the men who would be President have been running for months in a parallel universe, a place where a Chief Executive changes laws by waving a hand and reorders society at the stroke of a pen. "When I am President," the candidates declare — and off they go into dreamspeak, describing tax codes down to the last decimal point and sketching health-care reforms far beyond the power of any single person to enact. In their imaginary, reassuring cosmos, America is always a mere 10 years — and one new President — away from energy independence. And the ills of the federal budget can be cured simply by having an eagle-eyed leader go through it line by line.After the election, however, they need to come back to work with a Congress that will have a different view of the world and a different agenda (less so when the same party runs both, but the differences never disappear all together):
In an instant, the winner is sucked through a wormhole back into the real world. A world in which Congress, not the President, writes all the laws and gets the last word on the budget. Where consumers decide which cars to drive and how many lights to burn. And where the clash of powerful interest groups makes it easier to do nothing about big problems than to tackle them.Von Drehle goes on to make an informed speculation about what each candidates' presidency might look like in what the situation is likely to look like in Washington with a Democratic Congress, a tottering economy and the many other constraints the next President will need to deal with. It's worth reading in its entirety before you vote (you are voting, right?) on Tuesday.