My newfound popularity is going to my head. As an independent voter in this election, both parties are coming after my vote with stone-faced determination. The good news is that I intend to vote. The bad news is that neither candidate has impressed me yet.On some level, elections are all about people like me. People who hate both candidates and yet have to ultimately vote for whichever of the two options they hate the least. Or Ralph Nader.Because I'm such a big deal, candidates focus a lot on convincing me to vote for them. Most of the time, they use my two least favorite tactics: party politics and empty words.The candidates have to appeal to voters in their own party and independents. Sometimes the two groups have conflicting views, so this is a rough task. The usual method of dealing with it is for a candidate to hold the view the party stands for while sounding like he holds the other view. Done correctly, this can be very impressive.For instance, Sen. John McCain referred to himself as a "maverick" even though his votes aligned with President Bush's 90 percent of the time. This way, conservatives are reassured that their interests are protected and independents can get warm, fuzzy feelings from knowing a maverick is running for office, whatever that means.But what about Sen. Barack Obama? He rarely resorts to appealing for votes from Democrats, largely because most of them are terrified of having McCain in office. Generally, his speeches and ads are directed at just how McCain is a lot like Bush.The rest of the time, he talks about change. I can hardly criticize; Bush's low approval ratings definitely make reform a viable campaign. Then again, Obama's own approval ratings have been steadily declining lately. Maybe his campaign strategy is wearing thin.In December 2007, Obama said his strategy would represent "a new kind of politics ... that favored common sense over ideology, straight talk over spin." Yet his campaign has continued to match McCain's in terms of unnecessary attacks.Obama's speeches follow a fairly standard pattern: He criticizes a part of the current administration, makes a clever remark about how the American people want change and then vaguely references his own plans. I'm tired of hearing how horrible Bush is because I've been hearing it for seven years. When I listen to a speech, I want to hear the candidate's plans - not just vague promises that sound good, but actual strategies.On rare occasions, both candidates have actually mentioned strategies. For instance, McCain's tax plan includes doubling the dependent exemption, cutting the corporate tax rate and making Bush's tax cuts permanent. Obama would instead raise the tax rate for people making more than $250,000 annually from 35 to 39 percent, cut taxes for low-income families and (presumably) let Bush's tax cuts expire.According to the Tax Policy Center, a bipartisan think tank, McCain's plan would raise the national debt by $5 trillion in 10 years. Obama's plan would raise it by only $3.5 trillion in that same span. Most of the difference is due to the tax cuts for the rich, which reduce revenues substantially.In other words, both candidates' tax policies would have the country hemorrhaging even more red ink. As a voter, I genuinely want to know what the candidates intend to do about this. For some reason, instead of hearing about it, the American people have to hear disputes over how many houses McCain owns.Of course, I'm not the only one who's tired of the constant empty attacks. After last week's "lipstick on a pig" faux-controversy, even Republican strategist Karl Rove said that "both campaigns are making a mistake, and that is they are taking whatever their attacks are and going one step too far."Proving him completely wrong, Obama's campaign released a statement: "In case anyone was still wondering whether John McCain is running the sleaziest, most dishonst campaign in history, today Karl Rove - the man who held the previous record - said McCain's ads have gone too far."Aggressive politics are nothing new; candidates have been making baseless attacks since before some current issues even existed. But there is no reason that they should remain the standard.There is too much at stake in this election to tolerate these empty disputes. Neither party should be willing to benefit from a campaign that never focuses on issues if only because it leaves too much up to chance. There's something seriously wrong when an election could be won over an irrelevant comment while extremely important issues remain unmentioned. And for those of you who still aren't willing to commit to either nebulous campaign, go independent and have the courage to say "maybe."
This story was written by Steven Davis, Daily Nebraskan