Michael Barone has it about right—so far we are witnessing a presidential campaign completely devoid of themes. As he characterizes it, neither party’s candidates have a convincing narrative.
I’m afraid that what we now see is what we’re going to get, and I am singularly unimpressed by the field in this possibly most important watershed election at least since 1980 and possibly since 1932. Come to think of it, we have had only two big narratives since 1932—the New Deal and winning World War II under FDR and rolling back the Great Society and winning the Cold War under Ronald Reagan. Neither narrative is relevant to 2008; unfortunately, many of the structures and worldviews put in place to deal with critical policy issues during those days are still in place. For the Democrats, continuing to demonize and run against George W. Bush will not be enough, and for the Republicans, the fear of Hillary Clinton as President alone will not be enough for them to prevail. Still, one year is a lifetime in politics, and there is plenty of time for many surprises and possibly even the development of a new narrative, although realistically, I am not optimistic. So far, the only public figure even close to articulating one has been Newt Gingrich, and the Republican candidates could benefit by taking a few pages from his book.