Tomorrow is Election Day. Tomorrow, we pick the fellow who is going to lead us for the next four years. Tomorrow, the Obama girls get to stay up way past their bedtime.
This election has been a long time coming. You could say that President Obama has been running for re-election since the day he took office four years ago. You could also say that Mitt Romney has been running for twice as long.
By one reliable estimate, this running-for-president thing will cost a total of six billion – BILLION – dollars. Our news landscape is over-saturated with ads, blogs, op-eds, fact checks, and sound bites.
Both candidates have said things they wish they hadn’t (things about not building that and 47% this). Both candidates have played with fire (they’ve set Twitter afire, been liar-liar-pants-on-fired, and one fired Big Bird). Both candidates have shied away from saying anything concrete about how they plan to get something positive out of the nothings that add up to everything (the economy, stupid, and the ballooning deficit and the stalemated Congress and to infinity and beyond).
Despite all this time and tabulating and talk, undecided voters remain. No cracker-jack campaign manager, no media mogul, no deep-pocketed demigod has been able to penetrate the only pie chart that matters: the one inside an undecided brain.
Let’s fill in those blanks, shall we?
We are going to put aside the traditional ploys of persuasion, and we’re going to put this “Him Or Him” question in a whole new light. A big, technicolor light.
It’s 2011. You have $20 burning a hole in your pocket and 2-ish hours to kill. You stumble upon a theater and figure you could be up for a movie.
The theater, though, is only showing two films: The Tree of Life, starring Brad Pitt, and Mission: Impossible – Ghost Protocol, starring Tom Cruise. You’re not really psyched about either option, and you wish there was a third choice. But there isn’t, so you need to pick the option that displeases you the least.
You love Brad Pitt. He’s appealing, he speaks with a distinctive cadence, and his family is adorable. You know he is into out-of-the-box thinking, and his high-minded artistry affects the projects he takes on. The Tree of Life promises that you get to watch a guy you like as he does something few would dare to, but you’re worried he might be leading you into an eyes-bigger-than-stomach type of debacle. An attempt at making a movie do something a movie has never done before, which is inspiring, but which also might totally crash and burn and take your $20 down with it.
Tom Cruise kind of scares you. He’s always perfectly put together…almost too perfectly. His eyes seem vacant, his smile forced, his hair too luxurious. Robotic, you say. In one interview he sounds like an admirably hard worker who is devoted to his family, and in another he makes you want to put barbed-wire fencing around your uterus and wash your ears out with bath salts. You have to admit, though, that Mission: Impossible is a reliable franchise, and maybe you’re in the mood for knowing what you’re going to get. Let’s face it, you gave Brad a chance with Inglorious Basterds, and you still can’t get that nasally twang accent he used out of your head. Maybe you don’t have the energy for another post-movies movie.
So who do you choose? WHO DO YOU CHOOSE?!?
Okay, let’s bring this back to our conundrum.
For those keeping score at home, Brad Pitt = Barack Obama and Tom Cruise = Mitt Romney. Why? Because there’s nothing you’d like more than to see what BO would look like shirtless with a hair dryer sticking out of his britches like some kind of firearm.
Because just as Brad wants a movie to bring you to places you never thought one could, Obi-wan-ama has ideas about making government something it hasn’t yet been but always could be: a more efficient, more responsive, more perfect union of action and ideals. He envisions a government that is for all the people, for richer, for poorer, in sickness and in health, until death and taxes do us part. He’s just figuring out a way to pay for it all.
Because just as Tom Cruise manages to make you overlook his personality traits to focus on his professional performances, Mr. Romney offers a familiar passage back to politics as we have known it. No more sweeping vistas and thought provocation, just brass-tack staples: tax cuts, broad business freedoms, constrained personal liberties. He’s just figuring out a way to pay for it all.
So, who do you choose?
That’s right. You can be undecided as to who you will vote for, but you can’t be undecided as to whether you will vote. You must vote. As David Foster Wallace said, “In reality, there is no such thing as not voting: you either vote by voting, or you vote by staying home and tacitly doubling the value of some Diehard’s vote.” And Bruce Willis was not an option in our little exercise.