Ronnie Polaneczky: Why I couldn't write a debate column

Students at Tulane University in New Orleans watch the third presidential debate between Mitt Romney (left) and President Obama.

AS I MADE plans to watch the third and final presidential debate between President Obama and Mitt Romney, I figured I'd end up writing a sly column about all I've learned from all these televised performances, including the Joe Biden and Paul Ryan hoedown.

I'd analyze the candidates' facial contortions, the sizes of their flag pins and their stances at the podiums. Then I'd make a faux informed observation about how this stuff might impact those swingin' Ohio voters.

I'd share how hearing Biden use the word "malarkey" pulled me down Memory Lane, because malarkey was one of my Irish mom's favorite words. She used to tell her nine kids that we were full of the stuff.

I'd make an ironic quip about how ladies used to be sealed in girdles back in the '50s but these days are tucked inside binders. And how Big Bird must be feeling as skittish as a turkey on Thanksgiving morning. And that the funniest tweet I'd read about the vice-presidential debate was this one from TV writer Morgan Murphy: "Biden's teeth are so white they're voting for Romney." So, hah-hah, right?

A funny thing happened, though, on my way to clever. I got sick of it. I got fed up with the trivializing tweets and weird parodies, the parsing over of verbal and physical tics and expressions as if they matter. They don't.

What matters is that, in two weeks, we'll elect a president whose policies will directly impact our families, our schools, our neighborhoods, our wallets, our health, our security and our standing in the world. And the two men vying for the job could not be more different when it comes to who they think deserve to be included in the word "our." Romney made it clear, in his remark about the 47 percent of Americans who are "dependent on government" and see themselves as victims, that there is no "our" in his vision for America. His vision has an "us" - those who enjoy tremendous luck - and a "them" - those who are down on it. And if he's elected, his policies will do more to widen the divide between the two.

What Romney has had from birth, and what he takes for granted, is a level of well-being that 99 percent of Americans will never know. His wealth has allowed him to put miles of distance between himself and the potential for disaster. And his stunning lack of empathy blinds him to those who aren't so fortunate.

He and his ilk will never lose sleep at night worrying how to pay the heating bill. They will not postpone medical care for lack of insurance if they feel a lump where there shouldn't be one. They will never have to choose between buying food or buying shoes, because choosing isn't necessary when you're able to have whatever you want or need whenever you want or need it.

Romney and his campmates believe that this brand of well-being is attainable for anyone who will just work hard enough for it.

Except then there would be no schoolteachers, who work hard – but at middling wages. Ditto for cops, and soldiers, and firefighters, and medics, and office workers, and cashiers, and waiters, and social workers, and bus drivers, and lab techs, and just about every kind of worker whose sweat contributes to and supports a greater whole called America.

We can't all run Bain Capital. If we did, who would tend to Romney's houses? Bus the tables at his fundraisers? Clean out the stalls where his wife keeps her horses? Or fix the tires on her Cadillacs when they go flat?

What Romney has done, by dishonoring the 47 percent - and forgetting the 99 percent - is dishonor work that he himself would never do. And in doing so, he dishonors those who do it.

So this column isn't the clever summing up of the debates that I thought it would be when I set out to write it. I am too fed up with Romney's campaign of lies and his lack of regard for those who want only to have - as Biden said so plainly at the close of his debate with Ryan - a fair shot.

A fair shot at feeling that all will be well.


Contact Ronnie Polaneczky at or 215-854-2217. Follow her on Twitter @RonniePhilly. Read her blog at, or for recent columns go to