Is the nation’s political glass half empty or half full?

“The hardest thing about any political campaign is how to win without proving you are unworthy of winning.” — Adlai Stevenson.

We’re inside 100 days. Suspended presidential campaigns (more aptly, “less-than-presidential” campaigns) have resumed. We’re seeing those commercials again.

The Washington Post’s Dan Balz quotes media analysts as saying Mitt Romney and President Obama have already spent $59 million to air more than 170,000 negative ads, and that doesn’t count the independent spending of “wink and nod” super PACs that can be even worse.

So buckle up and keep the mute button handy. And despair of seeing much of a vision from either candidate as the clock ticks toward Nov. 6.

We’ll feel the full force of all that negativity here in Colorado. We’re a swing state, not reliable enough to be colored blue and, if recent history is any clue, no longer red. When the artists among us mix those colors, they get purple, a color we’ll all be seeing in the mirror as we seethe while reaching for the remote.

In better days, the rule in politics was that voters wanted inspiration, to see a vision for the future define campaigning rather than assigning blame for the past. Lord help any would-be office holder who relies solely on that tactic in the current political climate.

Maybe there’s a good reason that’s true in the current presidential race.

“Neither (Romney or Obama) has a very solid vision about the future except, ‘You don’t want the other guy,’” Colorado-based political strategist Rick Ridder says in Balz’s piece.

These days, we aren’t surprised when we hear of billboards like the one up in Idaho that equates a chilling mass murder with the current president’s foreign policies. Even when attacks from outside sources go well beyond the pale, candidates rarely denounce them, instead crafting some mealy-mouthed pseudo response that carefully skirts the edge of losing any fringe group votes.

Did anyone hear any prominent Republicans denounce Florida GOP Congressman Alan West or ask for details of which of his claimed 78 to 81 Democrats in Congress are members of the Communist Party? 

At least John McCain had the good sense and renewed courage to take Michelle Bachmann to task from the Senate floor for her unfounded contention that Muslims with terrorist ties have infiltrated the higher levels of the State Department. And a few GOP congressional candidates have found enough intestinal fortitude to tell Grover Norquist to buzz off with his “no way, no how, never whatever the circumstances, no-new-taxes-not-even-closing-loopholes” pledge.

But all’s fair, it seems, in politics.

Mostly, the excuse goes, because the other candidate is doing it, too. No one, including a president who campaigned four years ago on changing our political climate, feels free to not return fire. 

It’s hard to believe no candidate had a mother who occasionally asked, “If everyone else jumps off the cliff, will you do it, too?”

It’s also interesting to see how history can be reinvented when it serves political purposes.

Mitt Romney discerns some difference that eludes most of us when he concocts explanations of how the health care plan he signed into law in Massachusetts, after enlisting Ted Kennedy to help advance it, differs from the one recently upheld by what most would see as a conservative-leaning U.S. Supreme Court. Somehow, conservative Republicans forget it was the Heritage Foundation among the most prominent early supporters of mandates.

At some point, Obama supporters are going to have to quit pointing fingers backward at the Bush administration and assume some responsibility for the past 3 1/2 years. You’d think W. somehow eluded term limits and remained in office for a third term. Elections do have consequences, including the assumption of responsibility.

What’s happened to all of us to an alarming degree, is that we now look at our differences in a new way. We see them as a point of attack rather than a starting point for discussion. We’re quick to speak, loudly, rather than listen.

Perhaps some day we’ll get back to basing our decisions on how well candidates inspire us, offer a positive vision for the future, explain how they’ll govern and demonstrate their abilities to bring us together rather than widen the ideological chasm.

We can only hope.


Jim Spehar is finding it harder to look at the political glass as half full. Your comments are welcome at .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address).


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