Americans won’t vote for president for almost five months, but we already seem to be in the thick of the presidential campaign.

Attack ads denigrating Barack Obama and Mitt Romney are rolling out on television and the web, fueled by hundreds of millions of dollars in “super PAC” money unleashed by the 2010 Citizens United decision.

Most of these ads will generate far more heat than light. Many of them will have nothing to do with the important issues facing America, but will, implicitly or explicitly, question the candidates’ character, portraying them as out of the mainstream or somehow un-American.

We submit that neither Romney nor Obama is an extremist, and that both are well within the main currents of contemporary American political life. You may not like what they stand for, but both men sit in the middle of where their parties are today.

We reject any attempt to insinuate that Obama or Romney are in any way “less American” than anyone else. They are not “the other;” each of them is one of us. In the wonderful diversity of ethnicity, religion, occupation and opinion that make up America, Mormon venture capitalists and community organizers with Kenyan fathers are as fully American as a Mayflower descendant or the “waspiest” WASP.

Neither should we allow the mudslingers to influence us through guilt by association. You wouldn’t have to look hard to find someone who supports Obama or Romney and who holds an extreme opinion.

This election is not about contraceptive coverage or gay marriage or student loan rates. It’s about our economy. That should be the focus of the campaign, and the crux of the decision we make in November.

— The Holland Sentinel,

Michigan, June 10

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