Dynamism Has No Candidate
Daniel Weintraub captures the sad--and fearful--state of the presidential race. (Registration required but this site used to cost $500 a year.)
I tuned into the CNN/YouTube Republican presidential debate Wednesday night and was surprised to see so much fear. I thought the GOP was supposed to be the "daddy" party -- all strong and manly. But these guys were quaking in their loafers about any number of threats to our safety and livelihoods. From Islamic terrorism to Chinese manufacturers, European farmers, Mexican laborers and even Canadians (yes, Canadians!), the Republicans seem to think the world is about to take us down. Their solutions vary. Some want to curl up in a little American ball to shield ourselves from attack. Others want to "stay on the offense" with the military to keep the bad guys at bay. Nobody really conveyed a sense of confidence in the future, or in the American people's ability to prosper peacefully in a more competitive world.
Of course, the Democrats are not much better. They deny that the Islamists are a threat but see even bigger monsters in the economic closet and are even more eager than the Republicans to protect us from competition and change.
The sad thing is that these candidates must know that a lot of voters share their insecurities, or they wouldn't try so hard to feed them. But doesn't anybody on the campaign trail speak for dynamism, the creative spirit, innovation, and the potential of individuals to do great things? Doesn't anybody running for president think that Americans can compete -- even thrive -- by participating in, not fleeing, a growing global economy? This is the dawn of the Information Age. The world is changing fast. Yet these folks all sound as if they think it's 1955. The Cold War and the Red scare all over again.
I work in what's commonly thought to be the 21st Century equivalent of the buggy whip industry, yet even I have a far cheerier outlook about the future than any of these guys exhibited last night. It was almost as if they were trying to channel Lou Dobbs, or they were hypnotized by that great CNN fearmonger on their way into the studio.
PS to my Republican friends: I know CNN did a lousy job picking the questions and half of them came from people with links to Democratic candidates and causes. But they didn't pick the answers. The candidates still had their say. And in two hours of yakking, I don't think I heard a single sentence expressing confidence in the ability of individuals to pursue happiness on their own. Isn't that what the Republicans are supposed to be all about?
If you prefer horse-race analysis, check out Robert A. George's debate blogging.