Clichés are generally tiresome, but they only become clichés by first being true. Perhaps the best cliché to explain this year’s presidential election would be, “The more things change, the more they remain the same.”
“Change” has been the buzzword throughout the election process, which seems to have begun around Nov. 3, 2004. The sad fact is that this would be the perfect election to bring about change. For the first time in generations, there’s no incumbent on the ballot on either side. And neither of the major party candidates owes his support to his party’s machine, since they were both dark horses at this time last year.
But while there’s been plenty of chatter about change, the election is, depressingly, shaping up like every presidential contest in recent memory.
Consider, first, the lack of head-to-head discussion. People would love to see the two candidates, Sens. Barrack Obama and John McCain, stand on a stage and discuss their ideas and platforms. It would be enlightening, and allow voters to get a better picture of each contender.
McCain has formally proposed holding just such discussions, which used to be called debates. “We need to now sit down and work out a way that we can have these town hall meetings and have a great debate,” he told reporters last month. It’s an idea Obama had seemed eager to embrace while he was seeking the Democratic nomination.
However, things have changed a bit. “Obviously, we would have to think through the logistics on that,” Obama responded, but, “if I have the opportunity to debate substantive issues before the voters with John McCain, that’s something that I am going to welcome.” Sigh.
This shouldn’t be that difficult. “I don’t think we need any big media-run production, no process question from reporters, no spin rooms,” McCain says. “Just two Americans running for office in the greatest nation on earth, responding to the questions of the people whose trust we must earn.” A nice idea, but sadly it won’t happen.
Here’s how it will work out in reality: The campaigns will agree to sit down at some point. Advisors will go back and forth. Eventually, some time after the conventions are over, the sides will agree to three televised “debates,” one “moderated” by Charlie Gibson, another by Tom Brokaw and a third by Jim Lehrer. These “debates” will feature the usual mundane questions, the usual timed two-minute answers, the usual pre-programmed responses. And no voter will learn anything about either candidate. Sigh.
Another way this year is shaping up as just another election year is the long-distance sniping between the campaigns.