Summer has officially started, which means our attention often turns to things less pressing and (hopefully) more relaxing. The same is true in politics. As the presidential campaigns gear up for their respective national conventions and what undoubtedly will be a relentless effort to win the presidency in November, it got me thinking about how different this election would be if only the candidates did the unthinkable.
Politics can make for some strange bedfellows at times. And I really believe these times cry out for something different — a new approach, a new way of thinking, new alliances in order for the “people’s business” to get done. In short: It's time to change the game.
And that’s exactly what my friend Lanny Davis and I have decided to do — and you couldn’t pick two more unlikely people to pair up for this task. We’re from different parties, with widely diverging political philosophies, supporting different candidates.
Davis is the former three-term member of the Democratic National Committee from Maryland and Special Counsel to President Bill Clinton. He can’t help himself, but he is a liberal Democrat who strongly supports President Obama for re-election. Mr. Davis has reminded me on more than one occasion that he is opposed to the Bush tax cuts, supports increasing taxes on wealthier Americans, is pro-choice, pro-legalizing gay marriage and supported Obamacare.
As for me, I’m the former chairman of the Republican National Committee and lieutenant governor of Maryland. I am a conservative who strongly supports former Gov. Mitt Romney for president. Unlike Davis, I support the Bush tax cuts, oppose increasing taxes on any Americans, I’m pro-life, oppose legalizing gay marriage and opposed Obamacare (still do!).
While Lanny and I are divided on many things (just like the American people), we do share a strong passion for what the country needs. Polls show that most of the American people agree: They want to hear Obama and Romney debate the issues and tell us their solutions — not spend the next five months attacking each other and pretending that somehow that constitutes “debate.”
Over the past 10 years we have watched political leaders in Washington free fall from one decision to the next. Whether on jobs, our nation's debt, spending cuts or entitlement programs, the partisan excuses, outright misrepresentations and the blame game have grown old.
As the Obama and Romney presidential campaigns gear up, it is already assumed that the American people will just accept the inevitable bile of negative, personal attack ads (after all, "they work") and half-truths about each candidate and their records.
During the Republican primary race, Romney ran an ad taking the president’s statements about the economy during the 2008 presidential campaign out of context, distorting their meaning. Obama had actually been quoting Sen. John McCain. When asked, Mr. Romney replied, "What's sauce for the goose is now sauce for the gander."
Furthermore, the Obama campaign recently ran a misleading ad, accusing Romney's leadership at Bain Capital to cause the loss of jobs after a steel company it had acquired went bankrupt. Then the truth came out that Romney had left Bain two years before this bankruptcy. In fact, the person in charge of Bain at the time is now a big Obama fundraiser.
The partisan game of "gotcha" and outright misrepresentations has grown old and, frankly, most Americans are sick of it. As Newark Mayor Cory Booker, talking about misleading, personal attack ads on both sides, said recently, they are "nauseating.... Enough is enough."
The American people want a great debate between Obama and Romney on big solutions for the economy, our nation’s infrastructure, health care and education. They want to hear their ideas to spur the private sector to create more jobs; address the problems of the poor and seniors; reduce our $15 trillion national debt; and ensure the long-term solvency of Social Security and Medicare.
For too long, too many have preyed on the fears of Red and Blue America. But now is the opportunity for Messrs. Obama and Romney to embrace the hopes of a “Purple Nation.”
To be clear, it’s not about creating some mushy center, standing for nothing. Instead, it’s all about how these two leaders can bring principled liberals and conservatives together at a time when the country is seeking "Purple Solutions" — good ideas from both sides forged on common ground and anchored by consensus.
America needs this kind of campaign now more than ever.
This election is about the future of our nation: Whether our government can work or not. Whether we and our children can have hope for jobs and prosperity in the future and for peaceful relations between nations.
It's time for a presidential campaign that brings us together — not divides us. That way, the American people will be the real winners this November.
Messrs. Obama and Romney, a great many Americans are ready to change the game. How about you?
Michael Steele served as the first African-American chairman of the Republican National Committee. He is a former lieutenant governor of Maryland and a political commentator. He will be providing commentary on all things politics for BET.com each week.
The opinions expressed here do not necessarily reflect those of BET Networks.
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