Campaigns have always had their lighter side, of course, but this year we seem to be getting more empty calories than ever. That is not to slight the dogged reporters who have in fact delved into the issues and done the arduous work of fact-checking the candidates’ ads and utterances. But let’s face it: How often has their work been on the front pages or at the top of the newscasts?

Sure, in an age of on-demand information, you can gorge yourself on the candidates’ conflicting arguments on the auto bailout or trade with China. But the media create narratives by cranking up the volume, and you have to strain to hear the issues dissected in a way you didn’t when Donald Trump was throwing around his birtherism nonsense. Yes, the substantive pieces have run on inside newspaper pages, occasionally on home pages, and popped up on television, which has a harder time coping with complexity. So much easier for all of us to trumpet the latest poll. …

Some of this sustained superficiality has to do with today’s relentless news cycle and shrinking attention spans. “You can’t talk in 140 characters on Twitter about the complexities of the budget or taxes,” veteran journalist Steve Roberts told me on Reliable Sources. Maybe so, but does that mean we just punt?