A well worthwhile column was written by David Brooks, in the New York Times, yesterday. Titled "Dullest Campaign Ever," it accounted how the 2012 effort, while being "incredibly consequential," is also especially unexciting and, ultimately, uneventful. The reasons Brooks cited were "intellectual stagnation" (both candidates relying on cliches used by their sides for 48 years), "lack of any hint of intellectual innovation" (dearth of new ideas, especially those that would offend their parties), "increased focus on the uninformed" (a response to the failure of partisan voters to consider opposing ideas), "lack of serious policy proposals" (in which Brooks asked 'has there ever been a campaign with so few major plans on the table?'), "negative passion" with both Democrats and Republicans motivated more by hating the others than by loving their own, "no enactment strategy" (failure of either side to say how they would implement their changes), "ad budget myopia" (their tendency to try to 'carpet bomb' the moderates into voting submission), "technology is making campaigns dumber" (fast electronic responses turning tiny things into the main talking points), and "dishonesty numbs" (the apparent apathy of both sides toward journalistic investigation, such as the Washington Post's Pinocchio ratings, into the truth of campaign statements). Brooks concluded that, strangely enough, "as campaigns get more sophisticated, everything begins to look more homogenized, less effective and indescribably soporific."
At the same time, the Washington Post ran an opinion poll on what election issues were most important to respondents. As of a few minutes ago the results were 59% for "the economy," 20% for "health care," 8% for "the budget deficit," 4% for "foreign policy," 1% for "terrorism," something rounding to 0% for both "the environment" and "education," and 12% for other. Though the Post skews to the left in both writing and readership, one issue out of seven getting a majority seems significant.
So, Barack and Mitt, where are we going with the economy? What are your plans, other than stimulating the economy in general and cutting taxes and spending in general? How will you make your ideas happen? Do you think the jobs crisis might be permanent, and if not, why is it getting worse and worse despite our economy showing no other signs of recession? What ideas, if any, will you consider from the other side? If you are inaugurated next year and can implement what you want, at what point and with what outcomes will you admit your course of action needs adjustments or even a total overhaul? If you disagree that the key employment number is the 32 million-plus Americans who want to work full time and are not, why? How will you convince those on the other side that your efforts are worthwhile?
As an uncommited voter, I'm waiting for Obama's and Romney's answers to these questions and others like them. As a patriotic American, I'm hoping we get somewhere on this monumental historical change in the next four years, so we are not starting the next campaign in an even deeper hole. As an author and economics commentator, I want to see my ideas converted into progress. But we're now less than 100 days before we go to the polls, and it doesn't look good.
In a democracy, it is said, people always get the leaders, and leadership, they deserve. I hope, somehow, this time around that proves to be a good thing.