Whatever the final result of the 2008 campaign, the image of an above-the-fray Bill is no more -- shattered somewhere between the disclosure of the $109 million Clinton tax returns and his finger-shaking lectures to the press about its supposed unfairness to his wife. Democrats once were enchanted that their party might usher in the nation's first woman president. Now many of them fear Hillary is a bothersome obstacle in the way of an even more hip and novel breakthrough candidate.
Racial relations also soured from the campaign. Obama promised to be our post-racial healer. But so far, even if it weren't his intent, he is proving the most racially contentious candidate in recent American history.
African-Americans still line up behind Obama, even as whites keep voting in large majorities for Clinton.
The more Obama’s former pastor, Rev. Jeremiah Wright, keeps sounding unhinged, the more Obama can't quite free himself from this hateful albatross.
And when Obama talks down about middle America's fondness for religion and guns; or suggests that small-town America is "anti-immigrant" and "clings" to "antipathy to people who aren't like them;" or quips about the "typical white person," he only increases racial polarization -- cementing the image of someone who sees America in terms of "they," not "us."
The Bush and Clinton legacies, Obama's "new" politics and race relations are all casualties of a wide-open election without incumbents. But the greatest casualty has been our inability to figure how to deal with looming crises.
So far we haven't heard specific workable proposals from the candidates about how exactly they would solve energy dependence, soaring food prices, illegal immigration or outdated farm subsidies.
There has been no new solution offered about the looming Social Security crack-up. Few candidates have expressed novel ideas of stopping staggering deficits or bulking up a sinking dollar -- much less exactly the sacrifices necessary on all our parts to restore American financial solvency. No one has offered a better way of dealing with an ascendant but lawless China, an unhinged Iran or the ongoing war against Islamic extremism.
In 2008, everything and everyone has fallen victim to a nasty campaign -- except America's nastiest problems.