Obama and McCain haven't told Americans how tough next year will be

Fascinating as 2008 has been, neither of these men has educated voters much on the challenges ahead. The tone and substance of the campaign are really no different than six weeks ago, while the world has changed.

“It would have been better if one had told America about the stark realities of how difficult this is going to be,” says presidential historian Doris Kearns Goodwin.

In the 24-7, soundbite-driven politics of today, Goodwin and others say, this may not be possible. It’s still unfortunate.

Both Obama and McCain devoutly believe in public and civic service and the centrality of sacrifice to American exceptionalism. With two wars and the most severe financial crisis in three-quarters of a century, the times call for shared sacrifice. The foundations of the global economy are in tatters, a $1 trillion deficit looms and any light at the end of the Iraq and Afghanistan tunnels is dim.