Today I was reading Peggy Noonan’s column — she, by the way, sees the opposite of my rosy scenario happening, with the financial crisis making the presidential election meaner and more partisan — when an idea that has sort of half-occurred to me before came into full being.
Her column turned, in part — her pieces tend to meander, although elegantly — around the experience-vs.-change axis, to wit:
The overarching political question: In a time of heightened anxiety, will people inevitably lean toward the older congressional vet, the guy who’s been around forever? Why take a chance on the new, young man at a time of crisis? Wouldn’t that be akin to injecting an unstable element into an unstable environment? There’s a lot at stake.
Or will people have the opposite reaction? I’ve had it, the system has been allowed to corrode and collapse under seven years of Republican stewardship. Throw the bums out. We need change. Obama may not be experienced, but that may help him cut through. He’s not compromised.
The election, still close, still unknowable, may well hinge on whether people conclude A or B.
There was even a little cartoon illustration of a man poised indecisively at a voting machine choosing between those two options.
By the end of the column, I was thinking, what if the choice were that clear, and unmuddled by the running mates? What if New Kids Barack Obama and Sarah Palin were up against Wise Old Heads John McCain and Joe Biden? How simple and clear that choice would be.
Those on the right and left who want change, who distrust the Establishment, populists and libertarians, would have an uncomplicated choice for Obama/Palin — two fresh, energetic young faces rising up from among the people and sweeping the old aside.
Those of us who believe that experience is as valuable in government as in anything else, and who have come to trust and admire both McCain and Biden as individuals over the years — I would fall in that camp, by the way, as my respect for both is of long standing — would have just as easy a choice.
As things stand, the choice is more complicated. And the presidential candidates seem to have gone out of their way to make it so — Obama throwing away his advantage as a change agent in choosing Biden, McCain wasting the whole experience argument in picking Palin.