140 characters does not make an electoral platform

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With the selection of Mitt Romney as the GOP nominee and the implosion of Americans Elect from the process, unable to find a candidate for their ticket, we know the full set up for the election in November. With the clearing of the field the polls have both candidates jockeying for position, each week being either slightly ahead or behind one another in the national polls. Yet, with what should be a big vision election, with all the economic questions America faces, we are seeing a small idea campaign.

Dominating news cycle after news cycle are the little things, a misspoken phrase in a press briefing, weird facts and conspiracies that will not die.  The speed with which something small can spread through social media and into the news networks is frightening. The pace and fury of this campaign is limiting the ability of the candidates to deal with any of the big policy issues as they bounce from gaffe to gaffe.

America needs to make a decision about its economic future and this election offers them an ability to do this; if the candidates can get past the distractions of dressage horses and celebrity fundraisers.

The lack of vision has been truly extraordinary. A big economic debate that has been playing out in Wisconsin has been seen as a surrogate for the national stage, yet the president chose not to get personally involved.

Unlike elections of the recent past, we are not faced with someone who is aloof vs. a man of the people. Both candidates struggle to connect to the everyman in their own way. There will be no ‘I feel your pain’ moments, nor feel good, beer drinking scenes that don’t smack of political theatre. With two intellectuals in the race one would assume that there would be much to discuss.

The GOP will keep on hoping that creating gridlock in DC and hoping for further economic gloom will be their big win in this race. The Democrats believe that Romney might die a death of a thousand embarrassments.  Neither of these strategies offers anything new to a population that is desperate for new ideas.  The lack of enthusiasm for either of these candidates is palpable despite tremendous efforts to make the campaigns movement-like.

Digital seems to be the great distraction from offering grand visions of what a better America could look like. Is this now the level of politics that we will have to expect in an instant news age?

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Joel Braunold is is a Labour party member currently at the Harvard Kennedy School of Government in Cambridge, MA.  He writes the Race to the White House column for Progress and tweets @braunold

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Photo: Steve Garfield

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