My point here is that we should look ahead. Where is the solid ground upon which to build, to restore some clear sense of national interest and national purpose, to restore confidence in the political process and in government itself? We don’t simply have a financial problem, a problem of economic balance and structure: we have a more fundamental problem of effective governance.
Nathaniel Rich: “There are few acts more debasing than knocking on a stranger’s door and asking for his vote. Picture the scene: early afternoon, an empty residential street in Cleveland, Tampa, or, in my case this past week, Virginia Beach. The canvasser stands on the doorstep bedecked like a jester in colorful stickers. The stickers, which bear candidates’ names, are important; without them he might be confused for a bill collector or traveling salesman.”

Hunting for Swing Voters in Virginia Beach

Photo: Vice President Joe Biden campaigning in Virginia, 2012 (Christopher Anderson/Magnum Photos)

Nathaniel Rich: “There are few acts more debasing than knocking on a stranger’s door and asking for his vote. Picture the scene: early afternoon, an empty residential street in Cleveland, Tampa, or, in my case this past week, Virginia Beach. The canvasser stands on the doorstep bedecked like a jester in colorful stickers. The stickers, which bear candidates’ names, are important; without them he might be confused for a bill collector or traveling salesman.”

Hunting for Swing Voters in Virginia Beach

Photo: Vice President Joe Biden campaigning in Virginia, 2012 (Christopher Anderson/Magnum Photos)

While it may be true that we’re unlikely to see another election in which the issues are more clearly drawn, it’s probably not too soon to declare dysfunction the likely winner, when we take account of the splurge of Super PAC dollars, the nature of our checks-and-balances system (which might be shortened to read simply “checks system,” or perhaps “check for checks system”), and the obsession of the media with the latest stumble rather than the underlying commitments of candidates.

Joseph Lelyveld, The Likely Winner

(Mitt Romney and Barack Obama drawing by John Springs)

While it may be true that we’re unlikely to see another election in which the issues are more clearly drawn, it’s probably not too soon to declare dysfunction the likely winner, when we take account of the splurge of Super PAC dollars, the nature of our checks-and-balances system (which might be shortened to read simply “checks system,” or perhaps “check for checks system”), and the obsession of the media with the latest stumble rather than the underlying commitments of candidates.

Joseph Lelyveld, The Likely Winner

(Mitt Romney and Barack Obama drawing by John Springs)

Most of the time, the world outside America consisted of three Is and (toward the end) a single C: the threat of a nuclear Iran, the need to stand with Israel, the wisdom of going into Iraq nearly a decade ago and of maintaining a troop presence there now, and finally the menace of job-stealing, currency-manipulating China. Europe surfaced just once, and then only in a list of regions where the US had strong alliances, alongside Africa and Asia. India, home to a billion people and a rising power, was mentioned not at all.
Jonathan Freedland, America Forgets the World
Elizabeth Drew, Ryan Meets Reality

Going into the debate, Vice President Joe Biden needed to stop the talk of the first presidential debate and Paul Ryan needed to maintain the Republicans’ momentum. But Ryan never quite caught up with the whirling dervish at the top of the GOP ticket. Ryan staked out some positions that could bedevil Romney in the closing weeks of the campaign—on Medicare, Afghanistan, and taxes, among other things. But the most troublesome for Romney of Ryan’s departures from the script was on the inevitably consternating subject of abortion, on which Romney had just taken his umpteenth position.

Photo: Vice President Joe Biden and Representative Paul Ryan during the vice-presidential debate at Centre College in Danville, Kentucky, October 11 (Charlie Neibergall/AP Images)

Elizabeth Drew, Ryan Meets Reality

Going into the debate, Vice President Joe Biden needed to stop the talk of the first presidential debate and Paul Ryan needed to maintain the Republicans’ momentum. But Ryan never quite caught up with the whirling dervish at the top of the GOP ticket. Ryan staked out some positions that could bedevil Romney in the closing weeks of the campaign—on Medicare, Afghanistan, and taxes, among other things. But the most troublesome for Romney of Ryan’s departures from the script was on the inevitably consternating subject of abortion, on which Romney had just taken his umpteenth position.

Photo: Vice President Joe Biden and Representative Paul Ryan during the vice-presidential debate at Centre College in Danville, Kentucky, October 11 (Charlie Neibergall/AP Images)

Two long reads on the campaign from our correspondents:

At the Republican convention, Jonathan Freedland found “a brand of raw Social Darwinism, a cult of the winner that believes the success of the few renders the system legitimate, even sacred, regardless of the fate of the many who are less fortunate. ‘I’—or more accurately—‘my parents have made millions,’ the argument seemed to run, ‘so that proves the system works and is just.’ Scarcely a word was said about the plight of the many millions of Americans who have seen their wages stagnate or decline over several decades.… The Republicans seek a world in which the fittest will be free to run fastest, and as for the rest, well, the success of the strong will somehow help them too.” — The Republicans: Behind the Barricades

While at the Democratic convention, Joseph Lelyveld saw a president who “seemed to have been caught flatfooted by the gall of his opponents, unable to find plain language to do a Harry Truman and give ’em hell, irritated on occasion by the need to spell out obvious facts and knock down obvious distortions.… He needed to find a way in Charlotte, finally, to recapture ‘the narrative’: to stand on his record without sounding defensive, to offer a believable future consistent with past promises. He needed to be memorable again.” — What the Democrats Have to Show

(Drawings by John Springs)

Two long reads on the campaign from our correspondents:

At the Republican convention, Jonathan Freedland found “a brand of raw Social Darwinism, a cult of the winner that believes the success of the few renders the system legitimate, even sacred, regardless of the fate of the many who are less fortunate. ‘I’—or more accurately—‘my parents have made millions,’ the argument seemed to run, ‘so that proves the system works and is just.’ Scarcely a word was said about the plight of the many millions of Americans who have seen their wages stagnate or decline over several decades.… The Republicans seek a world in which the fittest will be free to run fastest, and as for the rest, well, the success of the strong will somehow help them too.” — The Republicans: Behind the Barricades

While at the Democratic convention, Joseph Lelyveld saw a president who “seemed to have been caught flatfooted by the gall of his opponents, unable to find plain language to do a Harry Truman and give ’em hell, irritated on occasion by the need to spell out obvious facts and knock down obvious distortions.… He needed to find a way in Charlotte, finally, to recapture ‘the narrative’: to stand on his record without sounding defensive, to offer a believable future consistent with past promises. He needed to be memorable again.” — What the Democrats Have to Show

(Drawings by John Springs)

Jeff Madrick, Our Crisis of Bad Jobs

"When one counts all those looking for full-time jobs and unable to get them, the true unemployment rate is close to 17 percent. Median household income—the midpoint income of all American households—was reported by the Census Bureau (whose data is a year or so behind) to be down in 2011 compared to 2010. At 15.1 percent—some 46 million people—the proportion of Americans in poverty is now at its highest level since 1993."

Photo: Mercedes-Benz car show, Washington DC, 2005 (Bruce Gilden/Magnum Photos)

Jeff Madrick, Our Crisis of Bad Jobs

"When one counts all those looking for full-time jobs and unable to get them, the true unemployment rate is close to 17 percent. Median household income—the midpoint income of all American households—was reported by the Census Bureau (whose data is a year or so behind) to be down in 2011 compared to 2010. At 15.1 percent—some 46 million people—the proportion of Americans in poverty is now at its highest level since 1993."

Photo: Mercedes-Benz car show, Washington DC, 2005 (Bruce Gilden/Magnum Photos)

Even when venturing into the field, most reporters stay inside the bubble. They follow the candidates, speak with their handlers, interview consultants, quote think-tank analysts, pore over polling data. Looking over a recent week of coverage in the Times, for instance, I found plenty of stories on PACs, campaign strategy, political operatives, Romney’s tax returns, and the polling data in Ohio and other battleground states. Only one featured extensive interviews with ordinary Americans.
Andrew Hacker, Can Romney Get a Majority?

40 percent: Number of Republicans who support a social safety net, according to a Pew study.

"In 1987, fully 62 percent of Republicans favored some kind of social safety net and 58 percent saw some good in unions, signs of a then moderate majority. Today, only 40 percent and 43 percent hold those views. As recently as 1992, a hearty 86 percent were saying they favored environmental regulation of some sort. Today, with a purer party, it’s down to 47 percent."

Mitt Romney drawing by John Springs

Andrew Hacker, Can Romney Get a Majority?

40 percent: Number of Republicans who support a social safety net, according to a Pew study.

"In 1987, fully 62 percent of Republicans favored some kind of social safety net and 58 percent saw some good in unions, signs of a then moderate majority. Today, only 40 percent and 43 percent hold those views. As recently as 1992, a hearty 86 percent were saying they favored environmental regulation of some sort. Today, with a purer party, it’s down to 47 percent."

Mitt Romney drawing by John Springs