Two things stand between almost certain economic and social catastrophe: the prospect of the Democrats maintaining — or expanding — their majority in the Senate, and the reelection of President Barack Obama.
The greatest economic crisis of our lifetimes, the obstructionism of radical, right-wing Republicans, and Obama's own sometimes maddening diffidence have all worked in their own ways to mask the president's solid gains and his undeniable accomplishments.
By ordering the successful execution of Osama bin Laden (and let's not kid ourselves, that's what it was), Obama relieved the nation of the collective anger that fueled the folly of our wars in the Middle East and West Asia. Our exit is taking too long, and the extensive use of drones is worrisome. But Obama reversed course without tearing an already fragile nation apart, as the retreat from Vietnam did many years ago.
Were it not for the rescue of Detroit, an admittedly too-small stimulus, and a too-tepid re-regulation of Wall Street, the nation would have been plunged into a depression far worse than the punishing recession. Faced with less than perfect options, Obama made the best choices he could. Future generations will appreciate the record more than contemporaries.
It took too long, but along with his abandonment of the Defense of Marriage Act, Obama's embrace of marriage equality was a milestone in this historic struggle for civil rights. It rewrote political reality.
With the enactment of the affordable health care act, Obama achieved what presidents Roosevelt, Truman, Johnson, Nixon, and Clinton were unable to do: guarantee every citizen the right to decent medical care.
The bruises sustained by Obama, the Democrats, and the nation over the last four years linger. But without those battles, the nation would be measurably poorer — materially and spiritually.
As for Mitt Romney — even by Washington standards he is a gutless wonder.
Romney emerged from the freak show known as the Republican primaries as a far-right stalwart, dedicated to abolishing abortion rights, pledged to expand the right-wing majority on the US Supreme Court, and committed to an economic program that privileges big business and the wealthy while punishing workers and the poor.
According to a raft of economic experts from a variety of political backgrounds, Romney's plan to address the budget deficit is either a fantasy or a pack of lies. Whichever it is, in relative terms it whacks the middle class. As for national health care, repeal it. Student loans? Forget about 'em. The social safety net? The Tea Party has the answers. And Romney's foreign policy? It's birthed by the same people who brought us the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq.
Romney's attempt to reinvent himself, late in the campaign, as a more moderate Mitt is a shameless, unprincipled bid to win the votes of the undecided and the clueless. The scary news: it might work.
With the November 6 election too close to call, and the likelihood that the Republicans will continue to control the House of Representatives, voting for Obama has all the urgency of a moral imperative.