Imagine if GOP education policy was set by former Florida governor Jeb Bush, without having to cater to radicals who call for eliminating the Department of Education and view common core standards as some kind of communist conspiracy. Bush has argued that a conservative approach to education for 21st-century jobs would embrace more effective teacher evaluation and common core standards, but add a bigger element of choice in the form of charter schools and vouchers, the removal of union rules that limit new technology — and combine it all with greater autonomy and accountability for individual principals. When parents can choose and school leaders can innovate, good things happen.
The US is not going to make any progress on its biggest problems without a compromise between the center-right and center-left. However, for that, it needs the center-right conservatives, not the radicals, to be running the GOP, as well as the center-left in the Democratic Party. Over the course of his presidency, Obama has proposed center-left solutions to all four of these challenges. I wish he had pushed some in a bigger, consistent, more daring and more forceful manner — and made them the centerpiece of his campaign. Nevertheless, if the GOP were in a different place, either a second-term Obama or a first-term Romney would have a real chance at making progress on all four. As things stand now, there is little hope this campaign will give the winner any basis for governing. Too bad — a presidential campaign is a terrible thing to waste.