This election cycle, a common complaint has been that Romney and Obama have not spoken enough about which forward-looking policy plans they’d implement – a phenomenon that’s been called the No-Policy problem, the Smallest Campaign Ever, and inevitably, the Seinfeld Election. In this week’s David Brooks column on why this is “The Dullest Campaign Ever,” the criticism ranks number four.
But while that particular trend has gotten more attention, it’s the candidates’ efforts to gloss over their records — not just the failures, but the goals they actually accomplished — that should be more alarming. Promises or policy proposals offered by candidates may offer us guidance as to their priorities, but they’re obviously not sworn over an oath. If you’re looking for real clues to how a candidate might govern, their past is the only factual basis we have.
To put it more bluntly, in politics, the future is a fiction. If campaign pronouncements were real plans never to be violated and always deliverable, there would have been a drastic shift in US foreign policy between the last two administrations; the individual mandate for health care would have been off the table; Mitt Romney would be to the left of Ted Kennedy on gay rights; and the last two presidents would have fundamentally changed the tone in Washington.