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Guest column: Is it too late to change this election?

The pep rallies have begun. This week in Tampa and next week in Charlotte, party faithful will cheer on the candidates, their surrogates, and others who have earned a spot in the political limelight. Very little news will come of these, but we’ll see and hear more than enough of both regardless. It’s kind of a shame, really, to spend all those resources – money and the time of candidates, delegates and others – for events that mean so little.

We were told the selection of Paul Ryan as a vice presidential nominee on the GOP ticket was supposed to change the dynamic and allow the candidates to talk about real issues. But no sooner had Gov. Romney picked the chair of the House Budget Committee known for his “marvelous” budget and other substantive stances on issues, than Romney surrogates began enforcing the message that the ticket would be talking about Romney’s budget plans, not Ryan’s which, frankly, are much more detailed, interesting and worth talking about that Romney’s.

Any conversation we’re getting about the Ryan ideas from the forces aligned behind the Commander-in-Chief play up the Romney-Ryan platform as “Mediscare.” Not quite as catchy as Obamacare, but it does distract voters from the strong evidence that competition among insurers in the privatized Part D of our country’s current Medicare program seems to have contributed significantly to holding down prescription drug costs for patients.

Meanwhile, unsubtle “dog-whistling” continues on both sides. Vice President Joe Biden “back in chains” remark to a crowd in Virginia was just as unhelpful as Romney’s quip, “No one’s ever asked to see my birth certificate.” (No, Governor, it’s your tax returns they’re interested in.)

Despite my own political junkie nature, I’m not looking forward to the conventions. Our country doesn’t need pep rallies. We need conversation and deliberation.

What if instead of three days of speeches leading to pre-determined coronation, we had televised roundtable discussions about the direction of the GOP, the benefits and disadvantages of Tea Party influence, and the substantive points Ron Paul has been making for years? What if there were a thoughtful conversation about the ground responsible gun owners and Second Amendment advocates might stake out to preserve their rights and the public’s safety against shooters like those we’ve seen this year in Chardon, Ohio, and Aurora, Colorado?

What if delegates to the Democrat’s convention hosted panels on education reform that does more than tinker around the edges? or about the obvious contradictions in a foreign policy that backs a democratic overthrow in one Mideast nation while supporting a dictatorial regime in another?

I can’t be the only one tired of fusillades of strategically crafted substance-free talking points designed to divide us. So we’re doing something about it.

Over the next two months, with help from The Press and West Life newspapers and other community publishers, we’ll be hosting a series of conversations at The Civic Commons (theciviccommons.com) about the issues we wish the candidates were talking about.

It’s a conversation you can be a part of and you can help shape. We hope to see you there.

Dan Moulthrop is a co-founder and curator of conversation at theciviccommons.com.

 

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