Until you know what someone stands for, stands up for and stands up against, you don't know who they are.
Here is the problem for candidates Obama and Romney. If doing this and letting us know who they really are alienates too large a group of voters, that could cost them the election, it would be impolitic to do this. Unfortunately, if they don't do this, we are not able to fully trust them and that also leaves us unsatisfied and skeptical to our cores.
Here's the dilemma for us voters: Would we rather know who they are so that we can trust that or would we rather they cater to our wants and needs so we can get our way?
Most of us are not evolved enough to realize that we can't have our candidate and eat it too. We are not able to distinguish between what feels good (i.e., getting our way) and what feels right (i.e., having a commander in chief we can trust). As a result, our candidates are like sailboats tacking in the middle of storm of reactivity where voters want you to do what we want, but also be someone we can trust.
What's a candidate to do?
Let's use the parallel of divorcing parents who ostensibly should be focusing on what's in the best interest of their child. However, instead they too often play power trips and engage in "zero sum game" turf wars transparently showing how little interest they have in co-parenting that results in a child at age 18 who is self-reliant, resilient, positive, tough, strong, has good judgment, takes life but not themselves too seriously. Instead their warfare often results in a child with the opposite attributes, i.e. overly dependent, hypersensitive, thin-skinned, negative, blaming, excuse making, self-pitying, quits too soon.
In a parallel fashion, shouldn't candidates Obama and Romney -- and, for that matter, the Democrats and Republicans -- be interacting in a way that results at the end of their terms in an America that is better educated, more highly skilled, provided with health care and a chance for gainful employment and one that the rest of the world so respects that it would want our esteem as much as it wants our money and military power?
Unfortunately the above is overly idealistic, naive and a pipe dream, and we will just have to wait for history to reveal it to us as recent biographies on Presidents Eisenhower and Johnson have done.
But isn't it something that our candidates, political parties and we can aspire to?
Follow Mark Goulston, M.D. on Twitter: www.twitter.com/markgoulston