I’ve been trying like hell to ignore the presidential campaigns, and with a good deal of success: mostly, because I cannot conceive of what a life without respite from politics would be like, no matter how important the office or how laudable the candidate; and, because the modern campaign is so completely full of crap that my intelligence cannot put up with the constant insults. C’mon, really—there’s no good reason for nearly-continuous presidential campaigns, unless it’s to occupy the attention of the leaches who feed on the blood that runs those campaigns and prevent them from bothering decent people in the off years.
To the second point, I refer you to a column I ran across today at CNN.com that makes the point that we, the vast unseen unwashed American voting public, deserve better campaigns than the ones we get. David Rothkopf uses the current flap over Harry Reid’s unsubstantiated accusations about Mitt Romney’s tax payments to make his point:
But of course, this is one dust-up that will never end. Because in modern politics it seems the goal is to constantly find ways to smear the opposition, facts and decency be damned. That’s the reason the birther lie endures. That’s the reason that John Kerry, whose military service was distinguished, could be besmirched by the “swift boaters” and a host of political opponents who hadn’t anything like his record of service. And because both sides do it to one another, it is considered to be fair play.
Rothkopf points out a few examples of the bipartisan hypocrisy attendant to campaigns today, and to be candid they are nothing that most people haven’t shaken their heads about before. But he does something better, more constructive, in offering specific reminders about the things that are not getting proper attention amidst the quadrennial Great American Pie Fight.
America is facing unprecedented challenges. Our economy doesn’t work the way it once did. It is growing more slowly. It is rebounding from crisis more slowly. It is not creating jobs as it has. It is not creating wealth for the population at large the way it used to. Inequality is growing. Our competitiveness is faltering even as competition is growing.
(Wait for it, conservative extremists…he’s making a point here about the things that we “exceptional” Americans can do.)
A new energy mix can free us of dependency on dangerous nations, create jobs and a cleaner environment at home. Our economy is well poised to lead a “Third Industrial Revolution,” driven by high value-added manufacturing in which intellectual capital, the kind we create especially well, is the critical input. We protect that capital better than many of our competitors, too.
We’re in a position to remake our infrastructure, as must be done thanks to very low interest rates, if only we could come to understand the difference between spending and investing. We need to rethink our convoluted tax structure, our broken fiscal system, our corrupt campaign finance system and the way we defend ourselves and project our force worldwide. It is beyond arguing that we need to do something about gun control in this country.
Rothkopf’s lament is that we should be debating these question, not the minutiae that passes for “issues” these days, and I agree. These are the kinds of things that Americans used to have serious discussions about, used to reason together about and find solutions for, solutions that benefitted society as a whole. It can be that way again if we really want it to be…if we’ve got the courage and the attention span to make it happen. Now is as good a time as any to start work on that.