The Vision Thing

Neither candidate is ideologically extreme, but is that necessarily a good thing?

BY: Jim Wallis

 

President George Bush once talked about "the vision thing" during a political campaign-a lapse in speech that made came to mean that he didn't have much vision. This year, we're back to the same old thing with Texas Gov. George W. Bush and Vice President Al Gore.

We haven't heard much that sounds very visionary in this Presidential campaign. Take the prophet Isaiah, for example:

No more shall there be in it an infant that lives but a few days, or an old person who does not live out a lifetime.They shall build houses and inhabit them; they shall plant vineyards and eat their fruit. They shall not build and another inhabit; they shall not plant and another eat; for like the days of a tree shall the days of my people be, and my chosen shall long enjoy the work of their hands. They shall not labor in vain, or bear children for calamity; for they shall be offspring blessed by the Lord- and their descendants as well..The wolf and the lamb shall feed together.They shall not hurt or destroy on all my holy mountain.

Lots of vision there. Healthy children growing up well, older people living long lives, economic justice instead of economic exploitation, good work that makes a real living, no more bringing children into violence and chaos and, finally, a vision of peace.

Instead of vision like that, we've heard a long and tedious campaign of dueling prescription drug plans, competing Social Security schemes, and conflicting ideas of whose pockets tax cuts should be put back into. Neither candidate is asking the nation to look out for each other, to seek the common good, or to make peace. Rather, Bush's mispronounced words and Gore's exaggerations are the topics of endless polling and punditry.

When third party candidate Ralph Nader begins to do well by speaking more about the bigger issues of our public life--like taking the excessive influence of money out of politics, protecting the environment, or reducing child poverty--he is savaged as a "spoiler." The truth is that there are no big visions being offered by the major party candidates, and no big changes slated for the nation by either nominee. This is just politics--the potential shifting of power among elites and the incremental differences between them.

Gore is not the left-wing big government threat the Republicans claim, any more than Bush is a right-wing Ghengis Khan who will catapult us back to the dark ages, as the frantic liberals rant. Both are throughly establishment sons of thoroughly establishment political families and elites who don't want to change the world very much. In other words, neither is likely to get carried away with the vision thing.

The problem with our present political situation is found elsewhere in the Bible--Proverbs 29:18, "Where there is no vision, the people perish."

Neither candidate is willing to say that there ought to be affordable housing for working families. They debate over vouchers, but neither has said that the quality of a child's education should not be determined by zip code. Both have health care plans, but neither has said that 43 million people in America without health care is a national scandal. And neither major party candidate will be heard saying that big corporations have taken over the American political process.

Both should be saying that moral citizens should boycott the movies and music that pollute the culture, if they are serious about "family values."

Yet the country is hungry for a real vision of political reform, as the candidacies of both Arizona Sen. John McCain and Green Party candidate Ralph Nader have illustrated this year. Maybe if there were more vision in this campaign, we would see more intereston Election Day. The election may be too close to call, but most of us aren't looking toward it now as a real referendum on national direction. I guess we just miss that vision thing.

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