Every election is meaningful. But some, like Tuesday's, are pivotal. The choice between Barack Obama and Mitt Romney could not be more clear. Each man, as president in the next four years, would lead the country to a vastly different place.
Saddled from day one with the largest economic calamity the United States has seen since the Great Depression, Mr. Obama worked to stimulate jobs and business, stabilize a teetering banking system, calm a housing market in free fall and save a large chunk of the economy by way of the auto industry.
Along the way, he inaugurated a comprehensive health insurance overhaul that had eluded presidents of both parties and that now guarantees coverage for tens of millions who once fell through the cracks. He also accomplished a sweeping reform of financial regulations to prevent what happened in 2008 and reduce the vulnerability of average savers and investors to the risky gambits of high-flying market manipulators.
But the country's economy is not out of the woods. The jobless rate must come down further, federal deficits and debt must be cut and American business must have certainty so it can grow and compete. These priorities remain on the president's plate and, given the forthright actions of his first term, he is not about to shrink from the challenges of his second.
His challenger is a walking, talking question mark. The Mitt Romney who was governor of Massachusetts in 2003-07 or even the candidate seeking the Republican nomination last spring is different from the candidate who has been packaged and marketed to voters this fall.
Does government have a role in helping Americans get health coverage or not? Was the bank bailout necessary or not? Should Social Security be privatized or not? Should Roe vs. Wade be overturned or not? Do humans contribute to climate change or not?
Mitt Romney has answered these questions and others both ways. Which one would we find in the Oval Office?
We'd find one willing to cut taxes, even for the wealthy, while the nation needs to raise revenue. We'd find one eager to spend more on the military -- even more than the Defense Department wants -- while the nation needs to reduce spending. We'd find one planning to end Medicare as we know it and jeopardize its promise to most pre-retired Americans.
The choice is clear. Barack Obama wants to lead the country out of its morass and deserves the support of all Americans. His challenger is a man of shifting convictions, save for one core belief -- that he should be president. In America that's not enough, no matter the size of one's checkbook.