Election 2012: the beautiful moment

Politics is messy, expensive, comical, infuriating, and often dispiriting -- especially after an interminable US presidential campaign. But voting itself ... that's the real point of democracy.

Mike Spencer/The Wilmington Star-News/AP
An early voter in Wilmington, NC, holds up a sticker.

Journalists are often criticized for their political metaphors. Candidates are said to duke it out in debates, roll through battleground states, or go to their ground game in their race to the finish. Does that demean the political process? Elections, after all, are serious events. The future is being decided. The noble work of “we, the people” is under way. 

True, true, and true. Democracy is sacred. Across the world, brave people are fighting for the right to govern themselves. Voting in a fair election is a fundamental act of freedom worthy of honor and protection.

But politics.... Politics is the artful science of campaigning and governing. Politics brings out the eloquent, clever, mean, and absurd in politicians and their handlers, supporters, and rivals. Impossible promises are made; outlandish charges leveled; dazzling smiles deployed. Selflessly or otherwise, politicians abandon their private lives in the quest for office. Their ideas, speech, hairdos, and mannerisms come under constant scrutiny. Was that a smirk? Does he blink too much? She said what?

Americans are at the end of another quadrennial political tournament. There have been memorable moments that have fed the political comedy machine – from Rick Perry’s “oops” to Joe Biden’s irrepressible grin, Newt Gingrich’s moon base to Herman Cain’s “9-9-9” plan. And who can forget President Obama’s “You didn’t build that” or Mitt Romney’s “47 percent”? Thanks for the memories, guys.

Real issues were discussed, too.

Over the past two months alone, the Monitor has printed a series of articles comparing the policies and positions taken by Mr. Obama and Mr. Romney. If you go to CSMonitor.com/Election101, you can review where the candidates stand on women’s issues, Israel, education, Wall Street regulation, jobs, health-care reform, energy, China, gay issues, Iran, taxes, climate change, the military, immigration, guns, and the debt and deficits. 

You might also check out our One Minute Debate series, which has taken the novel approach of looking not just at two sides but offering a third way. The issues range from marijuana legalization to voter IDs to transportation. And at our DC Decoder site, our reporters have been answering your questions on everything from how Washington spends your money to whether Congress is behind our economic woes.

You’ll find even more information at websites run by Project Vote Smart and the League of Women Voters. You can also go to the candidates’ home pages and to dozens of news, fact-checking, and public affairs websites. You can hunt down exotic political morsels on Google or at the library. And don’t forget friends and family. Some of them may surprise you with thoughtful political observations.

In our last pre-election issue of the Monitor Weekly, you can follow Linda Feldmann as she goes inside the intensive get-out-the-vote efforts in the crucial counties of Ohio. Or ride with Chris Killian through the swing states and hear Americans talking about dreams, disappointments, and the hope that their leaders will put partisanship aside after Election Day

So almost every question has been asked and answered. The campaign guns are falling silent. The 2012 political game is almost over. All that’s left is the beautiful moment of democracy.

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