Best. Debate. Ever. Is 2012 the anti-cynic election?

Here’s some food for thought: How have Hope-Changers from 2008 dealt with Obama being “The Man”? Brown may be a liberal school, but do we truly love him…or hold a steady undercurrent of quiet resentment toward him?

That’s the question I’ll be asking in the Election Feature in Post- Magazine. For young voters, I think it’s the schism that defines the near-schizophrenic opinions about him, not “even” at Brown, but especially at Brown.

I’ll revisit that point in two seconds. But Regardless of how you feel about Obama, one thing you cannot say about Election 2012 is that this is a cynic’s election. These are not just two suits; the two parties are not just “one in the same” (though too often they are); and, as the socieconomic and racial archetype often goes, these are not two rich white guys going at it.

We’ve all had friends or family who’ve made these arguments in the past—“The whole system sucks, what’s the point?” And while most of us never hesitate to jump into a thoughtful, lengthy and sincere counter-argument for why that’s not true, there’s nothing thoughtful or lengthy about my response to those folks this year. There’s some self-referential truth here: after all, the candidates have never been more ideologically disparate. But what I’ve found is, the differences this year between the nominees are so bleedingly obvious and touch upon so many personal axes—-everything from personal wealth, to religion, to how they talk—-that so far, I rarely hear the issue even come up.

It all adds up to a riveting election, where the divisions are real (no different than other elections) but the divisions are commensurate with the serious substance of difference (very particular to 2012). My guess is that this only has positive things to deliver to abstract concepts like “deliberative democracy” or “citizen efficacy” (you could write a manifesto on that, so I don’t know). And Tuesday’s debate, in all it’s fire, interruptions, and attack lines, epitomized this election’s storyline.

So for once, I’m inclined to agree with George Will, who thinks this may be the greatest Presidential debate in modern history.

“Both candidates tonight I think tip-toed right up to the point of rudeness, but stepped back. It was a very good fight. I have seen every presidential debate in American history since the floor of Nixon and Kennedy in 1960. This was immeasurably the best.” 

Implications for the country, civic participation, yada yada yada, all that aside. In terms of the implications for the Youth Vote (which, after all, is a euphemism for Obama’s long-term legacy, which we often read the President is preoccupied with preserving), this debate may be one of the greatest for a different reason: it realigns young voters’ narrative about Obama back to 2008. Because even though Obama may be the Ultimate Man (El Presidente), it may have taken the Ultimate Man standing next to a caricature of The Man (binders full of women, frozen smile, lifetime suit) for the the conundrum to solve itself.