To put the 2012 presidential election into perspective, voters need to think back to four years ago.
The economy was nose-diving into what became the worst economic implosion since the Great Depression. Health insurance premiums were rising by double digits. Jobs were melting away, many to China or Mexico. We were up to our necks in two wars on the other side of the globe. And in Michigan, the auto industry was a hairsbreadth away from a total collapse into bankruptcy.
It was against this backdrop that the nation chose Barack Obama as president.
Now, four years later, we need to ask ourselves two questions: Are we better off now than we were four years ago? The answer, despite a blizzard of rhetoric and false claims over the past 48 months, is yes. Has Barack Obama earned a second term? Yes.
On strictly economic grounds, Obama has done a creditable job. The economy is slowly rebounding, with unemployment down to a three-year low. The Dow Jones Industrial Average has risen from 6,626 in March 2009 to above 13,000 today. The auto industry bailout saved at least a couple hundred thousand jobs and the industry today is in full rebound.
On Friday Chrysler said it will hire more than 1,000 people to build SUVs in Detroit and it was reported that the nation's gross domestic product grew at an annual rate of 2 percent in the third quarter.
The economic armageddon so widely predicted never happened.
Obama's most courageous act, one that eventually will cut the deficit $1 trillion by 2021, was passage of the Affordable Health Care Act. Despite an unprecedented assault, including dozens of fictitious claims fueled by chain emails, there are now 30 million Americans — nearly one out of 10 — who have health insurance they didn't have before.
That alone is a legacy accomplishment.
Obama has also embraced the so-called "47 percent," the elderly, the disabled, the jobless, who Republican nominee Mitt Romney brushed off as freeloaders. Contrary to some, compassion still counts.
It's impossible to assess what kind of president Mitt Romney would be because it's impossible to know who we're talking about. Romney has reversed himself so often there's no way to know where he really stands. Before the recent foreign policy debate Romney had excoriated Obama on a host of issues, but then agreed with the president on virtually everything, including Syria and Iran.
Who is this guy? No one knows.
Obama has been far from perfect. He absolutely must make real efforts to curb the deficit in a second term, continue our economic rebound and make good foreign policy choices — like staying out of any new wars.
Obama has earned a second term.