So far in this presidential campaign, both sides have managed to do an excellent job of bashing each other. Both President Obama and Gov. Mitt Romney have pulled out the negative campaign ads, debate zingers, and attack-dog advocates in efforts to make their opponent look unelectable, unqualified, and undesirable.
It’s working, but sadly, both sides are, as a result, underwhelming the American electorate. This is most notably truth with those undecided voters that do not have a team to cheerlead for over the course of the next two weeks.
That begs the question: in this time of dealing with the aftermath of the Great Recession (while on the verge of the financial cliff and sequestration), who is best equipped and most likely to end the greatest recession we currently face in politics today – that of inspirational and galvanizing leadership?
On the heels of the 2008 win for then-Sen. Barack Obama, the hope was that, in addition to the political capital that the new president would need to spend in order to turn around the nation’s economy, this inspirational rags-to-riches politician would be able to use his political and personal charisma to reverse the luster that America felt domestically (as jobs were being lost by the thousands each month) and internationally (as President Bush was having shoes thrown at him in his final days in office).
Over the course of the past four years, we have seen – both through no fault of Obama’s own (e.g., the incidents of racism coming from opposition party officials in Tennessee and Montana, among others) and through his own miscalculations and missteps (e.g., the hyper-partisanship of the stimulus and healthcare reform packages as well as his flip-flops on issues such as the Bush tax cuts in December 2010) – that President Obama has not been the inspirational unifier that was promised by Sen. Obama during the 2008 election season.
In a time when America is in need of an infusion of long-lasting hope and optimism for their economic, employment, educational, and national security futures, Obama has been incapable of providing much of anything on the campaign trail other than a litany of re-warmed lines attempting to make Romney out to be the newest and richest version of Republican presidential candidates in the mold of President George W. Bush or Sen. John McCain.
Yet, despite the opportunity to fill this leadership void left by the incompleteness of Obama’s four years, Romney has yet to project the image of a unifying, comforting, and amendable leader that can masterfully resurrect the needs found throughout a diverse America.
Talking about tax cuts for all Americans does not resonate when it comes from a candidate that has been caught disregarding the 47 percent of Americans that are not paying income taxes or who are struggling in this recession.
Talking about helping the middle class does not resonate with a swath of voters that have found themselves out of the middle class after years of losing home equity, job opportunities, or sustainable wages. Despite being governor of a state that includes Boston, Romney has failed to talk to a diversity of Americans on a regular basis, instead choosing to stick with the red state, red meat, consultant-driven strategy that hopes to pluck off just enough electoral votes to squeak out a presidential victory.
Now, Americans – and notably those of us in struggling urban areas – are stuck asking: who will inspire, be historic, and elevate the American standard once again?
For all of the rhetorical talk of American Exceptionalism, neither candidate has spoken with the presidential poise and American statesmanship on a consistent enough basis to energize this deeply-wounded nation. Presidents are required to be more than just economic managers, masterful politicians, or victors in specific battlefield endeavors.
They must also advance the American Dream through the power of their personality. They must ignite greatness that spread throughout the nation through their presence in the White House. Those that effectively occupy the Oval Office in today’s America must have the moxie and focus necessary to galvanize Americans past the social, economic, and geopolitical challenges that the nation faces under his or her direction.
The inspirational nature of a president is the fuel to unite a divided congress, heal a broken political system, and spark new waves of innovation and creativity where apathy and blandness currently reign. Reagan did that with the 1970s economy and the Cold War.
Eisenhower and Kennedy did that by taking on civil rights issues in the Deep South and confronting the Soviet threat as well. Lincoln did that while the blood of his citizens and the hopes of maintaining the United States of America spilled on battlefields. Obama was supposed to be that figure in 2008, yet has failed to meet that bar after four years.
Romney has yet to project an image of connecting with many voters past traditional conservative voters. Despite the debates, campaign ads, and colorful rhetoric, until a presidential figure emerges to meet -and perhaps elevate – the standard of national leadership, our nation will collectively continue to limp along in this economic “recovery”, even as we wait to recover from our continue void in long-lasting, galvanizing, and history-changing leadership.
LENNY MCALLISTER is an internationally-recognized political commentator and public speaker featured on several national and international outlets including BET’s “Don’t Sleep! Hosted by TJ Holmes”, Canada’s CBC and Sun News Network, CNN, and Sirius-XM Radio. His new book, “Spoken Thoughts of an Amalgamated Advocate in Today’s America” is now available electronically on Kindle and in paperback on Amazon.com . Catch Lenny’s “The McAllister Minute” regularly on The American Urban Radio Network.