What was thought impossible less than two months ago now appears to be inevitable: The 2008 Presidential race will be a contest between John McCain, whose campaign was on life-support at the beginning of the year and Barack Obama who was barely a blip on Hillary Clinton’s radar screen before the Iowa Caucus. The question is how did this happen and are there any lessons to be learned as San Diego politicians start campaigning in our local races?

“Change” has been the buzzword in this year elections and with the Bush administration’s approval ratings hovering near 30 percent, this seems like a very safe campaign slogan. I would argue, however, that what both McCain and Obama brought to the table was not the hope of change to come but simply hope itself. The United States of America is a great country because it is made up of great people. When faced with a future that looks bright, Americans will make that future a reality. Not all of our most successful past-Presidents espoused policies that proved to be of long-term benefit to the country, but each of them found a way to inspire the American public and encourage us to be all that we could be. Our local candidates would be wise to keep this in mind. Simply campaigning on how bad things are and how they are likely to get worse is not only bad strategy, it also becomes a self-fulfilling prophecy and makes it almost impossible to govern successfully if elected.

The other lesson I get out of the McCain and Obama successes is that the public wants our elected officials to work together. Even though talk radio rails against bi-partisanship, and not withstanding the particulars of the bills, the public is encouraged when it hears about McCain-Feingold or McCain-Kennedy. The idea of a Republican senator and a Democratic senator co-authoring a bill is something that most people cheer. We want improved healthcare, improved infrastructure, a more equitable tax system and national security we can trust. What we don’t want is our elected officials fighting with each other and telling us it is the other guys fault that no improvements are ever made.

So where are we locally? In San Diego, we have a City Attorney who thinks all other elected officials are corrupt, other elected officials who think the City Attorney is incompetent, and that just scratches the surface of the constant infighting. In the meantime, police response times are up, swimming pool hours are down and water and sewer pipes go in need of repair. What we need is a candidate who doesn’t think that the way to look better is to make his/her opponent look worse, a candidate who is ready to work with all other elected officials to overcome challenges and a candidate who will inspire us to keep San Diego deserving of its title of “America’s Finest City.” Who do you think that person is?

— ANDY BERG

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