We'll soon see if Barack Obama and John McCain live up to their earnest promises of high-minded campaigns. Now, that would be a welcome change.
Also welcome is a break from a Bush or Clinton on the ticket. Let's call it ... progress.
Well, maybe I speak too soon. Obama may yet succumb and pick up Hillary as his vice presidential running mate.
A decision like that just might be the Republicans' best hope of seating McCain in what should be the Democrats' year. Even Bill has to see that much. This dream team would be a GOP fantasy come true.
Of course, you already know your vote if your ideology is set.
McCain may be a maverick, but conservatives will hold their noses and hope he's the one in the Oval Office choosing Supreme Court appointees in a few years.
Obama, for all his cant about "change," has reliably displayed traditional liberal voting traits. Hillary's faithful will fall in line regardless of her role to come. Their threatened defection can be taken exactly as seriously as the glitterati's promise to move to Canada with W.'s re-election. Oh, if only.
But this race will not be settled at the far poles. The holy rollers and other true believers who were there for Bush have little enthusiasm or energy for McCain. And the Democrats have long proven Will Rogers' quip about belonging to no organized party.
The mushy middle surely will decide the next president this time. That's got to be scary for the party regulars on both sides. As someone whose voting habits can be best described as poor Republican and even worse Democrat, I like that. I like that a lot.
I see at least a glimmer of hope that the most ridiculous of the partisan sniping can stop. I hope that a McCain and Obama race means that politics will turn toward higher ground.
They don't have to agree with each other, and they don't. But they most definitely can bring respect for other views, reasoned debate and dealing with what's real to the forefront.
That's what these two can do. I'm not particularly optimistic that they and their minions will. But even a slight lessening of the Swift Boating, demonizing, indictment by association however loose, purposely recasting positions into absurd pejoratives, and the rest of the stupid partisan tricks would be incredibly refreshing.
Maybe there are enough real differences between these two to dispense with the crap. Black and white. Young and old. Conservative (mostly) and liberal. In Iraq for the long haul or out tomorrow. Reliance on government or market forces. Universal health care or the capitalistic model. More or less taxation.
These are big, really big, differences. Each candidate will have to sell the middle on the value of their ideas instead of playing to their party's zealots. This is too important for the partisans to decide. America is at a crossroads with these competing visions of the future.
Thankfully, this isn't 2004, when the Dems put up a candidate who got even worse grades at Yale than George W., a stiff who apparently couldn't make up his mind between salad or soup if pressed against an incumbent who couldn't possibly have bungled things any worse than he did.
I think both parties got it right this time.
A traditionally Republican candidate would get killed at the polls this fall. While the conservative wing grouses, McCain is the GOP's only viable chance with the crumbled legacy of the Bush administration.
And Obama saved the Democrats from a disaster. I understand Hillary Clinton came oh so close to winning the nomination. But her party-line shrillness, Bubba loitering just offstage and a certain weariness with the Clintons in general would have sapped America's will to elect her and deliver that needed rebuke to the Republican Party as constituted today.
Frankly, my vote is up for grabs. I tend to be more fiscally conservative and more socially liberal. Keep out of my pocket and my bedroom, basically. And quit with pretending only one side can have all the answers. That's an insult to my intelligence, such as that is. You don't need to be a Rhodes scholar to recognize that the partisan stuff has gotten way out of hand, though.
So, Mr. Obama and Mr. McCain, talk to me. I'm listening.
- Don Rogers, publisher of The Record-Courier, can be reached at 782-5121, ext. 208, or email@example.com.