What the candidates should have said

[Welcome Instapunditeers.]

I think both candidates failed miserably at the debate. They tried to ignore the elephant in the room — the crashing economy — and deflect the questions with standard bullet points gleaned from months of focus groups.

When 60% of Americans believe we’re about to enter a depression; when they’ve seen the value of their self-directed 401-Ks and IRAs drop by one-third or more in the past couple of weeks — it’s time to throw out the the 3×5 cards and talking points. It’s time to look into the camera and say:

The economic crises we’re experiencing changes everything about this election.

Over the past year, I’ve laid out many great ideas related to healthcare and energy and other critical issues. They all are of great importance to the long range well-being of the citizens of this country.

But there are a lot of you out there tonight who are afraid that you’re about to lose everything you own: that the country is about to enter another Great Depression.

I can promise you this. No matter which one of us you elect, that’s not going to happen.

I’d like to tell you that voting for me will be the answer to the concern you have tonight.

My opponent would like to tell you that voting for him will be the answer to the concern you have tonight.

But the fact is, neither one of us is the answer. The fact is, we’re both the answer.

Because we’ve got to work together to overcome the lack of confidence you have in government, in the financial system, in big business, in the news media.

We and our parties and business leaders and those who work for government institutions and those who are supposed to be the ones who keep us informed — we’ve all got to work together to help restore your confidence in all the institutions that have failed you because of their greed and sloppiness and mis-judgement and mis-management and fear and ineptitude and complacency.

Most importantly: You are the answer. All of you. Those who play by the rules. Who work and study and serve.

Those of you who work on an assembly line or at a small business or who manage large corporations.

This is up to you. You can do something about it by continuing to believe in yourselves and in the fundamental goodness of other people like you here in America and throughout the world.

It’s time to get over your fear.

It’s time to start believing again.

It’s time to start believing in yourself and in your friends and in your communities.

It’s time to support each other like you do after a flood or tornado or big blizzard.

It will take a long time for you to start believing again in government or Wall Street or corporate CEOs.

They — we — have let you down.

But you’ve got to start believing in yourself.

I believe in you. My opponent believes in you.

You are what makes me believe in a future that is filled with hope, not fear.

And no matter which one of us is elected President, that fact will remain.

Recommended reading: The first provides historical context related to the Great Depression vs. today and the second, an explanation of how panic (negative feedback loop) works in financial markets:

As Dire as the Times May Seem, History Isn’t About to Repeat Itself (Wall Street Journal)

Forget Logic; Fear Appears to Have Edge (The New York Times)

In Praise of Bernanke (The New York Times)