Tom Toles on the Debates: The Real Race

In his blog, Toles declared Obama “top dog with teeth and a second term” for the way he stood up last night.

But in today’s editorial cartoon, he showed what the two contenders are waiting for — economic news to bolster their arguments. As U.S. housing starts “surge to a 4-year high” today. September’s numbers were good, too: unemployment rates dropped below 8%, and there was a significant increase in non-farm payrolls.

The recession seems to be easing, bit by bit — so as the train steadily comes into the station, voters who don’t believe in the Presidents policies will have to be convinced that Romney could do more to speed it up for everyone (not just the 1%).

That’s the kind of persuasive task that tests his leadership skills. Whatever we think about Obama’s record, we can see what he’s been doing. Romney’s leadership abilities in Massachusetts seemed to be geared towards the same kinds of policies we’ve seen from Obama, but his promises and his business record show a different kind of leader, so it’s hard for voters to know exactly where he might stand, making it harder for him to persuade us. On the other hand, Obama’s biggest leadership challenge is persuading impatient voters that his policies will bring us into an even more stable economy — and given the collapse of international economies and ongoing challenges despite the upturn, he has his work cut out for him.

Romney’s charisma meets bulldog leadership style might charm some voters looking for a fighter; Obama’s more measured and logical style might persuade voters looking for a sage ally. And each man would do well to contextualize their policies and promises in the big world, not just our national boundaries, to offer a context for economic growth in an economy-gone-global.

In the election stage, which is as much about leadership posturing as leadership itself, all we can do is listen, research and really be honest with ourselves. Which man is the kind of leader we need?  The debates as performance don’t serve us very well in searching for the answer — they’re more about personality than anything else. But they do help us see — what? — our own biases, cultural and personal, very clearly.

I’m not particularly interested in electing the better dog (whichever candidate he might be). I want a man who will serve the people — most of the people — with solid resources and consistent experience. That’s what makes promises come true, not personality.

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