The State of the Union: Perspectives on the Post-Election Political Terrain

"THERE ARE NO REAL issues in this campaign because we are in good times." I parked my car at the curb in front of my apartment, turned off the ignition, and continued listening to a panel of political analysts on the car radio. Both the Democratic and Republican experts basically agreed with the Republican claim of "peace and prosperity," with the Democrats merely pointing to the deficit and an uncertain future.

I had heard enough. I stepped out of my car and stood there for a few moments, surveying the scene in my Washington, D.C., neighborhood of Southern Columbia Heights. The meaning of the political commentary I had just heard suddenly became clear to me: Neighborhoods like this one are invisible. Especially during the heat of political campaigns, candidates like to pretend that poor people just don't exist.

The presidential contest waged between George Bush and Michael Dukakis has been criticized as dirty, empty, boring, embarrassing, and disgusting. As true as all that is, the failure of the candidates and their campaigns goes much deeper. This election was decided without ever coming to grips with the two things the nation most needs--an honest facing-up to pressing social realities and a courageous offering of moral vision. Social reality and moral vision were the most avoided topics in this most dismal campaign.

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