Where, oh where has the presidential campaign gone in recent weeks, other than into the gutter? To get the discourse on a better trajectory, here’s a simple step for the candidates and their campaigns: over the next week, offer the American people a cogent thought about why they are running and a proposal or idea that helps shed light on where they want the nation to go. The last week alone underscores the problem we face. Each day a new “gaffe” by one of the candidates is identified and then is endless – mindless? – grist-for-the-mill on Facebook, Twitter, and cable news, among others. As each new gaffe or latest piece of bad news (such as jobs numbers) arises, the campaigns, news media, social media, and others, go into the next day-long frenzy. Thus we are experiencing the campaign as fragmented, disconnected micro-episodes, each one made out to be the most important thing to know; and collectively, meant to destroy an individual and their cause.
My point today is not how to “re-make” political campaigns (we did have a really cool initiative that focused on that goal, called the Harwood Barometer for Political Conduct, which remains relevant), but to offer up something much more modest, but nonetheless critical. For one week, on each of the five weekdays, the candidates should simply offer people a clear and cogent view of why they are running, and an idea that helps to describe how we will get to where the nation should go.
When they do this, they must choose to minimize their endless bickering (I am not calling for a total end, because I do not think that is practical!) and focus on what they are for.
Some people might say this is impossible: too much money and negativity is already embedded in the system that makes up political campaigns nowadays. The campaign staffs would never follow through. The media would keep raising the gaffes and other daily tidbits.
But somehow, if a candidate decided to do this, I believe the space would be wide open for them. People across the country are hurting. The public square is clogged with finger pointing, blame placing, and acrimony. A candidate that decides to go in a different direction – if only for a week at the start – could be heard. And when heard, people would take notice. They would then breathe a sigh of relief – for someone did something constructive! – even if they don’t agree with what was put forward.
Now is the time for the candidates to step forward. I could wax eloquently about the courage and humility it would take to do this; and how the nation so desperately needs it. Or, I could simply say that people are yearning for things that are real in their lives and that give them a modicum of possibility that we can get on a better track, together.
What do you think?