, it’s an obligation. I may not like what you have to say — and you may not like what I have to say — but we’re both still Americans — not in spite of our differences, but because of them.

I hope the next four years keep the nation on the road of greatness. Notice I didn’t say the road “to” greatness, because we’ve never, even in our worst moments, been less than great.

I hope I’m not wrong when I say this is one issue on which we could all agree.

chris.schillig@yahoo.com

@cschillig on Twitter

Originally published on Nov. 8, 2012, in The Alliance Review.

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