Saturday, October 27, 2012

It's Not the Economy, Stupid

Having just talked with people from all across America as I rode from Chicago to the West Coast on Amtrak, I am convinced that both the Romney and Obama campaigns are wrong in thinking that the most important issue on people's minds is the economy. People understand that the worldwide economy is changing. They don't expect any president to be able to single-handedly bring back the prosperity that our country enjoyed during most of the past sixty years. They don't believe either candidate's promises to create jobs. Yes, people are hurting financially. But they are not looking to the president to fix their situation by cutting taxes or instituting new programs.

What people want from candidates is honesty, and they don't feel like they are getting it from either the Republican or the Democrat. Unemployed fifty-five year olds know they aren't going to retrain for exciting new careers in green energy. They know that no matter how skilled they become as X-Ray technicians or welders, employers will hire younger workers. They don't want to spend a year or two taking courses at community colleges, and they sure don't want to be racking up student loans.

What people want is some security. They want to know that even if they don't find work, they will get medical care and they will get a social security check to help them get by. But instead of talking about the kinds of systemic changes that are needed in order to bring our country's health care system up to the same level as the rest of the developed world, politicians are talking about fixing the national deficit, which is something that very few people understand and which has little real relevance to most voters. Instead of showing the people how their government will make sure that they are able to meet their basic human needs, politicians in both parties are playing slight-of-hand tricks with numbers. The people are not fooled. They know the difference between reality and illusion.

It has been sixty five years since the U.S. fought a war that most people think we needed to fight, which means that nearly every person who will vote in the upcoming elections knows that we don't need to be wasting more than half of our national budget on our military. But with two billion dollars already having been spent on just this one election, no one is hearing a word about that. They are hearing about abortion and every other issue that the politicians think can be used to divide people from their neighbors.

The people are not as stupid as the politicians seem to believe they are. The people know the politicians are trying to frighten them. What the politicians don't seem to understand is that people are already terrified. People know that the American dominance of the world economy is gone, and they sense that it won't return for a very long time. They can accept that. They just want someone to talk honestly about what comes next. Romney and Obama don't want to talk about that.

From the Great Plains to the Rockies to the ocean, Americans are frightened, frustrated, and angry. They are not fools, but they feel that their politicians are treating them as if they were. It may be too late for either Romney or Obama to start talking straight with the American people. Any change of strategy or message would be viewed as a desperation move. So the campaigns will almost certainly keep talking around in circles, and the voters will almost certainly feel disgusted the day after the election.

The past two years of campaigning have been almost a complete waste of everyone's time. They have not been enlightening, and the candidates have not given the people what they want and need. The campaigns should not have been about the economy, they should have been about the people, and we're not stupid.

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