Neither the Democratic nor the Republican campaign has focused on our future.
We are living in calamitous and tumultuous times. Our economy, despite the recent rally in the stock market, is teetering on the brink of recession, unemployment remains unacceptably high-- notwithstanding the drop to 8.6% unemployment last week.
Structural unemployment is close to 17-18%, so that when you include discouraged and underemployed workers, close to 1 in 5 of the populous are facing severe economic challenges. Indeed, a similar roughly similar percentage are living at or close to poverty, with 50 million Americans so categorized by the census bureau.
Our position around the world is eroding, despite some recent foreign policy successes, vis-à-vis the deaths of terrorists Bin Laden, al Awlaki, and the demise of Qaddafi's regime in Libya. We don't have a clear mission, we don't have a clear agenda, and with Europe teetering on the brink and the Euro potentially breaking up, we simply are a directionless, leaderless country.
And neither side is doing anything or saying anything about it.
To be candid, the American people can prefer one party or the other, and make a compelling argument either way. Democrats and Republicans do that every day, and it is indeed very easy to find fault with the other side. But there are very few people who are recognizing, much less articulating, what I believe is a fundamental truth-- which is we don't have an agenda to deal with our economic problems, with unemployment, with the issue of economic growth which has stagnated, and to deal with our declining position in the world and what our response should be to all of these seemingly intractable problems.
And that is just the start.
Specifically, we also have no serious conversation about the debt, the deficit, reforming entitlements, reforming or reducing defense spending, and cutting the size and scope of government. That just hasn't been done, other than a few outside government commissions, like Bowles-Simpson, which have largely been marginalized.
To be sure, there have been individual discussions of individual components of the problem. Specifically, Paul Ryan's plan to reform entitlements that landed with a thud; we now have sequestration now after the failure of the Super Committee, which means that we will most likely have to bluntly reduce defense and domestic spending by $600 billion in 2013, without regard to logic or budgetary or strategic implications.
But we have no compelling national dialogue about where we are heading and what we should do. And it is incumbent on the president to engage in a dialogue about not just what is wrong with the Republicans, but about what is right with America and what America needs to do going forward to revitalize a stagnating nation.
It is all well and good for President Obama to talk about how this election will be a comparison and a contrast, but he has to lay out a vision for the nation. America deserves no less than for the president to outline an agenda for the second term-- to state clearly and directly where we are heading.
And for the Republicans, the same is true. It is just not enough to say that the main issue in the election is defeating President Obama, that's both axiomatic and obvious for them. But the main issue now is what is their vision for America? Polls show that the Republican party has even lower ratings than the Democrats, and they are seen as being inflexible and ideologically rigid.
They need to do more than to say reduce the size and scope of government, reduced regulation, reduce the level of taxes and reduce the level of spending. The Republicans, like the Democrats, need a clear agenda. They need a program to address the same issues the Democrats have to address: which is unemployment, economic growth, budgetary issues, entitlement reform and discretionary spending, and our role in the world.
Put simply, we are a leaderless country that is facing a crisis. If the two parties do not step up and provide their own alternative visions, the net losers will be not only them, but the American people.
Douglas E. Schoen is a political strategist and Fox News contributor. His most recent book is "Mad as Hell: How the Tea Party Movement is Fundamentally Remaking Our Two-Party System" published by Harper, an imprint of HarperCollins.Watch Doug Schoen, Pat Caddell and host John LeBoutiller Mondays at 2 p.m. ET on FoxNews.com LIVE's "Campaign Confidential."
Douglas E. Schoen has served as a pollster for President Bill Clinton. He has more than 30 years experience as a pollster and political consultant. He is also a Fox News contributor and co-host of "Fox News Insiders" Sundays on Fox News Channel at 7 pm ET. He is the author of 13 books. His latest is "Putin's Master Plan" (Encounter Books, September 27, 2016). Follow Doug on Twitter @DouglasESchoen.