As the US presidential race moves forward, some seek a reprise of a campaign from a generation ago where conservative Republican candidate Barry Goldwater sought to offer the people “a choice, not an echo”, with the intention to differentiate himself from the more liberal candidates in his party.
Some may lament that the current body politic is increasingly polarised. But despite this, many think that there are choices that should be fundamental to a presidential campaign and that candidates should be clear on where they stand on these.
Traditionally, commentators note, presidential candidates solidify their base and then work to woo those in the 'middle'. But this time, at least one of the bases is in no mood for giving ground. Compromise is seen as not adding a spoonful of sugar but a spoonful of low-dose arsenic. For them, bipartisanship is overrated. They are convinced that if the message and messenger remain true, the strength of their argument will prevail.
Business leaders hope that both parties will offer, and that some amount of the public debate will address, recipes for future economic growth. It would be helpful if both parties at least agree that growth is a paramount goal.
So far, the Democrats continue to offer new or expanded federal programmes, top-down initiatives devised by the governing class and their academic supporters. Investment bankers are also quick to find opportunities in these schemes, such as green energy.
Republicans, taking their cue from physicians, advocate to 'first, do no harm'. They point to the harm already inflicted and they pledge to reduce and eliminate current and proposed programmes and regulations.
Not challenged from his left, US president Barack Obama has begun laying claim to sound bites that might appeal to the 'middle' – such as expanding energy production, reducing “unnecessary” regulations – co-opting the right’s pro-business themes, even if policies and results do not (yet) match the rhetoric. It may be a supreme irony that the White House has become the echo chamber for many of the principal themes voiced by the opposition.