I love Tom Friedman’s periodic calls to elevate the presidential election conversation to the level that we need as a nation right now. He does it every several weeks and a couple Sundays ago he made his best pitch yet.
He seemed astounded, as am I, that with all the monumental challenges that our country faces, and all the evident trauma as our world restructures helter-skelter towards the 21st century, the campaign conversation is so, well, small and petty. Friedman writes off Romney, as what you’d expect, but he chides Obama – you’re better than this.
To Obama’s credit, he does frequently frame the election as a huge choice of how America goes forward. I agree that given the two paths currently presented, the consequences of this election are huge. But Friedman rightly calls for Obama to give a much more full-throated vision of what America can begin to do in a second term.
Friedman also gives Obama credit for much of what he did in the first term as good steps in the right direction, but Friedman complains that Obama keeps pulling short of tying them all together in a grand narrative that can inspire the electorate to band together and move ahead.
Today David Brooks gave his version of what he calls the Dullest Campaign Ever. I often think of Brooks as the conservative side’s Friedman. They both are intellectually honest and more committed to being American than partisan. And so they often present two sides to the same civic coin. In this case, Brooks is just as exasperated with how intellectually stagnant this campaign is. He then riffs off the various reasons why our politics have come to that.
This Reinvent America project I’m working on is situated in the place that both Friedman and Brooks are groping for. We can’t expect politicians, even very talented and super-smart ones like Obama, to be able to come up with all the ideas about how America can and must reinvent itself for the 21st century. Our project is just one small effort to help figure that out. I’ll be explaining more in the coming month.