When I used to get nervous over upcoming law school exams I'd take some solace from yogurt. The calming effect wasn't in the eating, but the expiration date. I'd realize that by the time my carton of yogurt had spoiled the ordeal would be behind me.
My yogurt trick is not helping with the presidential election. The reality is, the election itself is just the beginning of what could be a harrowing future.
Presidents alter the trajectory of nations and the life prospects of citizens, from FDR and LBJ giving us Social Security and Medicare, to the disastrous policies of George W. Bush.
Think about it. Had Bush not "won" the presidency, a lot would be different today. America would be in substantially less debt. Bush nearly doubled the national debt, despite having come into office with a budget surplus. And, yes, the debt has increased under President Barack Obama. But it was Bush who teed it up, leaving a $1 trillion annual deficit waiting for the next president along with a failing economy that was disgorging millions of jobs. Turning things around was going to take federal money regardless of who took office.
Without Bush's war of adventurism in Iraq, about 4,500 members of the U.S. armed forces who died there probably would be alive today, and reverse the injuries of another 32,000 soldiers and the trillions of dollars in cost.
Chief Justice John Roberts and Justice Samuel Alito would not be on the U.S. Supreme Court. There would be no Citizens United ruling unleashing corporate treasuries into politics.
Religion wouldn't have interfered with embryonic stem cell research. America would never have tortured its prisoners.
Choosing a president is not for four years or eight. It's for generations. Here are five ways Mitt Romney would indelibly alter the United States if elected Tuesday:
The Role of Government
Superstorm Sandy is a reminder of Romney's radical view of how small the federal government should shrink. Romney's dangerous suggestion that the Federal Emergency Management Agency be dismantled in favor of disjointed state by state efforts or, even better in his view, letting the private sector handle disasters, demonstrates how ill prepared he is for national leadership. Romney would move us closer to a confederation of states where the federal government has fewer resources to handle complex national problems.
Energy and the Environment
Romney has ridiculed President Barack Obama for efforts to combat global climate change, another backward viewpoint that looks even more dangerous in the aftermath of Sandy. Romney wants more coal power, the aggressive expansion of offshore oil and gas drilling and a revitalized nuclear power industry, with fewer environmental and safety regulations. He calls Obama's new car and light truck fuel efficiency standards "extreme," even as they've been lauded by auto industry and environmentalists alike for advancing energy independence, technological innovation and greenhouse gas control.
Health Care and Entitlements
Medicare, Medicaid and the Affordable Care Act could all be unrecognizably altered under Romney, endangering the limited health care security Americans currently enjoy. He would remake Medicare as a voucher program, hand an underfunded Medicaid program to the states as a block grant and do away with the Affordable Care Act.
The Supreme Court, Social Justice and Civil Liberties
Ruth Bader Ginsburg is 79 years old. If Romney gets to replace her or another liberal justice with a conservative, the court will reverse decades of progress on reproductive rights, workers' rights, church-state separation and the ability of consumers to get a fair shake against big corporations.
Romney believes the current system where the wealthiest Americans often pay a lower income tax rate than the middle class is fair. By refusing to ask more from the rich, Romney wins in two ways, cementing America's stark income inequality where so much wealth flows to the top and starving the federal government of the money to fulfill its obligations, such as funding FEMA.
Tuesday's election will determine our nation's collective future. Its consequences have no expiration date.