If Romney wins, be gracious in defeat (unlike the GOP and Tea Party after ’08)

The operating narrative of the 2012 presidential election has clearly been that it’s a neck-and-neck race. Obama may be ahead for a few weeks, then Romney. A debate performance boosts one, then the other. Campaign gaffes from presidential and vice presidential running mates have also worked as equalizers. In the last week of campaigning, though, the general opinion is that Obama has pulled ahead (except for at Fox News and other conservative media outlets).

But what if Mitt Romeny wins?

It’s a very real possibility. While the economy has stabilized (including the housing market) and is adding jobs monthly, the economic progress hasn’t been enough for most conservatives and plenty of swing voters. If Romney wins, it will be because of the economy, and maybe some swing voter resentment over Obamacare.

In the event of a Romney victory, those on the Left should remember one thing: be gracious in defeat. There is absolutely no point, no ultimate value, in descending into the depths of fear and hatred, which the GOP and Tea Party have quite famously done over the last four years. Showing grace in defeat is not a sign of weakness. The power of such grace is deafening in the face of reactionary fear and hatred—the conjuring of old racial and communist/socialist ghosts.

The American Left is better than all of that bullshit.

Know that Romney, even if he’s inclined, will not be able to unravel everything that Obama has done. Not with a Democratic Senate and some likely though modest Democratric gains in the House of Representatives.

Also know that there is more to American democracy than casting a vote, then waiting for an outcome. As I noted in late 2010—in a heartfelt though somewhat misguided editorial—voting ultimately tricks us into believing that politicians—435 representatives, 100 Senators and 1 president—can and should solve our problems. It is a bait and switch; smoke and mirrors.

The work is not over once the vote has been cast. Get out into the community and do something. Create the change. Do something positive in the world, whether it is arguing for lower taxes for small businesses, or a better healthcare system for the uninsured poor.

Politics is dominated by the busy little bees—those for whom power is sometimes an end in and of itself. Through their tireless efforts they can wreak havoc on American democracy. We have seen it happen over the last several decades. With 536 (537 if the Vice President is included) elected officials governing a country of approximately 311 million, the stakes are incredibly high for individuals, groups and businesses; hence the exorbitant amounts of money now spent on elections.

If you want to do something, if you want to create change, start locally and work upward. Start at the grassroots level and see what can be built. If we do this, we will surprise ourselves. And it can be done regardless of whether or not Obama or Romney takes office in 2012.

So don’t just vote. Do something.