In another election year another First Lady said something that fits any election year. “Great minds discuss ideas. Average minds discuss events. Small minds discuss people.” [Eleanor Roosevelt]
But it’s a good bet the next 180 days will be all about the people and the events. As for the ideas, they will remain fuzzy in our minds. Spun and re-spun as they travel from their points-of-origin [ the candidates’ major speeches ] to those would-be thousand-points-of-light [ the networks’ major pundits ]. If ever we actually understood the big ideas in those speeches, chances are by now no one can actually explain them, including the speech writers.
Yet make no mistake. There are about 141 million very different voters scattered among 3,141 very different counties. Few presidents have succeeded without hoisting the banners of at least one big, unifying idea. For Washington it was preserving our new-won freedom. For Lincoln, preserving our now-challenged union. For FDR, preserving our now-broken economy. Surely today’s candidates have no shortage of issues to grapple with. Jobs, productivity, taxes, health, education, human rights, security, world peace. Not a single one much different than 100 years ago. A 1000 years ago. And yet each now more complex, because it is inextricably wedged inside a global economy which runs by a clock no longer set only in Washington. The campaigns’ task the next 180 days will be to seize and shape these conflicting issues into another of those single, unifying big ideas.
Think of each of the worried voters in each of these counties as intuitively searching for a banner to rally round. With their hearts as well as their heads, with their dreams as well as their fears. Both campaign camps are searching for that very banner! For that one big idea that encapsulates our worst fears then catapults them into our best dreams. Is there some word, some phrase, some vision that might electrify us again? After all, it takes only a majority in enough of these counties to do the job.
Whatever big ideas are being birthed now, each candidate understands it must somehow bind and bond as many of us as possible. A task made historically complicated in 2012 by the fact six of our seven national institutions can no longer be counted on to translate our differences into our destiny. Say like other big ideas once did: The New Deal, the Fair Deal, the Great Society, Sunrise in America.
Of our seven national institutions, the government is now held in suspicion more than admiration…the law is seen as working for the rich more than the rest….marriage is lately a debate more than a decision…schools are using more money to produce poorer results…the media are slanted by whomever owns them…religion is no longer something we can all agree upon…only the military stands as an institution still commanding general and binding respect.
About 180 days are eft to give birth to the next big idea. What shall it be, gentlemen? Making your search all the harder, the national budget you will inherit will no longer permit you to woo us with the usual promises of More. For one of the few times in our history, you will have to motivate us with warnings of Less.
More-With-Less…! Well, yes, now there’s an idea. But is it big and bold and binding enough? I just mailed it in with my donation to the candidate of my choice.
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