The Republican and Democr, Satic presidential tickets have become rough mirror-images of each other. This will make it far harder for each to credibly campaign on symbolism and may force them to focus on issues. Wouldn’t that be a welcome relief.
Consider: The Republicans attack the Democrats for having a lack of experience. They point to Senator Barack Obama’s limited tenure in public office, especially at a high level like the United States Senate. With the selection of Governor Sarah Palin as their Vice Presidential nominee that attack line becomes cynical at best and hypocritical at worst.
Meanwhile the Democrats have attacked the Republicans for being “more of the same.” They point to Senator John McCain’s 25 years in Washington as a Congressman and Senator as proof. Yet with the nomination of Senator Joe Biden, he of 35 years as a Senator, this argument becomes either cynical or hypocritical.
The fact is, both tickets now include a reformer with limited experience and insiders with a touch of maverick in them. The result is a political shield against the more emotional, symbolic attacks of the campaign thus far. You can see it at play as Republicans defend the selection of Governor Palin as Senator McCain’s running mate. When asked directly if Governor Palin is qualified to be President of the United States, they refuse to answer, instead claiming that she has more experience than Senator Obama. (Apparently being Governor of a state with a population smaller than Kern County, California — county seat: Bakersfield — and a couple of terms as Mayor with a population smaller than, well, just about anywhere, trumps being a United States Senator for over three years and an Illinois State Senator for seven years).
That political side step is a sad reflection on Senator McCain’s VP selection, but it’s not much worse than trying to deny Senator Biden is a Capital insider because he commutes home to Deleware every night.
So with the parties having neutralized the experience and reformer arguments, they will soon be left with only substance. They have to talk about something, so maybe we’ll get to hear how they intend to fix our nation’s schools, change our broken tax system, make our streets safer, our air cleaner and our economy stronger. Maybe they’ll have an in-depth discussion touching on Israel’s role in the Middle East, how to address Russia latest aggression, how to fight terrorism, and how to compete in a global economy.
This isn’t to say the more ideological news networks will play along. Fox News is a tool of the right while MSNBC has arrived at that status for the left. They’ll still attack the other side with symbolic arguments that, while meaningless, does demonstrate the pundit’s ability to spout foolishness with a straight face.
But the candidates themselves will need to focus on issues. Personally I think that’s an advantage for the Democrats, but it would sure be fun to find out.