OPINION: This campaign should be about informing voters
Tuesday, October 16, 2012 5:15 AM
Presidential candidates and their aides know a lot these days about how to run a campaign. They just seem to have forgotten what campaigns are for.
They're immensely sophisticated about targeting and messaging. They know how to drive the news cycle - or at least, try to - and they know where to focus their resources. They shape their candidate's public forays to make him look good, and try their best to make sure he's not subject to inconvenient questions.
Yet what is good for a presidential campaign is not always good for the voter, as this year's contest so far proves. An immense gulf has opened between what the country needs from the candidates and the disappointing crumbs the candidates have offered.
Indeed, it's hard to know from the campaign thus far what either candidate plans to do over the next four years.
By contrast, I'm reminded of the 1964 election, when Lyndon Johnson ran on a very specific platform, so that when he came into office he had a mandate; the result was the Great Society.
Can you tell me right now what positive mandate Obama or Romney will have come inauguration day next year? I didn't think so.
But there's an even more troubling aspect to this campaign. We live in a politically divided country, with a Congress that is driven by ideological disagreements.
To make progress on virtually any issue we confront, someone will have to find a way to overcome those divisions. It will take political leadership of the highest order to make progress - and a president who's willing to exert it.
Yet the candidates consistently underestimate the intelligence and the knowledge of the ordinary voter. Voters want a forthright campaign that doesn't sugarcoat hard truths but that also generates new thinking about how to solve our problems.
They're looking for a candidate who will give them honest explanations of complex problems, lay out a path for us all to tackle them, and demonstrate that he has the fortitude and political skill to lead the nation at a troubled time.
So far, they haven't gotten this from either candidate. It is time for voters to wrest control of the election campaign from the political pros who are giving us a largely depressing and irrelevant campaign, and insist that the serious business of our presidential campaigns be conducted in a manner befitting a great nation.
Lee Hamilton is director of the Center on Congress at Indiana University. He was a member of the U.S. House of Representatives for 34 years.