Two things are missing in American politics today — vision and wit. Because of that, the political system suffers.

Let’s start with what former President George H.W. Bush once inelegantly referred to as “the vision thing” and see how it applies to the current race for governor of Louisiana.

Neither candidate has presented much of a vision for the state’s future. Sure, they make promises and repeat talking points, but neither has explained their model for 21st-century governance. Both candidates are so busy attacking one another — which, admittedly, is the politically smart thing to do — they forget to explain where they want the state to be in four years and how they will get us there.

John Bel Edwards has been a transactional governor. He rarely paints the big picture. His supporters will be quick to note that before he could paint a picture, he had to fix the fiscal mess left by former Gov. Bobby Jindal. Fair enough. But to win reelection in this red state, Democrat Edwards needs to go beyond one-off fixes and offer a vision that stretches beyond partisanship.

Republican Eddie Rispone has never held elected office, so he has no record to defend. His come-from-behind gubernatorial campaign has been remarkably free of detailed policy proposals. By hugging President Donald Trump, Rispone has adopted a support base that may be enough for him to win with, but he’s done it without setting many of his own markers.

At a certain point, voters are entitled to ask: What happens after the election? Will Louisiana keep bouncing from one fiscal crisis to another? Will we tackle shortcomings that hold the state back in national rankings? Will we reform the structure of state government? Will we develop worker skills, grow jobs and become a mecca for new businesses? Will we confront colossal environmental and educational issues with nonpartisan courage and innovative thinking? Will we modernize infrastructure so that our communities can function in the modern world?

When there is no vision, the road to the future becomes merely a path of least resistance.

But lack of vision is not just a Louisiana problem. It’s all over the nation. It’s an obvious void, for instance, in Democrat Joe Biden’s campaign, which badly needs to turn its focus from past to future.

Another missing element in today’s politics is wit.

Presidents Kennedy and Reagan used wit to put difficult matters into perspective. Few national leaders do so anymore. That’s too bad because humorless politicians tend to give us strident and tedious politics. Even in the worst of times, Abraham Lincoln’s light touch, his bons mots and funny stories, kept those around him sane.

Surprisingly few politicians use humor effectively. Remember Texas Gov. Ann Richards talking about then-Vice President Bush (“Poor George, he can't help it — he was born with a silver foot in his mouth”) and Arizona Congressman Mo Udall (“Let's turn inflation over to the post office. That'll slow it down.”) Then there was Sen. Bob Dole who enjoyed taking shots at fellow Republican Newt Gingrich: “Gingrich’s staff has these five file cabinets, four big ones and this little tiny one. Number one is ‘Newt’s ideas.’ Number two, ‘Newt’s ideas.’ Number three, number four, ‘Newt’s ideas.’ The little one is ‘Newt’s good ideas.’”

Louisiana politicians rarely brandish humor as a political weapon anymore. We have to go back to Edwin Edwards and the rambunctious days of Huey and Earl Long to find its adroit application. During a 1983 gubernatorial debate, the earnest David Treen asked opponent Edwin Edwards, “Why do you always speak out of both sides of your mouth?” Without missing a beat, Edwards replied, “So that people like you with nothing between their ears can understand.”

If Democrats want to beat Donald Trump, they need to get voters laughing at him. The perfect Democratic opponent for Trump would have Joe Biden’s experience, Jimmy Carter’s integrity and the razor wit of Edwin Edwards. But who would that be?

It was once said that you have to fight wars with the army you’ve got. In America today, we have to run government with the leaders we’ve got. That’s fine, many of them are good people. But more vision and wit wouldn’t hurt.

Ron Faucheux is a New Orleans-based political analyst and writer. He’s authored "Running for Office" and publishes LunchtimePolitics.com, a daily newsletter about polls.

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