Once in a while, I’ll hear some of Barack Obama’s detractors — from both sides — argue that he’s been lax in offering detailing policy proposals. I’ve never entirely understood the line of attack — both the Obama and Clinton campaigns have been extremely forthcoming when it comes to presenting a detailed platform, filled with all kinds of specifics, especially compared to Mr. Vague Generalities.
The real problem, of course, is that it’s the McCain campaign that avoids substance like the plague. We saw this just yesterday when McCain unveiled his healthcare proposal. Asked about those who either can’t afford or can’t qualify for private insurance, McCain proposed that the federal government “work with” states to cover those who would get left behind. What does “work with” mean? No one knows.
This is part of a conspicuous trend. Tyler Cowen, hardly a partisan Dem, noted today:
Trade aside, so far I’ve yet to see many actual policy proposals from the McCain camp. Mostly I’ve seen attempts to signal that they won’t do anything too offensive to the party’s right wing. Very few of these trial balloons seem to be ideas that McCain had expressed much previous loyalty to. I don’t even think we should be analyzing these statements as policy proposals. We should be wondering why the Republican Party has given up on the idea of policy proposals.
Yglesias noted, “[T]he GOP seems to have decided to blow a not-very-appealing idiosyncratic element of George W. Bush’s personality into some kind of principled objection to policy proposals.”
True, but how did we get to this point?