18 years ago a big eared Texan showed the world that Americans prefer substance, ideas, and details, to ambiguity, ideology and platitudes. This 1992 NYT article could be mistaken for today's news if not for the names yet Perot's main lesson of substance and ideas over vagueness and blind ideology has since been buried and forgotten.
While you may have disagreed with some of Perot's ideas, at least he got specific enough about them that you could intelligently disagree. Through his use of pie charts, bar graphs, and 30 minute infomercials, Perot gave you enough information that you could debate his ideas without resorting to ad hominem and calling him "socialist" or "radical". He introduced pragmatic ideas to big problems without clinging to the published platform ideology of a particular party often more interested in advancing the party than advancing the country.
Today we have Barack "Yes We Can/Hope & Change" Obama and Nancy Pelosi's "radical socialist agenda" vs. Glen Beck and Sarah Palin's "radically racist conservative tea party movement," but neither side can really point accurately to specifics of their respective nemesis, certainly not the average voter. The truth is that healthcare was not socialist; rather, it was corporatist (but it does raise taxes on the "95% of Americans" who were not supposed to get a tax cut). The bank bailouts were the opposite of socialism, or reverse-socialism. Proposed cap and trade's regressive pass-through tax certainly isn't going to help the average working man and doesn't qualify as socialist (but it functionally raises taxes on that same 95% group). Foreign policy has been just as Cheney-hawkish as it was under Bush II. On the other side, the only specific ideas I'm aware of are "drill baby drill," and let's blame all our problems on Democrats and illegal aliens. There also are those Greenspanian Freemarkateers who don't believe in any financial regulation reform but certainly believe in all the bailouts. According to them, socialism's OK on the way down, but you must leave the markets as free as possible for the way up. How exactly did they get Dem's to vote for TARP again?
There are two huge looming problems that threaten to hit America with a Greek insolvency problem within the next 3-8 years and not only does no one have a solution, no one's even talking about working on one:
1. We have converted huge unaffordable private debts into huge unaffordable public debts through the numerous bailouts and functional nationalization of banking. With Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac intravenously hooked up to the American Taxpayer through the Treasury, today's "giant sucking sound" will be the sound of our money being poured down a black hole to save bankers under the pretense of saving homeowners.
2. We have a huge cresting tidal wave of unaffordable entitlements that no one has the guts to address, namely Social Security, and the inequitable, unjust public pension system. For SS we can raise taxes, cut benefits, or raise the retirement age to 71. For public pensions we can raise taxes, cut other services, or eliminate a benefit 80% of the private sector does without, and the 20% that does get a pension gets one less generous than the government gives.
Getting people to start openly debating these problems is the first step to solving them.